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Jul 13 2012

My Brother Rory: by Donal Gallagher — as told to Brian Robbins

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The following is Part One of Brian Robbins conversation with Donal Gallagher published in the 20th Anniversary Issue of the music magazine Hittin’ the Note. Many thanks to John Lynskey, publisher of Hittin’ the Note, and Brian Robbins, the author of the article for allowing me to post this to my blog. Part Two of the interview is in the latest issue of the magazine and will be posted here soon. For those that can’t wait you can order the latest issue of the publication through their online presence at: HittintheNote.com. And be sure to catch Brian’s previous reviews of the new album Notes from San Francisco, the re-release of Rory Gallagher’s classic albums, and the Blu-ray DVD of Irish Tour ’74 on jambands.com.


My Brother Rory — Part One


My Brother Rory

Rock and roll has always embraced working-class heroes. Some take on that aura via the work of clever publicists and management, others just are.

Guitarist Rory Gallagher was of the latter category. His style combined the roots of his native Ireland with the American country blues, jazz and the rock ‘n’ roll that he loved. Gallagher earned the admiration of fellow players – including Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Jack Bruce – but was never one to let ego get in the way of the music. A powerful performer on stage, Gallagher was humble and private by nature. The argument could be made that his personality prevented him from achieving the kind of fame he deserved … but the argument could also be made that Rory Gallagher remained true to himself and his music – something not every performer can claim.

Rory Gallagher died in June 1995 at the age of 47 from complications following a liver transplant. The music he left behind will forever be fodder for “how did he do that?” discussions in guitar circles, and still continues to attract new fans. 2011 saw the re-release of Gallagher’s catalogue of classic albums (both studio and live) by Eagle Rock Entertainment, along with some great live performances on DVD and Blu-ray. Newly re-mastered (and including some previously-unreleased material), this new wave of music has something for both the uninitiated and the longtime Rory fan.

Rory’s brother Donal oversaw the re-release project, his duties carried out both as family and from the viewpoint of having been there himself. Throughout Rory’s career, Donal was by his side as his “road manager,” a title that hardly does his role justice. Perhaps “brother” is truly the best title of all.

Donal Gallagher was kind enough to share some of his memories of Rory with Hittin’ the Note. Granted, his stories could fill a book (and possibly will some day), but in the meantime, we’ll need to be content with just a few glimpses into the lives of Rory and Donal Gallagher.

 

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One of Donal’s earliest musical memories of his brother is of a young Rory listening to American Armed Forces Network radio, broadcast from the Navy base in Derry, Northern Ireland during the Cold War:

Rory always had this kind of amazing understanding of music. It wasn’t so much the blues at that time as it was jazz – The Voice of America Jazz Hour on the radio. He must have got the gene from my father, in terms of the ability to play and instrument.

I remember Rory’s wish was to get a guitar – and at that time, a guitar wasn’t a very common thing. I recall trying to make guitars and banjos from round Kraft Cheese packets, rulers and elastic bands. Rory had just an unnatural appetite to learn all about the musicians and the music.

After the jazz guys came the blues guys: you had a lot of American influence from the musicians who’d come over to England and stayed on. Chris Barber is someone who doesn’t get his full credit – a traveling jazz/blues bandleader who had a show on the BBC radio. He brought people like Muddy Waters and Albert King to Britain. Hearing them on the radio was Rory’s musical education.

Donal described how early “musical differences” between he and Rory set the stage for his career as his brother’s road manager:

Rory, being the older brother, was always right, of course! But in fairness to Rory, he always had this tuned-in direction for himself. He knew where he was going, what he wanted and didn’t want – and was very clear about it. We were always close; the family had a lot of movement from city to city as we were growing up. Our father’s family lived in Derry in Northern Ireland, while our mother’s family lived in Cork in the south – very different feel and identity.

As Rory developed his guitar skills, he played at hospitals and at church concerts. I was brought in for harmonies: we thought ourselves the Irish version of the Everly Brothers – at the age of, oh, nine and eleven! One night I tried to fill out the time with a traditional Scottish piece I knew, but stopped a ways into it to tell Rory that he wasn’t playing it right – he was trying to put a rock ‘n’ roll feel to it.

