I know I wasn’t hip enough to be into the Irish rock trio Taste when they first hit the boards; I was still trying to digest “Good Vibrations” and “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow” and “Psychotic Reaction” and a boxful of magical, mystical singles that spit out of my speakers. And when I went off to college and started a radio show that others may or may not have heard (depending upon whether the elevators in the building were conflicting with the transmitter), I hadn’t heard his self-titled solo debut, or Deuce. But from the moment Live In Europe came out (at the time, simply titled Rory Gallagher Live) I quickly corrected that gap in my musical library and never looked back. One listen convinced me that after several few years of pondering life’s greatest mystery – “Hendrix or Clapton?” – the question itself was incomplete. Together with bass player Gerry McAvoy and drummer Wilgar Campbell, Gallagher’s dynamic live document raised the bar – no fuss, no stage set, no garish clothing – just an Irish guy in a flannel shirt with a well-worn Stratocaster and the purest soul I had ever heard committed to vinyl.
My friend Kevin O’Connor and I, fine Irishmen both, bonded over many things, but Rory was near the top of that list. We played this record so often you could almost hear side two bleeding through side one. Whether blazing through the rocking “Laundromat”, channeling classic electric blues in “I Could Have had Religion”, solo acoustic magic of “Pistol Slapper Blues”, it didn’t matter – not only was Gallagher a master of every style, but the tone he got from the guitar was otherworldly. Even brandishing a mandolin, as he does on “Going To My Home Town”, he was a magician. Years later, watching the concert documentary Irish Tour 1974, I watched him play that same song in his hometown, in front of an auditorium packed with family, friends and proud countrymen, stomping their feet and clapping their hands as thunderous audience percussion. I was moved to tears.
Rory could dazzle on acoustic or electric, jam with the classic bluesmen and be the envy of his peers (Keith Richards lobbied for him to join the Stones on several occasions). He toured relentlessly and was loved by his fans because along with being an amazing talent he was a humble and approachable guy. Yet he’s so underappreciated by the general public that when Rolling Stone compiled a list of the 100 greatest guitar players of all time, Rory’s name was not on that list. (Of course, this speaks more to how far the once great magazine had fallen than Rory’s legacy. The great guitar players in rock history, from Clapton, Beck and Winter to Brian May and Richard Thompson, praise Gallagher to the skies). Of course, for true fans, Rory’s music is as alive and vital now as it was when he first created it. I know when I call Kevin later today it will again be a bittersweet conversation.
Rory died in 1995, only47 years old. But Rory Gallagher’s music is timeless. Happy Birthday, mate.
Some good news for US fans, from his brother Donal, who oversees Rory’s recorded legacy: “We have recently got Capo Record’s North American situation finally resolved by the completion of paperwork from Sony Music, which releases us from the existing agreement. For this territory we will now place our catalogue with Eagle Rock (U.S.), who have done positive work on the Montreux and Rockpalast DVD’s in the States. The first release will be Rory’s “Live at the Cork Opera House” DVD (17th March), this title has up until now remained unreleased in N. America. We will also be looking to release a compilation album to refresh and promote Rory in the States and Canada in the autumn.” Donal is correct – Eagle Rock has done an excellent job with the Live at Montreaux and Live at Rockpalast collections; Montreaux is a stunning collection of appearances. Live at the Cork Opera House has only been available in Region 2 format until now and is a welcome addition to a great catalogue.
Here’s the link to the Rory Gallagher website.
Here’s a link to a page full of edited MP3 samples from albums throughout Rory’s career. You can see why a simple “best of” collection would be so insignificant.
I savor Rory’s entire catalogue, but while his studio albums are good, all of his live albums are spectacular. Live In Europe will always be my favorite, and Irish Tour is his most popular, I have a soft spot in my heart for the balls-to-the-wall rock on Stage Struck. Check out “Shinkicker”
I will not make a lame excuse
I did not forget Dr. Seuss
I do not minimize his glory
I just prefer to honor Rory.