Dec 11 2009

Against the Grain: The Rise and Fall of Rory Gallagher

Published by at 1:55 pm under articles

The 2009 Holliday issue of Guitar World has a large, in depth article on Rory Gallagher. Unfortunately the holiday mag has already been replaced on the newsstand shelves by the premature January issue featuring a tribute to Dimebag Darrell. For those who missed it I’ve reprinted the article below. The article, written by Alan Di Pern, turns a critical eye to Rory’s career and attempts to explain the highs and lows of it, including the recent surge in popularity 15 years after his passing. In a nutshell Di Pern faults Rory for not grabbing the “brass ring” when he had the chance, and milking his growing popularity for what it’s worth. The writer can’t quite fathom the Irish legend’s insistence, much to the delight of his ardent and now resurgent fans, on going …

Against the Grain

Success didn’t elude Rory Gallagher. He turned it away throughout his short, sad life. Now in death, he’s more successful than ever. Guitar World presents the story of the Irish rocker’s demise and his posthumous revival…

Death made Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon,Elvis Presley, and Kurt Cobain even larger than they were in life. In a sense it deified them. But death also has the power to take artists who were mid-level stars, or even relatively unknown in their own time, and confer on them a radiant halo of posthumous glory. Musicians ranging from Robert Johnson to Nick Drake to Randy Rhodes have posthumously attained the widespread fame and cult-like devotion that they never lived to enjoy.

In the past few years,a sizable posthumous cult has grown up around Rory Gallagher, the Irish blues-Rock guitarist, singer and songwriter who passed away on June 14,1995. There’s been an avalanche of recent retrospective product, including a double CD “best of” set, ‘Crest of a Wave’, culled from Rory’s deep catalogue of studio and live albums, plus numerous live DVD’s including “Live In Cork” and the exhaustive five disc-set “Live at Rockpalast” compiling three decades’ worth of live appearances. There’s plenty more in the vaults; Rory was a tireless live performer.

In response to that growing interest, Fender recently made a reissue Stratocaster based on the guitarist’s beloved,heavily road-worn 1961 sunburst axe. Gallagher certainly has all the prerequisites for posthumous deification. In his prime, he was a good looking lad, with a shaggy, nut brown mane and a winning smile. While not quite Beck or Hendrix at the fretboard, Gallagher was an agile riff meister whose scrappy, energetic style was punctuated by occasional bursts of fluid, six string poetry. His playing was steeped in bluesy authenticity. Equally adept at electric or acoustic, slide and standard fretting, he brought to his guitar playing a boundless zeal that even years of hard touring and and numerous career disappointments did nothing to diminish.

Of course, Rory Gallagher possesses in spades the most important qualification for posthumous cult adulation; a sad life story. The tragedy of Randy Rhodes is all about the untimeliness of his death – that he was cut down while he was still quite young and had yet to really make his mark in the world. But the tragedy of Rory Gallagher is something different, a tale of a life filled with missed opportunities, unfortunate career decisions and misplaced idealism, all exacerbated by the familiar demons of alcohol and drug dependency. Gallagher’s fretboard prowess was all too often matched by unerring marksmanship when it came to shooting himself in the foot.

There always seems to be a surviving relative in the cults of dead rock stars, someone to tend the flame and collect the back royalties. In Randy’s case it is his mother, brother and sister; in Jimi’s case his half sister. Rory Gallagher is survived by his younger brother Donal. But while Randy Rhodes’s or Jimi Hendrix’s surviving relatives witnessed very little of their loved one’s glory moments on stage and in the studio, Donal was Rory’s closest confidant, tour manager and sometimes business manager, throughout his career he saw it all.

Rory never went for the brass ring the way other artists did, but he enjoyed being a musician. His enjoyment was to do it the way he wanted. He would have loved to have had a number one album in the states, but it all seemed so cynical and callous to him. After 25 tours, he had put in way more slog than a lot of younger bands that came out of Ireland and could’ve gotten to number one in America with little effort. I’d get angry about that. But not Rory, he would say, “I’m doing what I want to do and doing it the way I want” — Donal Gallagher

Although he came up in Ireland rather than England, Gallagher had much the same musical influences and background as British musicians like The Stones, Beatles, Cream & Led Zeppelin. The early 50’s skiffle craze gave him his first exposure to American folk and blues idioms. Rory fell deeply in love with the music, which was popularized in the United Kingdom by artists like Lonnie Donegan, and would remain deeply devoted to it all his life. But like all of U.K’s youth, he got swept away by the Rock & Roll explosion of the mid Fifties. He graduated from a toy guitar to a real one at age nine, after his family had moved from Derry to Cork in the south. By age 15, Gallagher was playing professionally in an Irish showband, The Fontanas. Showbands were a uniquely Irish phenomenon.

Those bands would play 5 hour stints at country dance halls,and they had to cover everything from country to comedy,the hits of the day and also the old -time Waltzes and a variety of traditional Irish music.The band would also have to break down in smaller units,as guys went off for a 20 minute break for sandwiches. — Donal Gallagher

Rory’s penchant for good-time showmanship-exhorting crowds to sing along or clap their hands-no doubt derives from his showband experience. But when the Merseyside boom brought the Beatles and other beat groups to the fore, Gallagher hijacked The Fontanas, stripped down the lineup and morphed the group into a gritty R&B-influenced outfit called The Impact. He persuaded the band members to relocate to London, at the time the epicenter of everything that was hip in rock culture.

Donal says”Rory would check out the Marquee, the Flamingo and various clubs, and see people like Georgie Fame, Alexis Korner and Steampacket, which was Long John Baldry’s band with Rod Stewart. He immersed himself like that.” But he adds, the guitarist’s own gigs were more humble. “London having a huge Irish population,there was plenty of Irish dance halls for The Impact to play, particularly in the north of London.”

Hit makers of the day like The Byrd’s, Kinks and Animals would play at the same venues. “They’d come in and do a 20 -minute set — a few of their biggest hits — and the Impact would be the support band. So Rory got guys like [The Byrd’s] Roger McGuinn throughout that. “But the showband thing had a stigma to it.They still had to play waltzes and country music and wear a uniform.”

Rory took The Impact to Hamburg, Germany, to work the same rough, red-light district clubs that the Beatles had worked a few years earlier during their rise to fame. By this time The Impact were a three-piece. The format seemed to suit Gallagher, and he would employ it for much of his career. By this point in the mid Sixties, the power trio was an idea whose time had arrived. It was in Hamburg according to Donal,that Rory first rubbed shoulders with members of another up-and-coming power trio Cream. The Impact eventually morphed into another bluesy three-piece, Taste, a group that recorded two studio albums and two live albums albeit with a lot of personnel shifts in the Rhythm section. Taste were serious contenders. They were favourably name- checked by John Lennon in a press interview at the time, and they played the opening sets for Cream, Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall among others, in Ireland and elsewhere. They were even tapped to be the support band for Creams high-visibility farewell performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

For that matter, Gallagher was himself invited to be Eric Clapton’s replacement in Cream. The group’s breakup had been set in motion by Clapton’s decision to quit. Impressed by Gallagher’s guitar playing, Cream’s management approached him with an offer to carry on with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, still performing and recording as Cream. Many guitarists would have killed for the opportunity, but Gallagher turned it down. It was the first of several high-profile offers that he famously declined. “It was very much a management thing-‘Find somebody to replace Clapton!'” Donal says Rory was known to them, and they got on well. “But Rory wouldn’t have any of it. He said ‘Musically there’s no way I’d try and fill somebody else’s shoes, especially Eric’. ‘”Had Gallagher had made at least one album with Cream or even toured with them, he might have put his career in overdrive.”Yes it would have been a fast track,” Donal acknowledges.”But he felt he would never be his own man.”

Gallagher’s tendency to “go it alone” was perhaps his tragic flaw. Withdrawn and shy, he was unable to trust others or to enter into truly collaborative relationships. “He was never a great one in interacting with people,” Donal admits. “He was brilliant in front of an audience, but off stage it was Jekyll-and-Hyde effect. He was bad on one-on-one
relationships. He wouldn’t even let the guy in to read the water meter or gas meter of his house. Even the band didn’t get past the front door.”

Gallagher soon got his chance to “go it alone” for real. Taste split up in 1970, amid a dispute with management, and Gallagher decided to carry on as a solo artist. In 1971, he released two albums: Rory Gallagher and Deuce. For each he insisted on producing himself, and the results were mixed at best; flashes of brilliance amid bouts of plodding mediocrity. Gallagher seemed to have lacked any capacity for editing himself. For much of his career he operated on the somewhat simplistic assumption that he could simply walk into a recording studio and do his live show and come out with a great studio album. A live-in-the studio approach does work for some groups, and it may have even worked for Gallagher, but it’s virtually impossible to self produce this kind of album.