I guess I embarrassed Rory – I got “fired” that night! I ended up doing whatever I had to do to get back in his good graces, including carrying his guitar and amplifier. That’s when I became his “roadie.”

Rory wasn’t going to let the violence stop him from playing to people

We’ll fast-forward now to one of the highlights of the new Eagle Rock re-releases, the Irish Tour ’74 album and video, featuring Rory, drummer Rod De’Ath, bassist Gerry McAvoy, and keyboardist Lou Martin. The period was an especially troubled one in the country’s history, with violent clashes between the Protestant unionist and Catholic nationalist communities in Northern Ireland. Nonetheless, Rory Gallagher wanted to take his music to everyone.

It was certainly dangerous to be on the road in Ireland in 1974 – particularly Belfast. The venue where the Irish Tour ’74 concert was filmed was the Ulster Hall there. The street it was on got renamed “Bomb Alley.” Just to give you an idea of things. You couldn’t predict anything as far as the bombings went… there was no protocol to it. It could happen anywhere. One of the hotels we stayed at was demolished by a bomb just after we’d moved on.

I remember playing on New Year’s Eve when eleven bombs went off in the vicinity. And we were all waiting for the twelfth one. When we said anything about it, we were told, “Apparently they’re saving the big one for next year.”

We were warned not to drive overnight, as well – to do all our traveling during the day. But we figured, “if we drive overnight, we’ll make better time.” And Rory wasn’t going to let the violence stop him from playing to people.

Recorded four years into Rory’s career as a solo artist after the breakup of the power trio Taste, Irish Tour ’74 is a snapshot of the quartet at the height of its powers. A sweat-soaked Gallagher brandishes his beloved battered Strat for much of the performance, leading his band mates to places far beyond the walls of the Ulster Hall.

In the beginning, that was meant to be a documentary about Rory and Ireland for the BBC. Rory said, “With this band and this lineup, I just want to get it recorded – it can’t get much better.” You know, he had a sense of it: the simplicity, the dynamics, the kind of psychic thing that was going on between the guys at that point. There was never a set list; there were a lot of nights that he might open with the same number, but it was so unpredictable that the guys would say to me, “Do you know what Rory’s going to open with?” And I’d have to tell them I had no idea.

There was this feeling of keeping it on the edge and unpredictable all the time. they’d take a song somewhere and you’d be watching, think, “God, they’ve really gone out on a limb … how’s he going to get back into the main part of the song?” And somehow they’d manage to bring it back in. At the end of the day, you have to please yourself on stage and that’s what they did every night. There was an excitement – like a football final or something. Whether there was 100 or 100,000 people in front of him, Rory played to them, brought them in with that electricity. Their vibes would come into it and he’d play off that, as well. They performed their part. Everybody was involved.

As mentioned earlier, Rory Gallagher’s talent was well-recognized by his fellow musicians – including the Rolling Stones, who had their road manager make a call to Ireland after Mick Taylor’s departure from the band in December 1974.

After Rory delivered the Irish Tour ’74 record to Polydor – that was the final album of a six-album contract he had with them – Rory was in a position to do whatever he wished.

It was the early days of January ’75 and we’d just gotten back home and had one or two days off. As I remember, it was around midnight when the phone rang. I knew it was long distance as in those days you had to connect to an operator to call another country. Of course, whenever you got a call that late at night, you’re worried that someone’s been killed in an accident or something, you know?

This guy comes on the line and says, “Have I got the right number for Rory Gallagher?” in a very British accent. This was at the height of the troubles, of course, and it had been suggested to me that Rory was a possible kidnap target.

I’m being very evasive about whether he had the right Number or not, trying to find out who he is. I finally said I could get a hold of Rory, but it would take a few minutes – could I tell him who’s calling? And the guy said, “My name is Ian Stewart.”

Of course, speculation was rife at that time about who the Stones would have and immediately I put two and two together. I almost blew it by saying, “Of the Rolling Stones?” – but I held back and said, “Of … London?”

I told him to hang on, as I could get Rory, but it would take a few minutes. Rory had gone to bed a short while earlier, so I knocked on his door and said, “You’ve got a phone call downstairs.” He said, “Who is it?” and I said, “It’s the Stones.”

