Rory Gallagher

TrackAlbum
Calling CardThe BBC Sessions
Nothing But The DevilTop Priority (CD bonus track)
Hands OffBlueprint
Walk On Hot CoalsIrish Tour ‘'74
Smear CampaignDefender
Bought And SoldAgainst The Grain
Crest Of A WaveDeuce
Brute Force & IgnorancePhoto-Finish
A Million Miles AwayTattoo
Edged In BlueCalling Card

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Contributor: Ian Ashleigh

A friend at school worshipped every note that came out of Rory Gallagher’s guitar, so inevitably when it came to the exchanges of music we were listening to, we were exposed to Irish Blues Rock of his then latest album, Against The Grain, and we were hooked too.

It could be said that Rory Gallagher was the first Irish rock star, paving the way for the likes of Thin Lizzy, Horslips and U2. After playing in various Irish showbands, Gallagher formed Taste in 1966 as a blues rock R&B trio that lasted 4 years and broke up shortly after the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, from which Gallagher forged his solo career.

While paying his dues in 1963, Gallagher paid £100 for a 1961 model Fender Stratocaster previously owned by the Irish Showband leader, Jim Connelly. Reputedly this was the first Stratocaster in Ireland and its ultimate worn appearance was said to be because Rory Gallagher had a rare blood group that gave his sweat an unusually high salt content that in turn reacted with the guitar’s varnish. Gallagher’s rationale for, as his mother put it, bankrupting himself to buy the guitar was that he would be able to play lead and rhythm himself on the same instrument thereby obviating the need to pay a second guitarist. It is this guitar that he used as his frontline instrument for the next 32 years until his death in June 1995 from complications following a liver transplant. At the beginning of that year, Rory Gallagher added guitar to some recording sessions by the Irish singer Eamonn McCormack. The track Falsely Accused that came out of those sessions is said to be the last recording that Gallagher plays on.

On his death, Rory’s brother, Donal, ‘retired’ the Stratocaster with only Joe Bonamassa having been allowed to play the instrument since (see below).

When Mick Taylor left the Rolling Stones in 1974, Gallagher auditioned as a potential replacement and it is said that he appears, albeit uncredited, on the album Black And Blue. There are contradictory stories as to why Gallagher didn’t get the gig; it is said that Jagger and Richards thought he was too shy to fit into the dynamic of the band, it is also said that Gallagher went off to fulfil a tour of Japan before the auditioning process was complete and that is why he lost out to Ronnie Wood. Time and legend have, no doubt, obscured the real truth.

Many modern guitarists have cited Rory Gallagher as an influence, including Slash, The Edge and Joe Bonamassa who, with the permission of Donal Gallagher, played Rory’s Stratocaster at a gig at the London Hammersmith Apollo in October 2011.

Between 1971 and 1990, Rory Gallagher released 12 studio albums and 6 live albums and toured extensively until 1994. His bass player through the majority of this period was Gerry McAvoy and although Gallagher preferred the ‘power trio’ format of guitar, bass and drums, during the mid-1970s he recorded and toured with a four piece band that included Lou Martin on keyboards and Rod De’Ath on drums.

It is not often that, as a fan, you can say ‘I am on this track’ but I was at the recording at the Golders Green Hippodrome for the BBC at which Calling Card was performed for subsequent broadcast in the Sight and Sound series. Gallagher was booked to play an hour but played the same three hour set that he performed the night before at the then Hammersmith Odeon. This illustrates the telepathy that Gallagher and McAvoy had developed with the unison playing in the middle of the song, the band tightly following its leader.

Nothing But The Devil, written by Lightnin’ Slim, is a bonus track on my copy of Top Priority; it’s just Gallagher and an acoustic slide guitar and you can almost trace a direct line to the style of Blind Willie Johnson (see TopperPost #121). London’s Capital Radio used its foyer for live broadcasts in front of a small audience – this was from March 1980 (and no, I wasn’t there).

Blueprint was Rory Gallagher’s third album, released in 1973, and was the first with the four piece line-up referred to above. It contains an eclectic mix of styles and I point you towards Unmilitary Two-Step as a small acoustic tune with a multitude of roots. Also on the album are three of the most enduring of Gallagher’s songs; Daughter Of The Everglades, Race The Breeze and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. I am taking Hands Off for this playlist for the interaction between Gallagher’s guitar and Lou Martin’s piano.