Gallagher’s guitar tone on these early albums is an example of the problem. Unlike many power trio guitarists,he did not rely on massive Marshall stacks or huge amounts of distortion to fill the sonic space. Instead,and to his credit, he played his battered ’61 Strat through a variety of small combo amps. But lacking production expertise, Gallagher was unable to create a proper distinctive sound for himself, and his guitar tone on Rory Gallagher and Deuce is thin and weak. Without any overdubs to fill in the picture-let alone much in the way of savvy drum miking, skillful signal processing and so on, the albums sound almost painfully anemic. Tighter songwriting might have helped as well. While a decent tune smith, Gallagher did suffer at times from a lead guitarist’s tendency to string a bunch of riffs together, ad hoc, and hope they somehow add up to a song. In retrospect, Gallagher’s first two albums might have been more judiciously edited down to a single release, with time taken for higher production values. A small selection from each more than does the trick on the Crest Of A Wave compilation.In effect, Gallagher was a great sideman who insisted on being a merely adequate front man. His prowess as an accompanist is amply demonstrated on the many side projects he participated in over the years. Perhaps the most notable was The London Muddy Waters sessions disc,released in ’72.

The London sessions were a series of recordings that brought great American bluesmen and Rock & Rollers of the Fifties together with the Sixties British rock stars who adored and emulated them. The series had gotten off to a rousing start with The Howlin’ Wolf London sessions, featuring Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and The Rolling Stones rhythm section of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. So it was a huge honor for Gallagher to be offered the lead guitar slot with Muddy Waters, the great patriarch of the electric-Chicago blues style. Donal thinks that London blues kingpins Alexis Corner and Chris Barber recommended Rory for the London sessions gig. For once the introverted guitarist didn’t say no.
“I think a lot of people were puzzled by the fact that it wasn’t Eric Clapton again, “Donal says. “But I recall [later] a Playboy magazine interview with Muddy Waters where he said Rory was closer to his style of music–the Chicago kind of sound with the bottleneck guitar.”

As it was,Gallagher almost missed the first session. “He had a gig that night in Leicester, which is 100 miles from London,” Donal says.”So Rory said ‘I’ll be there as soon as I can after the gig.’ I remember we really burned rubber getting back to London. Rory was upset. “‘They’ll kick me out;I’m so late,’ he said. But when he walked in the studio Muddy was standing there with a glass of Champagne for him. ‘Glad you made it. Here,have yourself a drink.’ An absolute gentleman.”

Gallagher really shines on the Muddy Waters tracks. His soloing is concise,incisive and impassioned, his comping tasteful and rhythmically savvy. Performing with greats that include keyboardists Steve Winwood and Georgie Fame and Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell, Rory has a well-defined space that he fills admirably, never overstaying his welcome and making his musical statement eloquently in the choruses allotted to him. Gallagher’s profound love of the blues is one of the most touching things about him. He’d clearly done his homework, and his deep affection never lost the innocent sincerity of a teenage love affair. He also fared well on the Jerry Lee Lewis album, The Session, recorded in London in 1972 with a host of guest artists. The young Irish guitar whiz formed a deep bond with “the Killer,” America’s original rock & Roll wild man. Perhaps it was the instinctual brotherhood of two hard-drinking men.

Donal recalls one of the defining moments of the sessions. “All went well at first” he says. “Jerry Lee was kept off the bottle. But then the producer said ‘Jerry, you’re doing all the Johnny B.Goode type old rock and Roll stuff. Let’s try something different. ‘So the guy said ‘Satisfaction’ by The Rolling Stones, and Jerry had never heard of that track.”Some of the musicians laughed when they heard this,which greatly upset Lewis. Rory, didn’t laugh, however, and this earned him the singers trust. Donal says,”There’s a great photo from that session of Jerry Lee looking up into Rory’s eyes and Rory singing to him. Rory was teaching him the words and the melody to ‘Satisfaction’. So there was a link between Rory and Jerry Lee. They got on quite well.”

Gallagher did a lot of session work over his career, most of it first-rate and much of it with musical heroes like Muddy Waters, English Jazz Trombonist Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan. Rory seemed able to relinquish control to these elder statesman in a way he couldn’t with his peers. Meanwhile,as he prepared to make his third solo studio album, 1973’s Blueprint, he seemed to have been aware of the shortcomings of the first two discs.Blueprint marks the debut of a revamped and expanded lineup,with drummer Rod De’Ath and keyboardist Lou Martin-both from the band Killing Floor-joining forces with longtime Gallagher bass player Gerry McAvoy. A ballsy, barrel house-bluesy piano-and-organ man, Martin proved an ideal foil for Gallagher, lending a sense of variety and interplay on Gallagher’s solo work.

The format on Blueprint and its successor, Tattoo was still for the most part live in the studio, but Martin’s contributions fleshed out the sound. The Martin/De’Ath/McAvoy lineup was the most stable of all Gallagher’s backing bands. It stuck together for three years, during which time it recorded four studio albums and one live disc, with Gallagher, Donal says, “Rory never actually took a proper vacation. He’d use his vacation time for songwriting, developing, and listening to other people’s music. He didn’t know what else to do with himself.” He did not take much interest in the typical distractions of life on the road. Donal says Rory didn’t use recreational drugs, nor did he go in much for groupies.

I think that he was so keen on becoming a professional musician from an early age that he basically blocked everything else out of his life. In his teenage years, he just felt that girlfriends were a drawback. He’d seen too many guys fight over girlfriends, and seen girlfriends split up bands. For him, music was like a vocation in the priesthood. Later, there were one or two women, but he never settled down.

Like many solitary, creative and intensely driven people, Rory found in alcohol a buffer to help block out the world and to dull the pain of isolation.
Although alcohol wouldn’t become a real problem for him until the Eighties, there were earlier signs of impending trouble. “He’d go off and have a binge of drinking,”Donal recalls. “He’d lock himself in a room for three days, probably go through a few bottles and come out with a set of songs.”

Gallagher’s personal issues certainly didn’t impede his output in the Seventies. Indeed they may have been at the root of his compulsion to record and release discs. The album that many fans regard as the apotheosis of the Martin/De’Ath/McAvoy lineup was Irish Tour ’74. Live albums were hugely popular in the Seventies. Everyone form The Who and Stones to Yes, Deep Purple, Peter Frampton and Led Zeppelin released blockbuster live discs during the decade, and live performance was certainly Gallagher’s metier. Unable to connect with people very well in ordinary social situations, he may have treasured those few hours of rock & roll communion. While Irish Tour ’74 didn’t have a major impact in the states, it was the best-selling disc of Gallagher’s career, worldwide.

Had Irish Tour been less successful, Gallagher might have responded differently to an offer that came in late late ’74/early ’75 to join the Rolling Stones. Mick Taylor had just left the group and, as Donal tells the tale, Rory was the Stones’ first choice for a replacement. The offer came quite informally — a phone call from Stones pianist Ian Stewart inviting Gallagher to “come have a blow and a jam session with the lads.” The invitation was postponed several times as the Stones were having problems with a new mobile recording truck they’d acquired at the time. Rory, meanwhile, had an important Japanese tour on the immediate horizon.

“Rory was naive enough to think, ‘Oh they only want to have a blow and a jam session,it’s nothing serious,'” Donal says. “I was angry with him, to say the least.”

Finally Rory got on a plane to Rotterdam with his Strat and a small, tweed Fender Champ amp. The Stones had only provided one airline ticket, so Donal couldn’t accompany his brother. According to what Rory later told Donal, he was met at the airport by none other than Mick Jagger, who put him in a cab and took him to a rehearsal space the Stones had occupied. There he was met by Marshall Chess Jr., head of the stones’ record label at the time who reportedly said to Rory, “Welcome to the Rolling Stones. I knew it would be you, you’re the guy for the job.”

According to Donal, “Rory did four nights with them. The first night Keith didn’t turn up. So Mick said to Rory, ‘Can you give me a riff? I’ve got this song Start Me Up’ and Rory said, ‘Well I’m working on a song’ so they worked it up. It’s a legend that that album, [the Stones’ Tattoo You] has different guitar riffs from different people. I think Rory referred to ‘Miss You’ as the other song that they worked on. On the second night, Keith came down and they got going. Keith liked Rory’s style in the sense that Rory was into Hank Snow and the country players as well as the rock and blues guitarists. So they obviously listened to the same records.”