Of course, he thought I was having a prank with him and refused to get up. Eventually, though, he went down and took the phone call. They wanted to know if he could be in Holland on the tenth of January – was he willing to come over and have a jam with them? Rory said he’d be delighted and honored.

We then returned to London immediately – there was a tour booked for Rory at the end of January in Tokyo. When the ticket to Rotterdam showed up, there was only one, “Where’s mine?” I asked. Rory said, “There’s only one – I guess you’re not coming.” He was really thinking there was no need of me being there while they were just sitting around and playing, you see.

The simple fact about it was that Rory was the one the Rolling Stones wanted; there was no one else in the race at that time. If you think about the music the Stones had been releasing in the years prior to then, the Mick Taylor years were really a golden period. They were trying to find someone who could fill that gap or even embellish that scenario. Rory was the closest person to fit in that role.

When the Stones started their own label in the early ’70’s, Keith Richards mentioned in interviews that one of the artists they’d like to have was Rory. He’d obviously listened to Rory and recognized how he had combined some variation of American country music – which Keith loved – into rock and roll. Of course, the Stones are always referred to as “Keith’s band,” but Mick Jagger really runs things as far as the financial arrangements and “who’s in/who’s out.”

In the meantime, the Stones postponed the date they wanted Rory to come – and we were close to the start of the Japanese tour. They told us that the Stones mobile recording unit was having problems and they needed to get it going. But I think what was really happening was Keith was going through one of his worst drug periods. When Rory finally got the call to come, he took his Strat and a small Fender Champ amp and flew across to Holland on his own.


Rory Gallagher ©Kirk West

On the night of his arrival, Rory was met at the airport by Mick Jagger himself. I remember Rory telling me it was snowing and he was standing outside freezing with his guitar and amp while Mick went down the taxi line negotiating the rate to Rotterdam. There were no stretch limos!

Marshall Chess Jr. was managing the Stones at that time. Rory allowed that when he and Mick got to the concert hall in Rotterdam where everyone was waiting, Marshall said to him, “Welcome to the Rolling Stones. You’re the guy for the job and I’m delighted that you’ve come and joined us.”

Rory didn’t know what to say, of course. And when Marshall asked him, “Who do I talk to – where’s your management?” Rory had to tell him, “Well … he’s not here. I … I just thought I was coming for a jam.”

They got a session going that first night, but Keith didn’t turn up for it. Mick was nervous; that’s when Rory realized Mick and Keith weren’t on talking terms and Mick was trying really hard to get the band back together. Charlie and Bill had no say whatsoever, so they just stayed out of it and just came in when they were recording. Mick says to Rory, “Look, I’m not sure about Keith – whether he’s going to come down or not. I’ve got a song I’ve been working on … have you got a riff for me?” Rory had been writing a song and he started up a riff. They began making music; started getting down to work. I think the song was “Hot Stuff.”

The next evening, Keith showed up. Rory told me they did four tracks, one of them being “Miss You.” I believe I know when Rory heard that track later on he said, “That’s my riff.”

Finally it got to the point where Rory had to say to Mick, “Look, I need to be in Tokyo in a few days time – I’ve got a tour. What’s the plan here?” And Mick said, “You’ve got to have a conversation with Keith. He’s waiting up in his room for you, go up and talk with him.”

So Rory goes up to Keith’s palatial suite and finds the door wide open. Rory walks in to find Keith on the bed, completely comatose. Rory stayed up all that night, checking every half hour to see if Keith was up or if he could wake him gently, but he was too out of it. By eight o’clock the next morning, Rory – who hadn’t slept at all the night before – packed up his guitar and amp, got on the plane and flew back from Rotterdam to London. I met Rory with a fresh suitcase at Heathrow and we flew straight to Tokyo.

There was really very little conversation between us about what happened in Holland with the Stones. I think Rory’s attitude was, “If they wanted me badly enough, they would have told me.”

Upon reflection, if I’d been there… I don’t know how it would have worked out if things had been different. It’s one of those ‘what if’ things.”


