We’ve got a special treat for you on the first of October at 3.30 pm as we play host to Belgian guitar virtuoso, Jacques Stotzem, as he stops off at the RGML for an intimate show as part of his European tour. The gig is, as always, free of charge, so if you’re in the neighbourhood why not drop in and be part of a very special acoustic tribute to the late Rory Gallagher. Stotzem’s latest album, ‘To Rory,’ is a tribute to the great man himself and features acoustic versions of some of Rory’s best known tracks.
The following is from Jacques Stotzem’s press release and if you’d like to learn more, see the link to his homepage at the end. For a full list of events in the RGML please click here.
“To Rory” is Belgian guitar virtuoso Jacques Stotzem’s tribute to the late Irish rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Rory Gallagher. Honouring the 20th anniversary of Gallagher’s premature passing, Stotzem recalls his guitar hero’s dynamic playing and, as he says, “unmatched musicality,” by presenting the music on solo acoustic guitar. Fusing the powerful nature of Gallagher’s music with his own expressive playing, Stotzem pulls off this considerable feat with aplomb. Employing the dynamic, playful style that has become his trademark, Stotzem impresses with fast runs, groovy basslines, and percussive elements, all paired with a musical sensibility that allows him to interpret Gallagher’s powerful repertoire without sacrificing his own identity.
Skillfully using various fingerpicking techniques and even bottle-neck slide, Stotzem is equally adept at interpreting the driving beats found in Moonchild as he is at capturing the ballad feel of Wheels Within Wheels. “To Rory” is not only a homage to a legendary musician, it also affirms Stotzem’s own place as one of the leading European acoustic guitarists.
When Barrack Obama visited Havana in March 2016, the first American President to do so in over 70 years, it marked the end of decades of a political, trade and cultural embargo imposed by the huge neighbour to the north. One of the few hopeful signs of 2016 so far.
Hot on his heels came the Rolling Stones playing their first ever gig in Cuba. It is surely remarkable that this legendary rock group is still going, never mind that they apparently left the Havana audience baying for more. Three of the blues-loving youngsters who played their first gig in 1962 were on stage in Havana – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. In the late sixties the odds of all of them being alive in 2016, never mind still playing at the highest level, would have been negligible, especially after the death in tragic circumstances of founder Brian Jones in the summer of 1969.
Nevertheless it cannot be pretended that they are as vital as they once were, although in fairness that is because nothing can compare with the music they produced, on record and on stage, between 1968 and the early 1970s.
The run of records from Beggars Banquet to Exile on Main Street has never been equalled:
Starting with Beggars Banquet which came out in December 1968 (with tracks like ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and ‘Street fighting man’), the Stones produced an incredible string of rock classics;
Let it bleed followed in December 1969, and included ‘Midnight Rambler’, ‘Gimme shelter’ and ‘You can’t always get what you want’;
Get your ya yas out, one of the all-time great live albums, was recorded at the Madison Square Garden gigs in November 1969, and released the following September;
Sticky fingers – ‘Brown sugar’, ‘Wild horses’, ‘Dead flowers’ – came out in April 1971; some of the tracks were recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, between the Madison Square Garden gigs and the ill-fated free concert in Altamont near San Francisco at the end of 1969;
Exile on Main Street, released May1972; this double album of 18 tracks (incl. ‘Tumbling dice’, ‘Sweet black angel’, ‘Let it loose’) was recorded in the south of France where the Stones had relocated to escape UK taxes. This brought the run of classic albums to a close.
When the Stones turned up to meet the world’s media in Havana there were just four of them in front of the camera – Jagger, Richards, Watts, and Ronnie Wood, who has been with the band since 1975, joining them after Mick Taylor’s exit.
On stage in Havana, however, there were quite a few more musicians who, crucial though they are to the sound, are not ‘Stones’. It has always been like that. Ian Stewart, the piano player, was the original sixth Stone in the 60s, but was deemed too old looking and too straight by manager Andrew Loog-Oldham to fit in with the band’s image. He did not make the photos, but they could not have done without him on stage or in the studio.