Parts of Donal’s tales seem far-fetched. The ‘Start Me Up’ riff is very much dependent on Keith Richards five-string, open-G guitar tuning, a configuration that Rory Gallagher is never known to have used. So one has to wonder where truth gives way to traditional Irish blarney in Donal’s account. Still, it is theoretically possible that Keef’s classic “Start Me Up” riff could have been derived from an earlier idea by Rory Gallagher. As to what happens next the account becomes even more muddled.

“There was no coherence in the camp” Donal recounts. “Rory kept saying to Mick, ‘Look what am I supposed to do with these Japanese dates? How long can you guys wait?’ Mick said, ‘Go and speak to Keith. ‘Mick and Keith weren’t talking to each other at the time, which was another difficulty. The last evening Rory went up to Keith in his bedroom, but Keith was comatose. Rory spent the entire night up, going back every half hour, the door to Keith’s suite being wide open. Rory had to be on the plane back to Heathrow at 10 o’clock in the morning. Everyone else had gone to bed.There was no one else around, so Rory just picked his guitar and amp up, I met him with a suitcase at Heathrow airport,and we flew to Tokyo.”

Donal was upset that Rory had let the opportunity to work with the Stones slip away. “I remember saying to Rory, ‘All you had to do was ring and say, ‘postpone the Japanese tour. “We just would have sold more tickets in Japan going back in Six months time. He said [Rory], ‘I just kept chasing for an answer and nobody seemed to know what was going on. It was a bit of a mess.’ Maybe if he had rolled with it….”

In the years after wards turned down similar offers from Deep Purple and Canned Heat, but by then Donal knew enough not to be surprised by his brothers decisions. One positive offshoot of not becoming a Rolling Stone was that Gallagher went on to make two of the finest solo albums of his career, Against The Grain released in ’75 and Calling Card in ’76. By this point, the Martin/De’Ath/McAvoy lineup had become a well-oiled machine. Calling Card also benefits from first-rate production work by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover. For once, Rory was able to trust someone else with the production of one of his albums. Donal says,”We’d been out on a package tour with Deep Purple and Fleetwood Mac. On the road, Rory hit it off with Ritchie Blackmore and all the Deep Purple guys.”

Calling Card makes one wish Gallagher had been able to work with an-outside producer more often. Engineered by the German wunderkind Mac (who’d later work with Queen), it is Rory Gallagher’s best sounding album. The playing is tight and the guitar tones beefy. There are proper overdubbed leads over chunky rhythm tracks. But by the end of the project, trouble had broken out, and Gallagher burnt yet another bridge.

“Rory wasn’t happy with the mixes, “Donal says. “He remixed the album with Chris Kimsey, who later did the Rolling Stones stuff, and that was annoying to Roger. But they never had rows–Rory just wouldn’t talk to people. He said to me,’No that’s not how I want the album to sound. I want it remixed’,and he’d pull the album apart himself. It was difficult.”

Gallagher was hardly in a position to be high handed at this point. Bluesy hard rock bands were thick on the ground in the early Seventies. Savoy Brown, Spooky Tooth, Nazereth, Ten Years After, Bad Company, Grand Funk Railroad, the James Gang-you couldn’t throw a stick without hitting some guy with a shaggy Seventies mane riffling pentatonic s into the ground.  All these bands were competing not only for attention, but also with more cutting edge – at the time-rock genres like prog, glam and fusion, not to mention popular none-rock genres like funk, disco and reggae.  Solo artists like Alvin Lee and Peter Frampton had risen from the bluesy hard rock ranks to become major stars of the Seventies, proving that there was indeed a market for them “hot guitarist as singing/song writing front man” archetype.  But Gallagher seems to have been blissfully oblivious to the fact that that’s what it was – a market.

“Those other guys were prepared to act the superstars, and Rory wasn’t,” Donald say’s, “he would not let the record company release singles from his albums.  I remember when Live in Europe came out [in 1972], the executive from Polydor Records came down from a Washington gig with an edited version of a song “Going To My Home Town”. They said, “Polydor promises we’ll take this to number one”.  Rory nearly went through the roof, taking the Polydor guy with him. The idea of somebody editing his music … he just was not prepared to play that game.  Even the guys in Deep Purple said, “look, you have got to do this.  This is a hit single! ” But Rory was terrified of becoming a novelty act.  You release one single and pressure is on to follow it up with another hit single.  Your next single becomes more important than your next album.  I disagreed with Rory all along the way.  For me, from tracks like ‘Tattoo’d Lady’ [from 1973’s Tattoo] all the way through to “Calling Card” [from the 1976 album of the same name], there were plenty of songs that would have been playable on the radio.”

Gallagher’s refusal to play the singles game demonstrates the extent to which he lived in his own private world.  Perhaps his purest attitude derived from his early interest in folk music, that great bastion of anti-commercial sanctimony.  Whatever the underlying logic, Rory was unable  to perceive a single release as anything other than an intrusion on his divine right to solo uninterruptedly over 37 consecutive courses of a 12 – bar blues.  In a way, this makes him the ultimate guitar hero.  He was willing to commit career suicide to uphold the inviolable sanctity of a guitar solo.  Donald says the single release issue reared its head once again during the tense moments at the conclusion of the calling card sessions.  “Chris Wright, who was one the two bosses of Chrysalis Records, said, “I will tell you what.  Put the album release back here.  We’ll take the track “Edged in Blue”, lop the guitar solo off and release that as a single.  We’ll call the album Edged in Blue when it comes out.”  Chris Wright is a music exec.  I respected him.  I went back to Rory and said, “Look, this is proposed by the president of the company.”  Again, he nearly got on the phone to damn blast Chris for even thinking about it.”

End-of-the album-project jitters became an increasingly prevalent phenomenon for Gallagher as his career wore on. He’d completely recorded and mixed a follow-up to Calling Card, only to pull the plug at the 11th hour. “At the end the lacquer (master), was cut and I was about to deliver it to Chrysalis, to play it for the execs,” Donal says. “That morning right in front of me, Rory said,”You can’t play it to anyone. I don’t like the album. “Rory dropped it in the bin.”

But the adventure wasn’t over yet,as Donal discovered on returning to the L.A hotel where he and Rory had been staying. “I got back from the meeting with the execs to find a message saying, ‘Rory’s in Cedars Sinai Hospital. But he’s OK. Not to worry.’ After I’d left, he’d gone off to see the Bob Dylan movie, Reynaldo and Clara, and he’d fractured his thumb in a taxi door. So it wasn’t even possible to go back into the studio and re-record the album.”

The mood was dour when the brothers returned to Ireland. “Rory seemed to get depressed at the time,” Donal recalls. “One day he finally said,’I want to change the lineup. I’m not happy with the band anymore. ‘He wanted to make a clean sweep but I said, “Look at least retain the bass player, Gerry.”

Exit Gallagher’s most stable and successful backing band. Some of the material from the sessions Rory had trashed ended up on 1979’s Photo Finish album, with Ted McKenna on drums. Gallagher had forged a friendship with Alan O’Duffy, a London-based engineer who worked on Paul McCartney & Wings ‘Venus and Mars’ album. He trusted O’Duffy enough to have him co-produce Photo Finish and it’s successor, Top Prority. Both are solid works of late-Seventies rock, but by that point it hardly mattered anymore.

Punk rock had burst out of London and New York in a big way, charting a bold new direction for rock and roll. Meanwhile, Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhodes were setting a new, less blues-centric course for hard rock and metal. Punk in particular, declared war on Gallagher’s whole style of presentation — the long rounds of guitar, keyboard, bass and drum soloing, the compulsory good-time audience participation, the all-too-casual and seemingly interminable bouts of guitar returning between songs. Ironically, Gallagher liked Punk. He’d attended the Sex Pistols’ final gig in San Francisco and told his brother, “This is as close to Eddie Cochran as you’re going to get.”

Gallagher’s career and life took a turn for the worse in the Eighties. A hint of bitter irony creeps into some of his albums titles. Top Priority was a somewhat mocking reference to Chrysalis’ promise that the disc would be their top marketing priority — despite the trashed masters, refusals to release singles and other drama Rory had put them through in the past. The title of 1982’s Jinx is fairly self explanatory. By this point the substance abuse had begun to take its toll along with the alcohol. Gallagher had become hooked on prescription tranquilizers.