This concludes part one of Hittin’ the Notes’ visit with Donal Gallagher. The second half of the conversation with Donal is in the current issue of Hittin’ the Notes and includes memories of the sessions behind Rory’s newly-released Notes From San Francisco album. Stay tuned for the second half of My Brother Rory

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Apr 24 2012

They Don’t Make Them Like Rory Anymore…

Published by under articles,Interviews

In the latest issue of Fireworks Magazine, Sue Ashcroft interviews Donal Gallagher, the brother of the late Irish Blues legend, Rory Gallagher. Special thanks to Bruce Mee and James Gaden of Rocktopia for allowing me to post the interview. For more great interviews be sure to pick up the latest issue of Fireworks at Rocktopia.net


firework header

In 1995 the world lost a truly inspirational guitarist and songwriter in Rory Gallagher. Now, his first six albums have been re-mastered and reissued from the original quarter inch tapes. Rory’s brother and former manager Donal has been flying the flag for Rory’s music for many years and spoke frankly to me about his hopes for his brother’s music in the future. But first, I decided to totally freak him out…

Donal, let me cast your mind back to 1966….. do you remember your cousins coming over to visit you from Scotland?

Yes… I’m worried now.

They had a girl called Pamela with them?

Yes, I remember her!

Well, that’s my sister!

Oh my goodness! That’s amazing!

We actually have a lot more connections than that, but I’ll get to those later. I want to know about how you feel Rory’s legacy is being carried on. Are you ever surprised by the level of love and respect that still exists for Rory all over the world?

I’m always pleasantly surprised – I don’t take it for granted though because I know the kind of world it is. It’s wonderful that the feeling is there, on the one hand, but on the other, when Rory was alive, you wish people were, dare I say, more appreciative of him, particularly in the latter years. I’m thrilled to bits the way it’s grown and particularly the younger generations who seem to have grasped the music and understood it and got the same love that their mums and dads did. I find that quite unique.

You stage the Rory Gallagher tribute weekend which is now in its eleventh year, winning awards for being one of Ireland’s best festivals and with people AND bands coming to it from all over the world – that must make you very proud?

It’s fabulous and the network that has evolved from it – there was another tribute weekend a few weeks ago in Oslo! Then, there’s Holland and Cork both having them in March for Rory’s birthday and the last call we had was from a guy in New York who’s doing one in June. It’s just extraordinary, but the great thing is that they all seem to swap bands and I love the interplay. It’s not about the records as such, it’s about the live music.

And that’s proven by the fact that Rory’s biggest selling album was the Live ’74 album! You’ve managed to get the remasters all sounding amazing. How did you go about doing that? It’s been a bit of a family affair, hasn’t it?

Well, respect to my son for that – that’s the top and bottom of it! It all came out of the last album ‘Notes From San Francisco’ to be honest. A lot of the fans wanted to have Rory on vinyl and the label said they would do a test run on that album, just to see how it went. They put it to
their sales staff and the limited edition that they intended to do was sold out before they’d even pressed it! So, then they came back and said that we were right and that they’d do the vinyl on the other albums for the 40th anniversary of the first releases. To have them in time for that would be something I thought Rory would have loved to see. So, in the course of doing that, Dan (my son) asked to do the project. He’s a guitarist – I think the artist gene must’ve bypassed me! So, he listened through the tracks and he decided that we should go back to Rory’s original mixes – the way he heard it himself and then apply the new technology and the new studio techniques to get the best out of that. In fairness to him, it was his concept to do it that way. We went right back to the original quarter inch and half inch tapes – there were a whole variety as we’d retained everything. So, it was the actual same tapes that Rory took to the studio. Obviously with the technology nowadays you can get so much more, so that’s how that was achieved. Then, in addition to the mastering, Sony said we should do a box set, but I said, as nice as that is, and however celebratory, if you want to turn someone on to Rory’s music, you have to make it affordable, because not everybody has the money in the present economic climate to buy a very pricey box set – let’s do it as it was originally done, so that you can buy one, or all, or none of them, that’s great – if they want to buy the whole set, even better!

How refreshing! Normally, people would say “No – we’re releasing it as a box set, because that’s going to bring more money in.”

We did get them to do better covers because the plastic jewel cases for normal CD’s weren’t always good enough to get good artwork, but we pushed them further and said, it would be great to have the first six look like mini vinyl albums.

