A true innovator and musical genius, Rory, trailblazed out of his native Cork, with power Blues Rock trio, ‘Taste‘ before pursuing a well-documented solo career, which saw him tour the globe performing on stages in some of the worlds most iconic venues, gaining admiration from the likes of fellow icons, Jimmy Hendrix, to Slash and everyone else in between.
With the recent release of ‘The Best of Rory Gallagher‘ [October 9th via Universal Music], we had the pleasure of talking with Rory’s nephew, Daniel Gallagher from his home in New York about his responsibility of looking after Rory’s estate and the process of curating this recent ‘Best of…‘ collection.
OD – Considering the rich discography of Rory’s legacy, how difficult was the decision-making when putting this ‘Best of…’ collection together?
DANIEL – It was a very tricky process, as I had to whittle down from over 150-plus songs. I made the decision that I wanted to include the very best of Rory’s career, including stuff from back in his days in ‘Taste‘ as well as each studio album.
I made a conscious decision to focus on the studio albums, rather than his the live recordings, as I felt that was recently represented with ‘Check Shirt Wizard – Live in ’77‘ compilation; which we just put out earlier this year.
So, they were the limitations that I set myself for this album. Of course, there is was impossible to avoid some of the classics like ‘Tattooed Lady‘ and ‘Million Miles Away‘ etc, I also wanted to get the Taste material in there also, to give the full extent and variety of Rory’s songs.
OD – Of course, there is an additional cover of The Rolling Stones (I Can’t Get NO…Satisfaction) included on the album featuring Jerry Lee Lewis. I have to ask, why does this track not feature on the vinyl edition and only the CD and as a separate 7”?
DANIEL – We made the decision based on the premise of this being the ‘Best of...’ collection of songs. Although I love that version, it’s not regarded as one of his all-time classics, which is what this album is.
With 30 tracks, I could have possibly included it but when I only had room for 15 tracks it made things a little more difficult [Laughs]. I would have had to lose a classic like ‘Loneshark Blues‘ or something like that and people would not be happy if that happened. Anyone can stream this new track and there will be a 7″ and it’s also included on the double-CD version of the album.
OD – Was there anything else recorded from that session with Jerry that you can reveal that has not since been released?
DANIEL – They did a number of songs for sure and the original album was released in 1973. Rory played on tracks like ‘Johnny B. Goode‘ and ‘Music to the Man‘, and then they released more songs featuring Rory, this was the only one that I’m aware of, as I was only given access to one tape and this was the only track where Rory was singing. Apparently, it was because Jerry [Lee Lewis] was unaware of the track at the time.
OD – With reference to that track, are there any other tracks or artists that you are aware of that have not been released yet, or that have recently been unearthed in one sense or another?
DANIEL – There’s more stuff that I’m going through at the moment as next year will be the 50th anniversary for Rory’s first solo studio album  and those tapes contain lots of outtakes and alternative takes etc. Rory tended to record in a live situation, so every take is very different, with different solos etc.
OD – Can you give us an idea of just how much of the archived tapes there are?
DANIEL – Well, back in 2017, we moved Rory’s archived tapes to the Universal Storage Units and that was over 1000 tapes, so there is a lot of stuff. That move really allowed me to see a lot of things that I hadn’t seen before. Sadly, I can’t digitise all of these tapes, it’s more of a tape-by-tape process.
OD – You must have come across a lot of interesting and funny moments from those recordings, as I’m sure there are plenty of candid moments between takes etc?
DANIEL – Yes, there’s a lot of recordings with of studio banter and jokes etc between takes, but there was this one tape that I was really interested in as it had Van Morison’s name on it. I think this was around the ‘Top Priority‘ album cycle back in ’79, and Rory and Gerry [McAvoy, Bass] were messing around between takes and for some reason, Van was under the impression that they were talking about him, so he just got up and left the studio. [Laughing]
The production engineer told me that story. There’s a great bit of banter between Rory and Gerry on the tape, but it’s a real shame that Van didn’t stick around, as it would have been amazing to have him on record; singing with Rory.
OD – I’m sure as you make your way through all of those tapes you’ll find some incredible moments.
DANIEL – Yes, I agree with you. There’s actually another tape of what became the ‘Defender‘ album. Rory recorded that back in ’83 in Dublin and for one reason or another, was unhappy with the recording, so he left it and went off touring for a bit before returning to it around ’86/’87. It looks like the tape has the original first recording of that album which as I said, was recorded in Dublin. If I remember correctly, it sounded much different to the version that was made public, as he [Rory] had saxophone players involved during those sessions. I’ll have to go back and have a listen to it in its entirety.
OD – You went right back to Taste (1969) with the track selection on this release. From your perspective, when you hear the early stuff to what Rory was writing and recording up until his unfortunate passing on ‘Fresh Evidence’ (1990), do you feel that his vision was fulfilled, or do you believe that he was moving towards a different sound?
DANIEL – He would always comment on how he was: “trying to move forward” with regards to his sound but he knew that he was working in the Blues/Rock framework. I think he definitely achieved it on some albums like, ‘Tattooed Lady‘, which he wrote himself. That’s a fantastic album, both musically and lyrically.