“Where the ‘medication’ — for want of a better word — started to kick in was Rory’s fear of flying had flagged itself up, “Donal says. “I think it was the pressure. He was wearing too many hats for his own good. He was being his own producer, his own songwriter, his own manager…with all the mental strain, the flying tablets probably relaxed him, so he began to take them for other purposes. Of course, after a while they weren’t strong enough, so he was constantly going back to the doctor and upgrading. Rory was very discreet about it all. He’d go swallow them in the bathroom.”

Donal didn’t gauge the extent of the problem until Rory began to have severe stomach pains and nausea. He says,”I managed to get him into a clinic, and the doctor there said,’You realize the problem is not so much the alcohol. It’s the pills.’ He lambasted Rory’s private doctor for prescribing the amount of stuff he had. It wasn’t any one prescription tablet, it was the combination. Throw in alcohol and you’re mixing a devil’s brew”.

In the final years of Rory’s life, Donal became, literally, his brother’s keeper. “I was acting as agent and manager and running an office,” he says. “In the meantime,I’d gotten married and was trying to run my own life. Kids were coming. We’d clear time and take months off. But Rory was going to seed when he had time on his hands. You could see the emptiness in his life.”

Donal settled his brother into a modern house in London that had formerly been tenanted by Elton John, Dusty Springfield and John Mellencamp. “It had great music credentials, Donal says. “I thought, maybe he won’t have dinner parties as such, but at least he’ll have people over. But he didn’t invite anyone. Then maintenance of the house became a problem so I moved him into a very beautiful hotel. I knew the manager, and he gave us a suite.”
Rory may have spent some of the happiest days and nights of his final years at the Conrad, a luxury hotel in London’s Chelsea Harbour. He would hold court at the hotel bar, hanging out with bands that passed through London and stayed at the hotel — everyone from folk artists Martin Carthy and Bert Jansch to rockers Gary Moore, INXS and Gun’s ‘N’ Roses. “Of course Slash was a huge fan,” Donal says.

Rory even befriended the musicians who played at the hotel bar. But that’s were things started to run amok. “The piano player was so out of it he couldn’t play for the customers,” Donal explains. “Or he’d be up in Rory’s suite jamming with the drummer and bass player. My manager friend called and said, ‘We’ve got to have the room back.This can’t go on.’ They had a building of apartments right across the street that they serviced. The hotel manager put Rory over there in this huge apartment. But he felt so isolated there and he got depressed and then he wouldn’t see anybody.”

Despite his declining physical and psychological condition, Gallagher completed two more studio albums, Defender in 1987 and Fresh Evidence in 1990. He managed to maintain a fairly active touring schedule into the early Nineties, although this became increasingly difficult. “The only cure for Rory was to keep him active, give him a schedule and give him a life,” Donal says. “He didn’t have a life when he wasn’t on the road, sadly.”

But the touring brought pressure, and the pressure occasioned more abuse of tranquilizers and alcohol. The road and the live gigs — the very things that had given a purpose to Rory’s life — were now killing him. “The last thing you want is to have your brother go out and make an ass of himself onstage, “Donal says. “But we had run the risk of doing just that, or pissing off the fans. At one major London gig, Rory had obviously taken taken some tablets of some kind and washed them down with a brandy. He was fine before he went onstage. But within 20 minutes to half an hour he couldn’t understand why his fingers had gone to jelly.

On one of the last tours I broke into his dressing room, stole his baggage and made it look like a robbery in order to get at the medication and find out what was going on. I was shocked. His withdrawal symptoms were colossal. After a week or so, he sweated out the toxins from his body and got his appetite back. After three weeks he played better than ever. You’d turn him around, but you didn’t want to risk him too long on the road. It was a very difficult call.

As the Nineties got under way, Gallagher was able to perform less and less frequently. Poor health forced him to turn down an offer to play on one of Mick Jagger’s solo albums, among other gigs. Shortly after what would be his final performance,in the Nederlands, on January 10,1995, Rory’s liver failed. “He was going in and out of a coma and I had to make the decision to have a liver transplant done, ” says Donal. “I’d never expected to be confronted with something like that, and the clock was ticking because we had to wait for a donor. You can’t just buy a new liver.”

Rory survived the initial 12-hour transplant surgery. But complications set in and there were numerous subsequent surgeries over the agonizing period of some three months. In the end, an infection he caught while in the hospital claimed his life. Donal Gallagher was at his brother Rory’s side when he passed away in London, on June 14,1995, at the age of 47.

“You can never say,”Donal reasons.”Maybe it was a blessing in disguise.Who knows what kind of life he would have had if he’d recovered.”

The first signs of a revival of interest in Rory Gallagher and his music had begun in Europe, where he enjoyed greater popularity than he did in the states. A street was named after him on the outskirts of Paris.Many more tributes followed. “There was quite an outpouring from Germany and Ireland,”says Donal. “People realized they missed a lot of good music.”
Control of Rory’s back catalog reverted to Donal in the late Nineties. All of the albums were remastered and reissued by BMG. “We didn’t know what was going to happen, ” Donal says “whether they were going to stiff or not. But within the first year, there were a million units of catalog sold.”

There is plenty more to come. Given Rory’s zeal for live performance, plenty of concert DVD releases are likely in the future. “We haven’t really tapped the BBC concerts yet, “Donal says” but we’ll get there yet. Next year we’re hoping to release recordings of Taste performing at the Isle Of Wight festival, because the 40th anniversary of that is coming up. Fortunately there’s a whole vault full of live performance footage, which is great because young guitar players can study Rory’s technique.”

Gallagher himself would no doubt be gratified that his music has outlived the changing musical styles that kept him out of the number one slot during his lifetime. There’s some justice in the fact that he’s found his place in the hearts of today’s rock guitar subculture. He was always most comfortable among fellow musicians.

“Against The Grain: The rise and fall of the legendary Rory Gallagher” — Guitar World ‘Holiday2009’ by Alan Di Perna

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59 Responses to “Against the Grain: The Rise and Fall of Rory Gallagher”

  1. brianon 01 Aug 2019 at 9:12 pm

    The writer of this article has mud in his ears a lot of times, it seems. Gallagher’s first two solo albums are both very, very good with great sound by Eddie Offord. There are many other obtuse observations by the author that are just idiotic.

    By the way, can we finally lay aside the urban legend of Jimi’s remark about Rory? Chris Welch was the source, and he has retracted his mistake many years ago. It never happened, but it sounds so ‘cool’ that fans picked it up and it’s been repeated over and over ….

  2. Tonyon 11 May 2020 at 8:07 pm

    I saw Rory in Long Beach, California a few times in the early to mid 70’s. The second time I saw him the power went off and the autorium went to emergency lighting only about mid show. He picked up acoustic instruments and played first standing then sitting on the front edge of the stage for at least an hour before the authorities made him leave. I was lucky enough to be in front and able to hear as well as talk to him. He was a true musician and person. So sad to have lost his talent so young.

  3. P.Ackroydon 29 May 2020 at 5:14 am

    Rory was sitting down at a table at first when we met him. He was wearing a check shirt , and black jeans , long hair and I mean, he was beautiful and in his prime. To this day I remember my encounter with Rory Gallagher, it was unforgettable really got to see the man everyone wants to know, as crystal clear as ever these memories have remained, clearly he had a big impact on me at the time.

    I still have his autograph he gave me to this day , the signed concert ticket . I remember distinctly now him asking me my name , and repeating it in full with a smile on his face with his bright shining eyes, looking straight at me as he said it ( what a charmer) !! Rory was rather shy in real life , but really approachable. My older sister and I, met him after standing in the , after gig autograph queue with many others , he must have attended thousands of times, at his concerts , meeting millions of people in his career as an after concert ritual I expect , we were the last ones to see him in the queue that night .. .. and when everyone had gone and we were more or less alone with Rory, out of nowhere Donal, his brother and manager ; appeared and instantly started chatting ……engaging with us to stay around a lot longer ….and asking us outright to join them for a drink ?

    All these years have past , and still I remember that night. My first ‘gig’ too, it was small and an intimate venue, ‘NO DRINK OR DANCE HALL’ , they played at . The audience was politely sitting down as Rory came out on stage , he fiddled with the tunings for a few seconds as we all looked on , for what would happen next. Then he hit the first cord on his guitar as the room exploded into ‘Cradle Rock’!!

    I spontaneously stood up in shock ! looked around and the whole audience had done the same thing , then all the audience simultaneously leapt out of their seats and like a tsunami we made our way through to the stage and there we stayed all night , dancing non stop for almost 3 hours, was more than magic at York University .. The bouncers gave up in the end , there was no chance that anyone was going back to their seats , we were totally in the moment listening to Rory’s Band performing in the power of three. Rory took the path of resistance in all aspects of his career , he was not there for the money or fame , just wanted to create and play music and get the respect. This challenged his musical skills and he became the best guitarist’ in the world!! even eclipsing his song writing. His live performances can not be captured, on film or tape sadly , being there was something else , the likes of which we will never see again .