The track that opens the album is one of Gallagher’s best but the version of Walk On Hot Coals from the Irish Tour ’74 album is outstanding and also illustrates his shyness on stage, almost apologising to the audience for his choice of what he plays. This is Rory Gallagher and the band at their very, very best!

When compiling the list, I listened to my Rory Gallagher collection on my MP3 player in alphabetical order of tracks to compare live and studio versions and then to the albums end to end and I had forgotten how good Defender (1987) is; there isn’t a poor track on the album. There had been a five year gap since the previous studio album, Jinx, but the whole album is a tour de force. Choosing one track was almost impossible so I have gone with Smear Campaign because it seems to fit well after Walk On Hot Coals.

Bought And Sold was one of the first of his tracks that I’d have heard, being on Against The Grain, and I’m taken back to those school days when we’d turn up to someone’s house clutching an LP. Rory Gallagher was probably followed by the latest album from Status Quo which in turn I’d have probably followed with Fairport Convention, and so on. The happy days of my mid-teenage years.

I saw Rory Gallagher play Crest Of A Wave live and it was on his second album, Deuce, from 1971. Just a great rock song and it made the cut because it sounded good after Bought And Sold. Brute Force & Ignorance, is another great blues rock song and had to be in this selection. Photo-Finish was given that title because the recordings were delivered to the record company on the deadline. A really good example of the Gallagher power-trio with Ted McKenna on drums and with an overdub of Gallagher on mandolin.

You can’t live on power blues rock alone! A Million Miles Away is as close to a ballad as you are probably going to get with Rory Gallagher; my representative from Tattoo and a real heart-rending blues. One of our friends had a leather jacket on the back of which he had reproduced the cover of this album in perfect detail.

We go full circle to the album Calling Card and a Claptonesqe track, Etched In Blue. This was the sixth studio album and the last that featured Lou Martin and Rod De’Ath, who then joined the former Killing Floor bandmate, Mick Clarke, in the renamed Ramrod.

Rory Gallagher – the official website

The life of Rory Gallagher

A tribute to Rory Gallagher

Rory Gallagher biography (iTunes)

Rory Gallagher (1948-1995) – and many will have fond memories of his first band Taste in the late 60s – only a handful of albums but a Taste toppermost surely beckons.

TopperPost #133

4 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Nov 24, 2013

    I never followed Rory Gallagher’s work particularly, though I saw Taste a few times, but after reading this I turned to The Sunday Times “Box sets of the year” feature and there was mention of Kickback City by Rory Gallagher. It is a highly unusual concept, though I don’t know any of the tracks on it. I’ll paste in what amazon says:

    Kickback City is a unique immersive album inspired by the crime noir passion and music of Rory Gallagher. Featuring a specially compiled album of Rory Gallagher’s best crime novel influenced music; the stunning package also includes an exclusive new novella by Ian Rankin fully illustrated by graphic artist Timothy Truman. This unique immersive album also includes a special narration of the story by actor Aidan Quinn. 
Inspired by Rory Gallagher’s passion for crime novels, ‘Kickback City’ is a creative collaboration combining the words of Ian Rankin, the illustrations of Timothy Truman and of course the music of Rory Gallagher.

    You can see a video of Ian Rankin, TImothy Truman discussing the Kickback City project if you click on the official Rory Gallagher website link above … Ed.

  2. Simon Sadler
    Nov 24, 2013

    Hard to go wrong where Rory’s concerned. Hot Coals, Crest and Million Miles would easily make my top ten. Then there’s Out on the Western Plain, The Loop, Cruise on Out, Going To my Home Town, Who’s That Coming, There’s A Light… Probably need a top 25 🙂

  3. Rob Millis
    Nov 24, 2013

    Not a huge fan but this is a good read – I also distinctly remember thinking Laundromat was a cut above all the other somewhat more lumpen and turgid British bloooze – it had a deft and sprightly quality about the changes, if you will.

  4. Andrew Shields
    Jan 28, 2014

    Great list… Slightly surprised there is nothing from Live in Europe (possibly Rory’s greatest album) here – ‘Messing with the Kid’ and ‘Pistol Slapper Blues” would be personal favourites…

    ‘Philby’ would also be in my Top 10.

    Also am a big fan of the acoustic album which Rory’s brother, Donal, put together after his death. The medley of country and blues songs on it -with Bela Fleck on Banjo – is priceless..

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