Yeah, they’re great – I love the cardboard covers with the inserts. They really are like mini albums.

In fairness, they didn’t spoil them, they went with it and did the extra pictures and it was actually a guy who they fired from Sony who did the artwork, so they brought him back in and it was a labour of love for us all, to be honest.

So your family all still feel that connection to Rory and his music?

Oh very much so. Needless to say, there’s not a moment goes by that I’m not ‘preaching the gospel’ as it were. I have four kids and they all grew up with it – my two eldest boys saw him at Hammersmith Odeon. My youngest was too young to remember, but still knows the music. My eldest son now lives in Cork and he likes the scene over there. He’s very proud of it all and I think they all get such a kick out of people posting videos or articles about Rory on Facebook and other social media (I’m not one of those people, but I know they get a real buzz out of it).

Did you ever think that all these years later you would still be carrying on his legacy and that people would still be interested in the music?

Well yeah, I always felt that I was committed because I did feel like there was a certain injustice done to Rory in some ways. I think he was overshadowed and overlooked for a lot of stuff that nobody remembers now who or what it was, but he didn’t seem to get his fair share of the limelight, particularly in the latter years. Because he didn’t play the corporate game, he did get airbrushed out of the media for a long time. He knew though that the long term was what it was about, the music itself and him as a musician and after all, he had to live with himself and his decisions. I knew the potential of the music, so I never had my doubts. I suppose though, to stand back and think about it, if you’d asked me the question in 1995 after Rory died, where I thought we’d be at this point, it’s extraordinary really. Even when you’re a certain age, you don’t think about it. I remember hearing Sergeant Pepper’s for the first time when I was all of seventeen or eighteen and I remember the line “it was 20 years ago today….” and thinking “how ancient was that, twenty years ago?!” It’s like someone saying now “it was forty years ago today”.

I know what you mean – I keep thinking how have I been married twenty years when I’m only seventeen in the head? I notice at the festival this year, although you’ve not announced the full lineup yet, you have announced Pat Macmanus?

I don’t know who’s playing to be honest. Trying to get hold of Barry O’Neil is nigh on impossible! He got married on the 30th December and I was at his wedding, but I haven’t seen him since, despite all the attempts, but I know he was changing things to be inside a marquee so the whole format of the festival was going to change and we were going to have a discussion about it, so I’m glad you’ve reminded me! Pat, I saw at the wedding – he’s a lovely fella.

Well I had never seen him play live, even though I’ve been a fan of Mama’s Boys for thirty years, but I saw him at Hard Rock Hell in December. He had stepped in at the last minute when another band had pulled out and I think, because he’d played with the Quireboys in Belfast the week before, they’d managed to persuade him to come and fill in. You know – it was the first time in a very long time that a guitarist has moved me to tears. He was just amazing and I’m glad that you have that kind of player at the Rory Festival. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it – people with the passion for the music?

It’s the sincerity as well, that’s important.

How many people attend the show every year now?


Rory Gallagher

Well, because it’s over four days, some people come for just one day, some come for the whole thing, so all in all, it attracts about 20,000 people. This is what I’ve been waiting to discuss with Barry – as it was, every bar in town had a Rory band on or they’d be playing Rory’s records, so initially when it started off, they were all contributing to help support the bands to come in, but because of the total success of it, a lot of the places don’t put their hands in their pockets anymore. It’s left Barry with the dilemma – what do you do then because a lot of the bars have the crowds coming in anyway, but they’re too mean to contribute. So, Barry’s talking about putting it into a marquee so that it’s more contained and that way, the money that’s spent goes to the bands and then it also gives them the possibility to try and get someone like Joe Bonamassa or somebody of that calibre. The thing is, there’s a Scottish singer Sandi Thom, who got my number from a friend of mine and called me up. She explained to me that she’s Joe Bonamassa’s girlfriend and that Joe was coming to town. She wondered if there was any chance that I would go and say hello to him. I said of course and that I’d been hoping to do that because Joe’s covered Rory’s ‘Cradle Rock’ and always spoken very highly of Rory and every other time he’s been in London, I’ve been out of town, so I’d been waiting for this to happen. So, I said that I would go along and see him at the Hammersmith Apollo. In the course of the conversation I said that really and truly, when these guitarists ask to meet me, it’s not the brother they want to meet, it’s the guitar! They want to hold ‘the mistress’. Johnny Marr did the same thing. He called me on my mobile one day and said “sorry about Rory, blah, blah, blah, could I come and have a cup of tea with you sometime?” and I said “sure – when were you thinking about?” and he said “well, what are you doing tomorrow?” and I said “yeah, if you like”. Gave him my home address and he said “ok, I’ll be down first thing”. So, he hung up and then a few minutes later he rang back and said “just one more thing – before I get there can I just ask – I don’t suppose there’s any chance I can hold Rory’s guitar?” so I know that’s what they’re all after! He must’ve set off very early from Manchester, because he was at my house at 9 in the morning! So anyway, back to the story. So, I brought the Strat to the theatre – it was Sandi Thom’s Christmas present to Joe. It all went very well and it was lovely meeting him.