    When my sister and I , found ourselves in the company of Rory and Donal Gallagher they to me were the same coin , but , the opposite sides, one extroverted the other introverted but speaking the same voice, interestingly they could read each other without saying a word such as; their close bond was . I can hardly believe it myself how that evening unfolded , however, I think I am more star struct now than I was then !! … Rory was a private person, however he was charming and polite and really fascinating and Donal, had the gift of the gab, and if we had gone out with them Rory would have opened up an awful lot more .. saying that , I was almost 17, I was painfully shy too and given chance I would have relaxed more in their company as the night progressed .

    I was ignorant of much of this fact of Rory Gallagher’s international fame at that time , although I had seen him on TV shows such as The Old Grey Whistle Test and I had heard some of his albums.

    Meeting Rory in a friendly setting was insightful , there was no security , no promoters , no bouncers , no barriers at all between us and him. He certainly had star dust, but , I was not rendered helpless in the moment because he was so human, and he did nothing to exploit his status, it was as if we were speaking to ‘the boys next door feeling and we could have potentially become great friends.

    Rory was shy, which is well documented but , I had no access to this information at the time so , these words I say are my observations of that night: as Donal did most of the talking as Rory chose to stand close to me at my side . He was so close to me I could touch him , I was made aware of this fact how close indeed he was , when he spoke as I turned to look at him , seeing he was in my personal space. We must have been with them both for over an hour .

    My sister and Donal were chatting, anyway Rory chipped in occasionally, and I turned to look directly at him as he spoke as he was stood at my side throughout , and I was captivated by his good looks, he looked younger in real life, he was stunningly beautiful . This verbal interaction I have discovered recently was normal for the two brothers; Donal did a lot of chat and Rory was reserved; before and after gigs , coming back to life later after the adrenalin had stopped kicking in.

    However , they must have liked our company because then we were invited back to where they were, before hitting the town .

    I mean, all this misinformation released after Rory’s death , that he did not like women falls on it’s face don’t it ? everywhere it is written that he did not want a relationship , not saying that is what they wanted, it was most likely that they welcomed a bit of female company and friendship in the respect , of something to do , after the ‘gig’ , in one lonely city for one night , we will never know now because my older sister bottled-out , and I had no choice but to go along with her in the pre booked Taxi, that took ages to arrive ; As the two brothers remained in our company and waited and stayed with us as a duty of care. And hard as I try , I can not remember everything that was discussed and we never took photos either so I have no proof of this amazing and surreal encounter .

    I am no expert , I would never claim to be , but it has to be said because I did get up close, I gained an essence of Rory through his performance on stage and then our meeting soon afterwards, and his close relationship with his brother too , as a family dynamic which, was essential for the Rory Gallagher music success.

    This myth around Rory created in the media , that he did not have access to women by choice, in actual fact, it is clear he just never discussed his desires and experiences publicly with anyone, keeping his private life , ‘ private’ !. .

    And if we had gone on to spend quality time that evening, in their company, I would not disclose a thing … Does not take a lot of imagination to understand this beautiful boy , just read his lyrics of his songs , you will see Rory was no stranger to love and heart break and he was also an incurable romantic poet , displayed for all to see in his songs.

    Both brothers, that night wanted to spend time with us, not as groupies but, as friends, granted , doing the asking for us to change our minds and not leave, was Donal , Rory’s right hand man, they clearly worked together to try to convince us to stay in the most charming way, before we left homeward bound … It is really sad I think now, we had no excuse to leave ..and I had no confidence or alternative means to challenge my sister, as I did not live in the City because I was a visitor, staying over with her. My verdict now ?? we were insane , we should have taken up the offer to spend the evening with them ..I mean what could have happened ? What a regret !! ..

    WE could have had a great time going out being their tour guides around the city to find the best food, after having a drink with them, I was in pubs all the time , I did not have to drink alcohol , how could us girls refuse ??

    But , it was NOT to be.

    Meeting Rory Gallagher was a privilege and humbling , he still had the time for people after playing like a maniac all night. Difficult one really what a dilemma, I wanted to socialize with them, for nothing more than I liked them. I felt safe in their company. We were not a risk at all from these two gentlemen . And we made a mistake leaving.. as Donal went with us to the car asking us one last time to change our minds ….as Rory looked on , I gave a final wave of regret. Which haunts me to this day , cause Rory did look disappointed to see us leave as any young man would do, witnessing unattainable girls depart, says everything about this sensitive romantic soul. I never saw them again as I got older , I never had chance to give my side of the story and apologize .

    Rory seemed younger in real life , and his eyes were soulful , thoughtful , he spoke economically he seemed to communicate with Donal telepathically they were indeed very close . I was also mesmerized by the brothers Irish accent and choice of words they used as they reverted back to Southern Irish twang in their conversations which , is rarely shown in interviews , a beautiful ‘accent’ from Cork, almost singing as they spoke , totally different it was, to the Yorkshire Dialect I was accustomed too.

    Rory Gallagher touring the world over 25 years as a solo act after leaving TASTE, for most nights , he must have met thousands of girls and women, one can only imagine how many were invited to spend time with them both? , all left with a very lovely impression of a beautiful man and family . Makes him special indeed and what a loss ……. I still feel bereft

    However, what struck me then and now ; the overriding memory of that night , is the brother’s close bond. They took to us being sisters and them being brother’s , my sister and I remember this above everything else , this was innocent stuff, which is a lovely memory for us both to keep from our time with them ….very human indeed!
    Rory and Donal were really lovely people when I met them, with an extraordinary life.

    Wish I could turn the clock back and do it all again .

    I have only recently thought about it in detail because of the many ;You Tube links online now , and there is so much limited information available about Rory personally as much of this kind of thing, who he really was has been over looked or lost.

    I am no expert , he was indeed private so I only got an impression of his personality at that time Rory wore his emotions on the outside , he communicated through none verbal , expect this was confusing for many to grasp as only the brightest could tune in , that is why I am still in no doubt to this day he was attracted to that young woman I was , because in that huge space he chose to stand inches away from me , close enough to hug , waiting with his jacket on to leave with us, he was…Much has been written about his hedonistic ( no drugs ) alcohol lads nights out , or his excessive later in life drinking alone , even questions have been raised if he was autistic , gay , anti- women?

    After working with people with special needs and teaching adults for many years as I have , I have learnt that none verbal communication is impossible to do and read when a person is autistic because they lack body language communication..

    Rory did like women and people but he chose them carefully , kept his interactions private , because he also did not flaunt his relationships , people thought he was incapable of having one , even his Band have no stories , but , they were not there that night , or likely any other night either to tell the tale .

    All these comments, written about Rory in the media by people who never met him , are loaded with no facts , that are really cruel, so I feel really strongly about it all, enough to blow my cover and tell the truth even if I have only met him for a few hours.

    What I did witness about Rory , I liked an awful lot , Rory was everything and more than can be imagined, he had a range of moods on display as he did much of his communication none verbally , he was more of an observer and a spectator in the game of life , but none the less very much in control, however , that night with us, it did throw him , as he waited for the outcome he looked on bewildered as my sister declined their offer to socialize , waiting for Donal to convince her to change her mind Rory went quiet , saying that I was saying the opposite to her , I wanting to go with them, giving them some hope, but I had no bargaining tool, other than to refuse to go with her, which was no good , I was only 16 , even though I was a budding visual artist myself . later on to get a BA Fine Art degree, and I was aware of his musically interests at that time too , like Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie as I had the chance to explore decades of music in my home because I raided the records , which means I could have held a mature conversation above my peers , however, I could not go off alone in a City that was not my home, with two strangers.

    Rory had a warm center to his being , that could be defined as a combination of humanity and I suppose star dust.. He was also a religious man, I believe , going to Mass every week too.. so he maintained a kind of personal dignity with his God. It is said , cause I have no personal proof of this, but , he was centered at that time so this is likely where he got his courage to keep his feet on the ground , whilst others were gorging on the rewards of fame around him .

    However, all this audio & video information on YouTube takes me right back and this has got me thinking , and recently I spoke to my sister to help jog the memories just in case I had dreamt them up, to find out it is all real!! it was a few years ago all this happened, spontaneously and without warning we were literally swept off our feet .

    We could have so easily rolled with the punches that night .. and I thought at one point we were going too go for it.