Similarly the classic albums and performances listed above would not have been what they were without Bobby Keyes on sax, Jim Price on trumpet, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and often Billy Preston on organ. Percussionist Rocky Dijon, Muscle Shoals pianist Jim Dickinson, and even Ry Cooder were others who added hugely to the Stones output in the late 60s early 70s.
You can’t always get what you want, but if you bring in the right musicians, you get what you can!
Cork teen expounds the value of music from a bygone age
Kate Lehane is a fourteen year old from Cork who isn’t obsessed with One Direction or 5 Seconds of Summer but would rather spend her time listening to Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley! Kate feels that something is missing from modern music that can only be found in the great songs by the legends of the past. She also believes in the power of music as a unifying force and as a means of bridging the gap between the generations.
As she tells us herself:
‘I’ve always wanted to do something for the older generation as there isn’t much for them to do these days. I think it is really important to create a positive relationship between young people and the older generation. I once heard an old song I liked on the radio which made me listen to older music and since then I love music from bygone days from all the greats like Frank Sinatra and Elvis. I think older music has more meaning and feeling and you can’t help but sing along! Music these days is always the same. There are no surprises, whereas old music has swing, jazz, blues, doo-wop, soul. I could listen to these songs over and over again and they never become boring.’
Kate comes from a family who have long been involved in Cork musical circles. Her late great grand-uncle, Tadhg O’Driscoll, was a well known and well loved character who worked tirelessly in the promotion of ‘Gramophone Circles’ in the city.
Kate feels that her family and upbringing have been immensely important in nurturing her love and appreciation of music:
‘My granddad also influenced me with his knowledge of music. My great grand-uncle, Tadhg O Driscoll always loved to make the older generation smile, even though most of the time he was older than them! When he went into a room their faces would light up! He sang and made them want to sing. It’s weird how just a little bit of music can mean so much to people and make them smile. Tadhg was one of the first to play records in Cork for people’s enjoyment. It was called a ‘gramophone circle’ and was enjoyed in the Cork Library for many years. It still goes on today. I remember many Sunday mornings with my granddad and Tadhg. He would be sitting with his dogs and eating his cake, making funny jokes, singing and telling stories. Now I’d like to follow in his footsteps and make the older generation smile, not with jokes but with music!’
In the spirit of all things nostalgic, Kate will present her musical selection on vinyl, rather than CD. In an era where digital streaming ‘on the go’ seems to be the accepted norm for musical consumption, it’s refreshing to find someone so young who is encouraging us to sit back and take the time to enjoy music as it should be enjoyed.
On the 27th August 2015 Johnny Campbell was good enough to agree to a ‘Question & Answer’ session in the City Library, Grand Parade, Cork. We managed to capture about half an hour of the event on camera, where Johnny talks about meeting Rory, growing up as a musician in Cork, and travelling with Rory to Hamburg, Germany, as part of a stripped down version of the Impact Showband.
If anyone would like to read a short article about this era of Rory Gallagher’s career then please click here:
In late November 1987 The Pogues, featuring Kirsty MacColl, released ‘Fairytale of New York’. It went straight in at number one in the Irish Charts and peaked at number two in the UK, only kept off the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of ‘Always on my Mind’. ‘Fairytale of New York’ was composed by Pogues’ banjo player Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan, and featured on The Pogues’ album If I Should Fall from Grace with God. By November 2015 the song had sold 1.18 million copies in the UK alone and was certified platinum in 2013. Its popularity with listeners and critics shows no sign of abating and every December it re-enters the singles charts in the UK and Ireland and many other countries around the world. In Ireland, at least, Christmas hasn’t officially started until you hear ‘Fairytale’ on the radio and it’s often the closing song of the night in pubs and clubs across the country during the festive season.
What’s so good about it and why is its appeal so enduring?