He didn’t rest on his laurels by any means and then went on to release ‘Calling Card‘ , which was just a few years later and it’s a very different sounding album to ‘Tattooed Lady‘.
I feel by the time he was doing ‘Calling Card‘ he was touching more towards the ‘Rock’ side of things, but there were pinnacles of him hitting everything that he wanted to achieve, which I understand could just be me being biased because of my intimate knowledge of both him as a person and his music.
I personally think that this point in his career was his best songwriting period. He really came in with a lot of great ideas and songs during this time.
OD – There is no denying the astounding influence that Rory has had on an incalculable amount of guitarists from all walks of life and is still reference today among some of the worlds most respected guitarists. Do you feel that his talent was sufficiently recognised while he was still alive, or do you feel that he became kind of immortalised after his death, as the media like to do with most artists after they leave us?
DANIEL – I think there were moments where he was huge during the ’70s. Maybe not so much in America, as people would say, that he didn’t tour enough over there but in fact, Rory toured American 25 times. The fact that he wasn’t releasing single like other artists of that era was one of the reasons why a lot of people didn’t get to hear him.
He was one of the biggest Rock acts of the ’70s and did very well everywhere apart from America, where he still did better than most. Towards the last couple of albums, he was feeling…kind of ignored I suppose, or forgotten about.
It’s actually weird because I think Rory’s music today is more popular than it probably has been since the ’80s. If he was still around today, he would be doing sell-out shows in the Royal Albert Hall. Once again, that’s just my opinion.
OD – With so few platforms for bands in Ireland, it’s a testament to Rory’s talent when you think that he broke out of Ireland and forged a global name for himself. Things are not any easier today, especially for Irish bands’, as there is literally no mainstream support for Rock music in the country these days.
DANIEL – My Dad told me so many great stories about back in the ‘Taste‘ days in ’67/’68 when they were going over to the UK to perform and they had to put on fake accents, tuck their hair under their caps in order to get a room in a B&B!!!
The irony was that the UK-based Blues bands of that era would scoff at the idea of the Irish coming over to the UK to perform Blues music without seeing the irony of Black American artists looking at white British musicians doing the same thing. There was a lot of ‘snobbery‘ when Taste when to the UK for the first time.
I actually read a review of Taste opening for John Mayall in either Denmark or Sweden, and Taste were a really amazing live band from the footage I’ve seen, as I was too young at the time. Anyway, John Mayall’s manager came out on stage after Taste had done their thing and berated the audience, who were going wild, saying; “That’s not Blues music! If you like that, then you’re all philistines!” [Laughing].
They basically weren’t happy about these Irish kids coming out and pulling off a show like that. Of course, this is all water under the bridge, but you have to remember this was the very first Irish Rock band that was making stir outside of Ireland.
OD – From your knowledge, who was Rory enamoured with or had great respect for during the ’90s?
DANIEL – Well, he and I both really loved Guns n’ Roses. I was 13-years old at the time and we both used to talk about them [Gn’R] for hours. Rory had actually played with Slash and I remember Slash commenting on how much he liked Rory as a guitarist.
As much as he liked Slash, he really liked Izzy Stradlin’s riff work and talked about that band a lot. Slash performed with Rory on his last US tour back in ’91 [see pic] and that was peak Use Your Illusion 1&2, so, they were the biggest band on the planet during that time.
OD – Did he express any desire to work with specific musicians prior to his passing?
DANIEL – His ultimate goal was Muddy Waters and he got to play with him back in ’71 but he would have given up his own career to be Bob Dylan’s guitar player. He really wanted that Robbie Robertson or Mike Bloomfield role of being the Blues guitarist at Bob’s side.
When Rory performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1994, Bob Dylan was also playing that night. Bob had already performed and Rory was on after him. Bob had commented on how much he liked ‘I Could Have Had Religion‘ so, Rory played it that night hoping that Bob would come out and join him, but it never happened, however, Béla Fleck came out and did a few numbers with him.
OD – With regards to his entire recorded history, what is a personal favourite for you?
DANIEL – I would have to say ‘Irish Tour‘ . There’s just something about that recording that I love. The mix, how much the audience is in the mic, the sound of the hall. It’s not a perfectly isolated recording and his just on fire. There a huge vibe on that album.
OD – Do you have any funny or heart-warming memories that you would like to share of Rory, that perhaps fans would not know?
DANIEL – I remember it was my older brothers Holy Communion and there was a little party afterwards and my brother was getting all the attention and presents. Remember, I was very young, around 5 or 6-years old. Anyway, my brother got a small snooker table and was very jealous and I was in a mood and was sulking somewhere. [Laughing]
It was Rory that went out and picked something up just for me. I can’t remember what it was but I just remember him coming back to the house and coaxing me out of the room. I remember him cheering me up and the rest of the day not being so bad [Laughing].
The Best of Rory Gallagher is out NOW and available to purchase via this link. The album comes in 2lp Black vinyl, Limited Edition Clear 2LP, 2CD, 1CD, Digital HD, Digital Standard.
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