    Sadly , so much negative stuff is being written now about Rory , people want all the dirt on Rory, which is insulting as he was such a private dignified person in life, especially as he is not here to defend himself, despite the efforts of Donal , who is doing a outstanding job preserving Rory’s memory and legacy , but , he can only go so far because it can be claimed he is bias .

    So without people like me , who has nothing to gain personally speaks up , the information and interest about him will remain unhealthy and negative; as that is what is being push forward as the main narrative , when we all should be looking to find the real man he was and respect what he left behind for all to still enjoy now.

    Some young people are finding his music for the first time, who never got chance to see him perform in concert , because they were not alive before he died, which , is amazing really how he lives on , and will remain immortalized as such, forever …

    However, sadly , his parasitic friends are betraying him right now, to write trash and there is little out there to balance out the general tabloid version of Rory Gallagher, much is being written by people who never met him. And in time, when we are all gone , who did meet him , all that will remain is what has been published about him which is really sad , because Rory the real man he was will then be lost in time.

    What is in print now is more than disappointing and does nothing to describe the person I met . Clearly , much has been written, maybe even exaggerated stories are out there to ride on the crest of the wave of Rory’s talent, hard work and success to make a quick buck!!

    Very sad , as Gerry McAvoy , who I did meet that night too briefly, when he gave me his autograph, not caring to personalize it , he looked straight through me as he carried on a conversation with someone else , recently he has written a book , I have not read , that is now worth between £500/£1000 new, online, these books are rare, and very much in demand are full of gossip and dirt …

    McAvoy signed with his other Band mate , the drummer Brendan O’Neill first on the ticket I have , they did it before Rory as they all sat in a different place in the Uni Entrance , it was not until I saw Rory he asked me my name and personalized it, repeating my name with affection , giving me eye contact and a beaming smile , making me blush , this is the kind of man he was, he had time for people and I was the last person he gave his autograph too that night so you can imagine he must have had enough , he was the polar opposite to the egotistical lesser being Gerry McAvoy was then .

    I don’t know how long we were speaking to Rory ? because everyone had packed up and gone, we were alone in the Hall with him … when we turned around there was just Donal there engaging directly in conversation with us , asking where best to go next , asking us to go with them .. Which, to me speaks volumes , this means Rory did not mix with his Band mates socially off stage after the gig and after meeting the Band , I can understand why. So therefore, no one knew about our conversation or interaction that night apart from who was involved. This all means that Rory was not looking for validation to be one of the lads when he met women , this means Rory their employer’s personal life is likely not known to them at all.

    Indeed, he was passionate about his craft, the top of his game , still the best guitarist in the world, superb song writer and outstanding performer to this day , no one is better. All these gifts he had, he had no ego and did not play the corporate music industry game and he would never have betrayed his mates for a quick buck! .

    If Rory had ‘sold out’ to THE Big Corporate Music Industry they would indeed have made him a huge star , but he did not want that, he did not want to divert from the path of being an authentic artist, leaving credible music behind, with integrity, in life he wanted to remain free of the burden and the trappings of vacuous fame, he wanted to mix with normal people , that is clear now.
    He could have been a Pinup boy too. I mean, can you imagine that ? but he stood his ground , because his music was worth more than that , so he shunned fame to live a life he could , keeping his principles , and now he has produced timeless music that is relevant today as it was then by following no trends.

    Rory is a Guitar Legend, a song writer a legendary performer , a genius that should never be forgotten & a red blooded male too, with vulnerabilities just like any other man when with women for the first time. Rory Gallagher was first and foremost a total gentleman and a wonderful human . in my company anyway, he was.

    I do feel sad I did not get to know him more because so much was unsaid , even though a lot was communicated between us through body-language and silences too , we could have had a lot more to say ……..given the chance we could have been friends .

  4. ancxon 11 Jul 2020 at 3:52 pm

    I didn’t know who Rory Gallagher was, until 1979…a friend lent me 2 vinyl records. Woodstock II, and Rory’s Top Priority. by then rock music was starting to fade, and we all found ourselves listening to 10+ oldie but goodie rock music, and searching the discography catalogs of our favorite rock groups and stars, looking for early works we hadn’t heard yet…or searching for bands and guitarists we never listened to before. So up popped Rory Gallagher…but this one was different, from the moment the needle hit the vinyl on the first song “Bad Penny”, it was obvious this guy was world class. Right up there with the best of them, and unlike Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Tony Iommi- Rory could sing and play guitar at the same time ! Top Priority was like a delayed LP that could have been released in 1970 or 1975, it fit the early 70’s but was released at the end of decade. I liked it so much, kept it a long time, years, and dubbed a good quality copy onto Scotch 8-track cartridge, and played it in my car. The tape was a 90-minute blank, so I filled the rest of the tape with The Who, ZZ Top, UFO, Pretty Things, etc. People would ask to borrow that tape and not want to give it back ! To this day I still have it, battered from many a party and car cruise….and it still plays and sounds like the day it was dubbed off the LP. The story doesn’t end there…in 1982, my girlfriend (now my wife) and 3 other friends, went to see the band RUSH at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. It was a 2 hour drive, I had already seen Rush twice before, but I went along anyway as a date and something to do. We get out of the car, are walking towards the arena, and across the electronic billboard is flashing “TONITE- RUSH- WITH SPECIAL GUEST RORY GALLAGHER” I still remember bursting out “holy sht Rory Gallagher’s playing too !!” I was ecstatic !! Needless to say the highlight of the night for me, was seeing Rory for the first and only time, not seeing Rush for the 3rd time. (but they were a great band of course, and another of my favorites-RIP Neil Peart). It was great to hear Rory rip through many of the best cuts from Top Priority, Photo Finish, Against the Grain, etc. One thing though…the younger Rush fans didn’t seem to “get it”, they had no idea who he was !! No doubt Alex Lifeson of Rush himself was a huge fan of Rory as well…which is why he was on the bill to begin with ! Anyway, that ranks as one of the most memorable concerts of my life, even though the seats weren’t that good, I got to see Rory live. When he died it was really sad. Now I watch his live videos on YOUTUBE, and he was a fabulous frontman for a power trio. He played old school blues rock years after it was passe’ from the mainstream. The albums and videos he left behind are true jewels, and hopefully they’ll release all his video from the vault. One last thing, back in high school I made a Rory Gallagher T-shirt print on silk screen in art class…and still have a copy on a piece of construction paper. the shirt is long gone but that print looks great white on black background, the cover from CALLING CARD. it lends itself to a great T-shirt print. great article, thanks for the history.

  5. Iñakion 21 Sep 2020 at 12:46 pm

    acudí en 2004 en Ballyshannon al festival homenaje a Rory. Su hermano Donal amablemente me facilitó pases para acudir al concierto. Fue un bonito recuerdo. Me acerqué a Ballicolling cementery he hice fotos a pie de su tumba y deje un fotografía que le hicieron a Rory en el hotel Monte Igueldo de SAn Seabstián en 1974 antes de un show que pasará a la historia.

  6. Sean Simingtonon 26 Jan 2021 at 3:05 pm

    Be My Guest — Rory Gallagher.

    It is twenty years ago since Rory Gallagher lived and died the blues. At just forty seven Rory was taken far too early but having said that he left an incredible legacy of blues and rock music for his millions of fans across the globe to enjoy and for younger generations to discover now and hopefully long into the future.

    Since his death many fine words have been written in tribute to both the fine guitar player that Rory was and to the man himself. A true gentle man blessed with such a gift in his playing yet so finely balanced with modesty, humility, respect together with a real appreciation of his audience which can always be witnessed when viewing or listening to the hours of live recordings available on both cd and more recently on dvd and of interviews and concert outtakes on You Tube. Simply nothing taken for granted, audience always thanked for their rapturous response and respect and furthermore that applause always generously shared with his band.

    Some of the most fascinating, enjoyable and diverse recordings left by Rory are those he took part in with his peers throughout the course of his long and successful career. Most of these classic collaborations remain available to buy but they may take some hunting down. Together they do so much to illustrate the breadth of Rory’s talent in the various music genres; country, jazz, rock, blues and folk.

    In the days of The Taste it was not possible to miss the strong jazz influences of some of the recordings. The Taste were John Wilson drums and Richard McCracken bass with Rory guitar occasionally playing saxophone. Shortly after the sad demise of this great three piece Rory was invited to play and record with the great jazz legend, Chris Barber, in July 1971. The resulting two tracks, Drat That Frattle Rat, which was also the name of the album and Sleepy Lovie. They were eventually re released in 1993 on Chris Barber’s The Outstanding Album. The recordings were made in the Marquee Studios which was owned by Barber himself along with the club which was such an important venue for breaking new acts including Taste and subsequently Rory Gallagher himself. Apart from Rory, lead guitar, the Chris Barber band had Pat Halcox Trumpet, John Crocker Alto Sax, John Slaughter Guitar, Jackie Flavelle bass, Graham Burbidge drums.