remastered albums

Now I have to get on to one of my other connections with you. My friend Alec Galloway is in the process of designing some stained glass panels of Rory for you. I’ve seen a couple of his sketches so far and they’re fantastic, but how did that come about?

Well, it was through Ronnie Garrity (former Down n Outz and current Henry Gorman Band and Heavy Metal Kids bassist) who had told me about his artist friend when I was up visiting him. On the Saturday morning, we went over to Alec’s studio. It was a bit of a setup between Ronnie and my wife, to be honest. Ronnie took me up there to see the Rory stained glass which was just amazing.

He’s a very talented boy, isn’t he?


Stained Glass Panel of Rory

Absolutely! The thing is, if somebody said to you ‘stained glass’ and ‘Rory’, you would think they were mad, but it’s such a lovely composition – abstract in some ways, but very beautiful in others. He’s such a lovely guy and he explained how he’s trying to further his career through commissions, so I made a few suggestions and then Alec said he’d love to come down and sketch Rory’s guitar, feel it and get the whole ambiance of it, as it were. So, he came down just before Christmas and stayed at the house and had the guitar with him for the whole night. I’m a member at the Chelsea Arts Society and I said that I thought it would be good for Alec to be a member there, so I took him up and we bumped into a few people I know there and I spoke to the council there and they understood about him being a teacher and so on, so they had no problem in giving him a reciprocal membership. They have a great space to exhibit and get your name out there amongst the artist fraternity in London, so I now have a piece to do for their website on the subject, so I’ll get that up soon so people can read about it. Another thing I wanted to talk to Barry O’Neil about is where I commission a piece for perhaps the music library in Cork or somewhere, but I’d like to be more specific as to where a piece is going, other than make a piece that they just shove in somewhere you wouldn’t particularly see it or whatever. Even the piece I got, it took me a while to put it up in the right place. It’s much better if you put lighting in it, so now I’ve got it to be mounted on a window so that in the daytime you get the natural light and in the evening you can plug it in as extra lighting for the room.

The thing is, my sister told me about how your dad used to make stained glass pictures out of sweet wrappers!

Yes, that’s right! It’s great that she remembered that!

I think it’s amazing and strange that your dad used to make stained glass pictures from sweet wrappers and here you are commissioning proper stained glass to commemorate one of your family… and the person doing it is from Gourock!

Luckily, I still have one that my dad did. It was done during the war years when they didn’t have a lot. My dad used to get just a piece of glass and shape it all and then hand paint a scene in black paint and then, over a period of time, he’d collect sweet papers – you know, the foil and cellophane – and there were all sorts of patterns on those. I remember as a kid there was a magnificent one of a woman running across a common and she was in a full, flowing Victorian dress with a brolly and a bonnet and so on. The sweet wrappers were glued to cardboard before they were mounted on the glass, so it had a beveled effect.
The one I still have, the glass is cracked so there’s not a lot I can do with it, but that’s of an old sailing ship in full sail. The sails are in silver and there’s a storm in the background – he was a very artistic man, plus he was a musician. He was in the Sean Kelly Dance Orchestra. He would’ve been Ireland’s answer to Jimmy Shand! He won all these cups and medals, but then the war broke out. There was no conscription in the north of Ireland, so you either had to take a boat to Liverpool or wherever and
enlist in some regiment you didn’t know, but at that time he couldn’t afford that, so he walked across the border to Donegal and joined the army, where he was transferred to Cork and that’s how he met my mother.