‘Fairytale of New York’ is quite simply a masterpiece. Like all great Christmas songs, it’s not really a Christmas song at all. The events just happen to take place at that time of year. Apart from the last line of the chorus and a couple of other cursory references, most of the lyrical content would be considered anathema to everything that the common conception of Christmas brings to mind. Far removed from the Disneyesque setting of most other, more well known, seasonal staples — featuring smiling Santas, prancing deer, and ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ — ‘Fairytale’ would be more at home in the world of the Abbey Theatre of a century ago and has more in common with Synge and his Playboy of the Western World than with Bing Crosby and his ‘White Christmas’.
Shane MacGowan’s ingenious tale of modern Gaelic tragedy contrasts beautifully with Jem Finer’s uplifting melody, and the verbal tug-of-war between the male and female characters, constantly teetering on the brink between tenderness and outright venom, is littered with sardonic wit that could have come straight from the pen of Brendan Behan or Patrick Galvin.
Thematically, MacGowan — who, coincidentally, was born on Christmas Day in 1957 — deals with matters very close to his own heart. This is a song about emigration, addiction, hope, broken dreams, and lost love. It’s an anthem for the downtrodden.
When the song was released in 1987, Ireland was experiencing its worst recession since the founding of the state and the country’s youth were leaving en masse in search of a better life elsewhere. The UK was deep in the throes of Margaret Thatcher’s anti-socialist regime and it’s no surprise that the song struck a chord with people in both countries and, by extension, with Irish emigrants around the globe. Here, at last, was an honest Christmas song that spoke to the dispossessed and the disenfranchised. The song is as popular today as it was when first released, which is hardly surprising, considering that in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland the youth are again leaving in their thousands. You can be sure that ‘Fairytale’ will be sung by many of them this Christmas wherever they are in the world. Also, it’s a damn good song with an infectious melody and a hypnotic 6/8 folk-waltz rhythm that would incite anything short of a corpse to tread the boards!
As the winter solstice approaches and the sky darkens, it’s not only those smug crooners in snow-sprinkled ivory towers that reflect on the year past and on what’s been lost or gained, but also the homeless, the exiled, and the addicts who look to the rising of the new sun with hope for a better year to come. ‘Fairytale of New York’ is a song for the latter group.
‘A Question & Answer Session with Johnny Campbell’
Cork City Library, Thursday, 27 August, 7pm
During his musical apprenticeship with the Fontana Showband, the young Rory Gallagher, a mere fifteen when he joined in 1963, learned his craft as a touring musician. Never to be content as a cog in a machine churning out safe, dance-hall friendly, pop hits, night after night, Rory would inevitably push himself to the fore. As his reputation as a guitarist began to grow, the Fontana changed their name to The Impact in 1965 to reflect a more blues/rock-oriented set list showcasing Rory’s fiery guitar work.
Ireland’s conservative music scene was hardly the ideal stomping ground for this new direction, however, and The Impact was forced to find work abroad. As a natural metamorphosis, a stripped-down three-piece version of the band — featuring Rory on guitar & vocals, Johnny Campbell on drums and Oliver Tobin on bass — eventually found themselves on the club circuit in Hamburg, Germany.
For three Irish teenagers arriving in Hamburg in 1965, a city still reverberating with the aftershock from legendary performances at the Star Club, from the likes of The Beatles and Jerry Lee Lewis, it must have been like walking on to a film set, such was its legendary status. Even today, Hamburg is a city which pulses with primal, hedonistic energy. We can only imagine what it was like back in its heyday of the 1960s.
Throughout this relatively short but formative period in Rory Gallagher’s career, Johnny Campbell was the man behind the drum kit. As part of the 2015 National Heritage Week programme of events, Johnny will be in Cork City Library on Thursday, 27 August, at 7pm, for a special ‘Question & Answer’ session on his time with TheImpact Showbandand Rory Gallagher. So, if you’d like to hear it ‘from the horse’s mouth’, then here’s your chance!
In 1966, Rory Gallagher quit The Impact and went on to form the Taste. The rest, as they say, is history. And what a history it is! even if it ended prematurely. Like another Irish hero, Cú Chulainn, Rory Gallagher lived a short life that was filled with glory and his name will live on as part of musical lore until the last Fender Strat is plugged into the last Vox AC 30.