    Mike Vernon was a leading producer in the blues boom of the late 60’s working with such names as Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown and Ten Years After. Vernon established the label Blue Horizon to showcase these and other acts. In 1971 Mike Vernon released an album of his own, “Bring it Back Home” inviting recognised bluesmen to contribute. Rory was guest lead guitar on just the one track Come Back Baby. Paul Kossoff of Free played on another track. The album recorded at Polydor Studios, Stratford Place, London.

    Early in his solo career Rory was nominated by Chris Barber to play with his all time blues hero Muddy Waters for what was to result in two albums. Firstly there was the London Sessions and one side of out takes on the London Sessions Revisited, the second side being devoted to the spare tracks from Howlin Wolf’s own sessions from the UK capital. These recordings were for Chess Records and were recorded at IBC Studios. Muddy was surrounded by his own band which was augmented by the great and the good from the British blues scene; .Georgie Fame billed as Fortune for contractual reasons, Steve Winwood and Rich Grech fresh from Blind Faith and Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Rory played on all the tracks apart from Highway 41 on the revisited album. Following the work with Muddy Rory used some of the tracks in his own set; I Wonder Who was to become a classic in the Rory repertoire. In a 1992 interview looking back Rory said “It was a real honour” to be invited to join the sessions. “I only wish I could do it again now with my experience because Muddy taught me an awful lot during the sessions and I came out a much better player than I went in.” Gallagher would often turn up to the sessions having just finished a gig arriving late into the night. Rory often gave Muddy a lift back to his hotel after recording in his Ford Executive admitting that he kept the car long after it’s sell by date as a memento of the collaboration with, arguably, the master of the blues.

    From jazz and blues to out and out rock and roll in 1973 Rory was invited to take part in The Session recorded in London with Jerry Lee Lewis and other guest musicians. Produced by Steve Rowland the recording was made at Advision Studios with an array of international talent including Albert Lee, Peter Frampton, Kenny Jones, Delaney Bramlett, Klaus Voormann and B J Cole. Taste producer Tony Colton of Heads Hands and Feet was also invited and even wrote a song for Jerry Lee. Rory duelled with Peter Frampton on Johnny B Goode and Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On and was responsible for the bottleneck guitar on Jukebox and Music to the Man. At the time of the release of the Complete Session in 2005 Colin Escott in the sleeve notes described Rory’s slide work as “superb”. The last release included two extra tracks with Rory playing; The Stones’s “I Can’t get No Satisfaction” and “Singing the Blues” The record turned out to be a best seller for Jerry Lee Lewis various re releases over the years creating interest. Rory reported that there was a strange sense of violence and madness around whenever Jerry was in the studio. Rory tells a great story of a later meeting with Jerry Lee Lewis when he had to diplomatically intervene in a dispute between John Lennon and The Killer over who was the king of rock and roll.

    “I’m gonna hang these young boys by their toes up here tonight” Albert King asserted before kicking off his 1975 appearance at the annual Montreux Jazz festival. He was referring to his invited band members Louisiana Red and Rory Gallagher. King was the King and he was going to show the youngsters the way. The live recording was released as Albert Live in 1977 on Charly records and re released on cd in 1989 on the Rhino label with Tomoto records. The latter having less tracks than the original double vinyl album. The Rory highlight on the album is the initial lead guitar and first solo on “As Time Goes Passing By” a true hidden gem from the Rory legacy although Rory contributes across the whole album. It was released again under the title “Blues From the Road” in 2003.

    With any musician it is always interesting to discover the original influences and from the outset Rory always name checked Lonnie Donegan as a major reason why he pursued a professional musical career. Lonnie had tapped into the country blues players of the US in the fifties as a source of inspiration and Rory had heard the renditions in the skiffle era of many classics and on American Forces Radio. By the mid seventies the Donegan star had faded and Adam Faith brought together a fine array of well known rock musicians to kick start Lonnie’s career on a comeback album. It was released on the Chrysalis label in 1978 having been recorded the previous year at various studios in London; Air, Cherokee, Larrabee, and Trident. Rory played on three tracks one of which was the re recording of the big Donegan hit learnt from blues legend Leadbelly “Rock Island Line”. Apart from Rory; Zoot Money, Albert Lee, Ringo Starr, Brian May, Ray Cooper, Ronnie Wood and Jim Keltner also feature amongst others. Some years after this recording Lonnie joined Rory on stage to sing the anthem Goin To My Home Town a recording of which appeared on the Wheels In Wheels acoustic album released by Rory’s loyal brother and keeper of the legacy in 2004. In the nineties Lonnie released an album “ Mulskinner Blues” on Rory’s own label, Capo Records.

    When on tour Rory always took a keen interest in the support band on the show. Strider, Jackie Lynton, Roland, Greenslade, and Joe O’Donnell to name a few, doing what he could to help them along the way. With the latter Rory agreed to play on the concept album Gaodhal’s Vision released by Polydor records in 1977. Joe O’Donnell, a fellow Irishman and fiddle player is more famous for his contribution to East of Eden. Joe still tours with his band and Gaodhal’s Vision remains part of the live set.

    Who would have thought that Rory would have been a guest on a Wombles album. He wasn’t but very nearly as the creator of the aforementioned singing creatures released an album in 1979 called the Tarot Suite. A concept album based loosely around the cards. Whilst not a huge hit in the album charts of the time Mike Batt assembled a strong and diverse group of friends to perform including; Colin Blunstone and Roger Chapman on vocals; Rory, Jim Cregan, Chris Spedding and Tony Mcphee on guitars. Jim Cregan famous for his role not only in Cockney Rebel but also as the lead guitar in the band Stud which also incorporated the remainder of The Taste after they broke up in late 1970 not long after the stunning performance at the Isle of Wight Pop Festival. Also on the Tarot Suite B.J.Cole appeared on pedal steel guitar and Mel Collins on saxes. Mike Batt, a well known producer of a wide variety of artists, also employed the services of the London Symphony Orchestra. Originally released on vinyl with Epic records it has been released on cd by CBS records.

    For the next three years Rory was fully occupied with his own extremely busy schedule of touring across the globe and recording his own albums. In 1984 and 1986 three former Yardbirds under the collective name of Box of Frogs called in some friends going way back to help out on recording at Ridge Farm Studios. The latter being entitled Strangeland. Paul Samwell-Smith, Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty were joined in their venture by John Fiddler ex Medicine Head. On the first of the two albums the quartet were augmented by Rory, Jeff Beck, Ray Majors, Max Middleton and two future sidesmen of Rory’s; Mark Feltham who at the time was with Nine Below Zero and Geriant Watkins. Rory’s work is present on two tracks; The Edge and Into the Dark. On the latter track Rory played the electric sitar in addition to slide. On Strangeland additional Frogs were more diverse; Graham Parker of Rumour fame, Ian Drury from the Blockheads, Jimmy Page and Roger Chapman. Rory played on three tracks; House on Fire, Hanging from the Wreckage and Heart Full of Soul. The albums were oringinally released on the Epic label and re released as a double album on cd on the Azin label.

    Squeezed between the two Box of Frogs outings was the 1985 release of Procul Harum’s Gary Brooker. Apart from Rory, Eric Clapton, Tim Renwick and Henry Spinetti also helped out. Details on Rory’s involvement in this album are sketchy although research has highlighted his slick slide guitar work on the track Trick of the Night. The album was released by Phonogram on the Mercury label.

    There are few albums from Rory that do not demonstrate the breadth of his own guitar playing skills and the invitation to play on the Irish folk band, The Fureys and Davey Arthur’s 1988 The Scattering album allowed Rory to connect firmly with his celtic roots. This is not an album that Rory would be expected to guest on but the track Tara Hill allows Rory’s slide work to come to the fore without taking away from the Furey’s traditional arrangements. Released on Harmac records and re released latterly on cd.

    Moving Hearts were a support band for Rory in the eighties joining him on a tour in Europe so it is no surprise that when Davy Spillane was recording a solo album Rory was invited to attend. Davy a Uillean Pipes player went on later to play in the almost non stop Riverdance phenomena. For the Spillane album Out of the Air Rory plays on three tracks; electric sitar on “The Road to Ballyalla, electric and acoustic guitars on Litton Lane and acoustic Silvertone on the track “One For Phil” dedicated to the memory of Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. The album was released in 1988 on Tara records.