Wow. You had an album released in 2003 with a lot of previously unreleased tracks featuring some top notch musicians. Considering that some of the most famous players in the world, such as Slash, Brian May, Johnny Marr, Joe Bonamassa, etc. have all said how big an influence Rory has had on their lives, do you think that the way to go in the future might be to ask all those people to record their favourite Rory track for an album?

Oh yes, absolutely! That’s actually something that we have on the drawing board, but it’s been there for a little while because the thing is, they all say they want to do it, but when you push them to do it….I mean, Brian May was the first one who said he wanted to do it and that was just after Rory died. He said “I’m going in to the studio with Roger Taylor and we’re going to record a version of ‘Morning Sun’. I’ll send you the master tape and you can do what you like with it” – I’m still waiting for it! I bump into him and he keeps saying “oh, I must do that for you!” Equally, Johnny Marr was saying he wanted to do a track from ‘Calling Card’ – it was good of him to want to do an obscure track. U2 used to do ‘Moonchild’ as their sound check, so I asked them and they said “yeah, yeah, we’ll get you a version of it”. Their sound engineer is a guy I trained up in Cork and he said he would just record it off the sound board one day, but it’s just a case of getting everybody together at the same time. I actually think the best way to do it would be to get all of the bands in the one room at the same time – almost like a Jools Holland type show. There was another guy who came to me with another idea which was to record these guys by taking a mobile unit to where they were and recording it live. I think ZZ Top were up for doing one, but at the end of it, the budget the guy wanted for doing it was out the window. In some ways, I’d like to ask Johnny Marr to produce the album because you have to hand the reins over to someone else, because in some ways if it’s ‘Rory’s brother’ then I think a lot of the guys perhaps feel inferior trying to do a Rory track because “oh God, I can’t do it better”, or “I can’t do it justice” their heart’s in the right place, but I think they need to be coached by somebody else entirely.

It’s not about doing it better or doing it the same, it’s about doing your interpretation of how you think it should be played or how you ‘feel’ the song, isn’t it?

Yes, I mean Joe Bonamassa agreed to do it and I was speaking to Sandi, whose music I wasn’t familiar with, but I got her albums and I was quite knocked out by her. I thought God, this has passed me by and I feel guilty speaking to people when I don’t know about their music. So, then I called her up and said “Joe wants to do a track for the album, so I’d love for you and he to do a version of ‘I’ll Admit You’re Gone'” because it’s a track with a woman’s voice on it and I think you have to think outside the box when you’re trying to put something like this together. It doesn’t have to be a bloke on a guitar playing faster than Rory’s solo, but that’s the way various people tend to think about the tracks – how do I make it heavier than Rory or how do I rock it out more.

Thank you for your time Donal and you never know, with all our weird connections, we might bump into each other in Gourock some day!

Wouldn’t that be lovely? My cousins had always told me how beautiful it is, but being out on the road all the time, I never had the time to go and, when I eventually did, it was so amazing. I mean, the topography of the place and everything – I’m even looking at weather maps and I’m just so intrigued about how the lochs and the mountains and the way Gourock is on the bend of the river. Even someone who came to dinner here the other night who was sent to boarding school from Ireland to somewhere outside Glasgow and they were describing how they would take the boat over to Glasgow and it would stop first at Gourock and all the animals and goods would be taken off and the ship would then continue up the Clyde into the city. But it’s just amazing when you get chatting to people about Gourock.

I’m telling you, it’s the centre of the universe – all roads lead to Gourock!

It really was an honour to chat to Donal about his family history, and indeed MY family history and home town! It seems that enthusiasm for Rory Gallagher is still building year on year and is not only helping his home town and other musicians, but is still inspiring artists in other media to be creative. What a true legend.

 

Rory Gallagher’s first six albums have been remastered and reissued from the original quarter inch tapes. The albums are released by Sony Legacy. For more information visit www.rorygallagher.com.

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