    The involvement with The Fureys led Phil Coulter to persuade Rory to contribute a piece to his own Words and Music Album and what a stunningly beautiful collaboration this turned out to be. So rarely mentioned together in the same sentence Rory accompanied by Phil give a moving rendition of “Will Ye Go Lassie Go” Phil was so moved by the performance and wrote “This is one of the first songs I learned. I never thought that one day I’d record a version of it featuring a legendary guitar hero like Rory Gallagher. His style and technique are world famous, but I am lost in admiration for the sensitivity of his playing on this track on both acoustic and electric guitars” It is a must for any Rory Gallagher fan to add to their collection. Phil Coulter, who wrote many hit songs in the seventies and eighties for bands such as Bay City Rollers, Kenny and Slik also worked with Van the Man and the Rolling Stones; diverse experience to say the very least. The vinyl album was released on Telstar in 1989. The Dubliners, Ralph McTell also appear. It was recorded at Livingston Studios in London and re released on Four Seasons Music in the nineties.

    Brute Force and Ignorance was a song Rory wrote in the late seventies about the punk era. Rory respected and admired the power and raw energy of the period. An Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers, still touring today, were delighted to have Rory playing on their 1991 Flags and Emblems album. On just the one track Rory brought his slide playing skills to the mix on Human Shield. SLF were in the studio and wanted a slide solo on the track. Jake Burns in his book “SLF Track by Track” tells the story in some detail. Being a friend of Donal Gallagher he telephoned to ask if Rory could help out. Within a day of sending over a tape Rory had agreed to assist and along with his loyal roadie Tom O’Driscoll arrived at the studio and completed the recording in just one take. The album has recently been re mastered but originally it was recorded at Ezee Studios London on the Dojo label and released under licence to Castle Communications.

    Ronnie Drew and the Dubliners were long time friends of Rory and rumour has it that Rory travelled with their music to hand. In 1992 along with many artists as guests this longstanding Irish folk group recorded and released 30 Years A Greying. Not only did Rory appear on the album but the track recorded was Rory’s very own “Barley and Grape Rag”. That track was recorded at Raezor Studios in London. Rory also provided harmonica for Eleanor Shanley’s “Will the Circle be Unbroken” The Hot House Flowers were also invited to play along with Billy Connolly and The Pogues. The album was released on the Baycourt Label by Lunar Records. Ronnie Drew remained a close friend of Rory and was invited to help carry Rory’s coffin at the Rory’s funeral service in 1995. Trevor Sheehan, of the Dubliners, spoke about Rory after his passing, “He was a perfectionist but a very humble sort of a character, not the type you’d expect to find in show business at all, an absolutely lovely man”

    Energy Orchard, led by Bap Kennedy, brother of Brian, who was known for his contributions to the Van Morrison sound in the 90’s, were an up and coming Belfast band in the early nineties and played support to Rory in Europe. When preparing to record their Pain Killer album in 1994 Rory always willing to help his fellow musicians at whatever level went into Greenhouse studios to add dobro, harmonica and electric guitar to Remember My Name. A real stand out track on the album. After Rory’s death the band dedicated their live album Orchardwille to the great man. Pain Killer was released in 1995 by Castle Communications.

    1995 also saw the release of Eamonn McCormack’s second album Strangers on the Run. Eamonn at the time was using the stage name Samuel Eddy. Rory was Eddy’s boyhood hero and major influence. A blues guitarist hailing from Dublin Eddy was recording at Blackbarn Studios, London at Jacob’s Studio in Farnham and once again Rory was only too pleased to help out a fellow countryman even though he was already seriously ill by this stage. In an interview in 2008 for the re launch of Strangers on the Run album under a new title Kindred Spirits Eamonn as he now calls himself reveals “I’ll never forget one thing, Rory was a very humble, unassuming character but once he put that guitar on and played one chord the whole studio shook. His presence was unearthly. We all just froze.” The re released album is out on True Talent records.

    The last album to be released on which Rory was asked to guest was released four years after Rory’s passing in 1999 by jazz violinist Roberto Manes under the title of Phoenician Dream. The tracks, co written with Rory, on a studio improvisation basis were actually recorded in December 1994. Once again they serve to display the breath and depth of Rory’s playing and his on going willingness to experiment and diversify his recording experience. Roberto was clearly moved by working with Rory in the studio; “Rory was one of those rare people whom art and life combine as one. I came across him several times both on and off the stage. The one thing I always noticed about him was his tremendous inner strength and belief in what he was doing” he remembered. “I shall never forget the solemn manner in which he approached the recording session nor the absolute calmness he felt afterwards” he added. Rory and Roberto never had a chance to finalise the titles to the two numbers so Roberto dedicated one to a favourite actor of Rory’s in “Raga for Gian Maira Volonte” and the second to the spirit of a street market in Africa; “Voices from the Bazaar.” The Rory tracks were recorded at Warner Chappell Studios London.

    No other studio recordings have turned up, to date, but maybe there are some still out there. Some unreleased collaborations with other artists were put out on the Wheels in Wheels album under the direction of Rory’s brother Donal. Rory did record two Peter Green tracks for a tribute album Rattlesnake Guitar. On stage there were numerous jam sessions; Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, Slash from Guns and Roses, Jack Bruce of Cream to name just three. An artist much missed by both peers and fans alike. If he had lived longer who knows what might have been; a Taste reunion tour, work with legend, Bob Dylan. All speculation but let us all give thanks for the wonderful legacy which we still have to savour.

  7. David Hughdieon 13 Mar 2022 at 8:18 pm

    Rory was asked to join Cream after the departure of Clapton? First time I’ve heard that one. The audience reaction at Cream’s final shows at the RAH certainly gave all three members pause for thought as to whether the band should split, but the process by that time had become irrevocable and there was no way back. Bruce and Baker despised each other and had done so for many years, so it’s difficult to imagine the pair continuing in Cream with a new guitarist. They had toned down their animosity largely out of respect for Clapton. Would they have been so considerate towards Gallagher?

    Never In the many interviews conducted with Bruce or Baker over the years has the idea of Cream’s rhythm section continuing the band with a new guitarist (Gallagher or anyone else) ever been raised. It may have been manager Robert Stigwood’s desire for Cream to continue after Clapton’s exit, but I don’t think it was ever a realistic prospect for Bruce or Baker. Having said that, Cream at that point were hugely successful commercially and potentially, there was a great deal of money to be made. However, a Gallagher-fronted Cream would have been a different animal and there is no guarantee that such levels of success would have been sustained. On the plus side, there would still be the fabulous B&B rhythm section and Bruce’s prolific songwriting. Coupled with Gallagher’s own songwriting and strong vocal delivery, the new Cream could conceivably have developed into a much stronger package, even if one considers Gallagher’s abilities on guitar to be weaker than Clapton’s. Gallagher was a very fine guitarist, and I have no doubt that he could have more than held his own against the relentless Bruce/Baker partnership.

  8. David Hughdieon 13 Mar 2022 at 8:23 pm

    Rory was asked to join Cream after the departure of Clapton? First time I’ve heard that one. The audience reaction at Cream’s final shows at the RAH certainly gave all three members pause for thought as to whether the band should split, but the process by that time had become irrevocable and there was no way back. Bruce and Baker despised each other and had done so for many years, so it’s difficult to imagine the pair continuing in Cream with a new guitarist. They had toned down their animosity largely out of respect for Clapton. Would they have been so considerate towards Gallagher?

    Never In the many interviews conducted with Bruce or Baker over the years has the idea of Cream’s rhythm section continuing the band with a new guitarist (Gallagher or anyone else) ever been raised. It may have been manager Robert Stigwood’s desire for Cream to continue after Clapton’s exit, but I don’t think it was ever a realistic prospect for Bruce or Baker. Having said that, Cream at that point were hugely successful commercially and potentially, there was a great deal of money to be made. However, a Gallagher-fronted Cream would have been a different animal and there is no guarantee that such levels of success would have been sustained. On the plus side, there would still be the fabulous B&B rhythm section and Bruce’s prolific songwriting. Coupled with Gallagher’s own songwriting and strong vocal delivery, the new Cream could conceivably have developed into a much stronger package, even if one considers Gallagher’s abilities on guitar to be weaker than Clapton’s. Gallagher was a very fine guitarist, and I have no doubt that he could have more than held his own against the relentless Bruce/Baker partnership.

  9. miloon 04 Feb 2023 at 12:32 am

    Did you keep a copy of the photo? It would be interesting to see.

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