As the Music Library in Grand is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, we are delighted to be commemorating one of Ireland’s most influential and fondly regarded musicians, the peerless guitarist Rory Gallagher. Indeed, the Music Library was renamed the Rory Gallagher Music Library in 2005 and this summer as part of the Remember Rory programme organised by the library there is an exhibition of a select few of Rory’s guitars and memorabilia such as concert posters that were kindly provided by his brother Donal.
An interesting aspect of the exhibition is a collection of Rory’s favourite crime novels. Many fans may be unaware that he was an avid reader of crime fiction and gained much inspiration from the genre which is reflected in aspects of his music, namely the song Continental Op after the Dashiell Hammett novel. Other favourite authors include Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley; Strangers on a Train), Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep; The Long Goodbye), Ian Fleming (Casino Royale; Thunderball), Eric Ambler (Journey into Fear; Epitaph for a Spy) and many others.
In 2013 the noted crime fiction writer and bone fide Rory Gallagher fan Ian Rankin collaborated with Donal Gallagher to produce a novella with illustrations by Timothy Truman inspired by Rory’s music entitled The Lie Factory which was accompanied by a compilation of Rory’s more crime noir related music with a narration by the actor Aidan Quinn. The finished product is entitled Kickback City. This is available to borrow from Cork City libraries along with many of the aforementioned titles from your local library branch or to reserve online here https://librariesireland.iii.com/iii/encore/homepage?lang=eng
Ian Rankin himself praised the wonderful mural by John Coughlan that was recently erected outside the library in a tweet as seen here.
The exhibition of memorabilia will run until the end of August and there will be more talks and performances throughout the rest of the year.
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.
On Friday, 28 August 1970, Rory Gallagher and his Taste band mates stood before what was quite literally an immeasurable crowd and delivered a set that was simply stunning. What’s Going On? Live at the Isle of Wight captures the essence of that performance beautifully. From the dazzling guitar intro to ‘What’s Going On?’ right through to the last notes of ‘Blister On The Moon,’ the band, by now a well oiled machine, exude a raw, primeval energy and a mastery of their craft that few bands then or now could match.
The fact that Rory — only twenty-two years old, but already a seasoned veteran of the stage — could stand in front of such a huge audience with nothing but his white Fender Telecaster and a slide for company, and perform ‘Gambling Blues,’ the way he did is mind-blowing. But Rory could do that, couldn’t he? Letting the band take a timeout, he could pick up an acoustic or a mandolin or whatever he felt like and still remain the focus of attention. It’s a rare gift. I caught Joe Bonamassa live a couple of years back and, although the show was great, the only low point was when he played acoustically without the band for a short set. We were treated to a cornucopia of fret-board acrobatics but no soul. It was all very contrived. The difference with Rory was that it always sounded so natural and it never interrupted the flow of his performance. His agenda was never to show off but to express his music as fully as possible and to do this he used whatever tools were necessary.
Taste was a musical phenomenon. Listening to them play, one could hear echoes of everything that went before and hints of what was yet to come. They had the tight, disciplined professionalism of a Jazz trio, the heart and soul of a blues band and the kind of fire that later ignited the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. In August 2005 I met two of the guitarists from Iron Maiden —Dave Murray and Janick Gers — in Bruxelles Pub in Dublin after a show they played in the RDS, and during a chat about musicians they admired, both axe men cited Rory Gallagher as a major influence. I wasn’t surprised, as I’ve always thought that Iron Maiden’s self-titled 1980 debut had echoes of Rory all over it. Indeed, Rory Gallagher’s influence on the sound of modern rock in general cannot be underestimated. Brian May of Queen readily admits that he got his sound from him. Rory kindly talked him through his live rig after a gig in London’s Marquee that Brian, then a very young Taste fan, attended. Since then the Vox AC 30 and treble booster pedal became permanent fixtures in Brian May’s setup.
Though showing no sign of it on the day, by the time Taste took the stage on the Isle of Wight in 1970, cracks had already appeared behind the scenes and soon afterwards they split. They were even reluctant to let photographer John Minihan take a band portrait backstage. It was only when bassist McCracken grabbed his band mates and jibed, ‘Come on guys, even if it’s the last one!’ that the photo was taken. As you can see in the picture heading this article, they look far from comfortable.
On the one hand, it’s a shame that the band didn’t get the opportunity to realise their full potential, but, on the other, it opened the door for Rory to go his own way and to become an artist in his own right. With the albums Rory Gallagher, Deuce, Blueprint and Tattoo released in the years succeeding the Taste break up, it became clear that Rory had drawn a line under the past and moved on. Out were those frivolous, jam-style interludes between guitarist and rhythm section and in came more focused songwriting with Rory centre stage and bass and drums providing a rock solid backdrop. The dynamic had changed and by the time Irish Tour ’74 hit the shelves, Rory Gallagher and his band were a blues–rock tour de force, and Taste a distant memory.
But what a memory it was. Taste was active during a period of intense cultural and musical transformation and the line-up at the Isle of Wight Festival, the largest musical event of its time, read like a roll call for anyone who mattered in popular music in 1970. What a thrill it must have been for the three young Taste members to play at such a monumental event alongside names like Jimi Hendrix and The Who. Though it was to be the band’s swansong, their performance sent waves across the music world and earned them their place in Rock history.
With the recent release of I’ll Remember, the Taste boxed set detailing the band’s history, and the film What’s Going On? Live at the Isle of Wight on DVD, it’s important to note that, although Taste represented a relatively short span in Rory Gallagher’s musical career, to his fans and fans of good music in general it was not without value, and sounds as good today, twenty-one years after Rory Gallagher’s passing, as it did all those years ago.
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:
Liam Ronayne, Cork City Librarian — as those who know him are aware — is a huge music fan and is always happy to spend a coffee break chatting about the latest goings-on in the music world or about revered legends of the past. It isn’t often, however, that Liam would have the time to put pen to paper on the subject, but considering that this is Rory Gallagher & Taste and that Liam himself is a fan, he’s gone that extra mile:
The Taste Box Set, I’ll Remember — recently released by UMG / Polydor — is a four-disk treasure trove.
On disk 3, the five numbers culled from a 1970 BBC Radio 1 live set are introduced by John Peel, so laid-back he’s virtually horizontal. Peel remarks that, “Taste are one of those bands . . . who need to be seen and heard live to be fully appreciated”. That’s a view that most would agree with, borne out here by pillars of Taste’s live set, like ‘Catfish’, ‘Gamblin Blues’ and ‘Sugar Mama’, and by the version of ‘What’s Going On’ captured live in Stockholm not long before the band split up, which breathes so much more into the song than the studio version. Gallagher’s legendary energy, fantastic technique, and joy in the music are all to be found in the many live cuts over the four disks, and especially on the Stockholm set.
But it would be very wrong to overlook the beautifully crafted songs that make up ‘On the Boards’, Taste’s second studio album. This is a very special artefact in itself, and much more than a keepsake of the live sets. In the title track, the band, all three of them, stretch out to great effect: the dynamic, the groove, the bluesy sound all remind us what was lost when they did split up.
Another unmissable aspect of the Box Set for Rory fans from this part of the world is having a full 56 minutes of the original line-up from 1968, with Eric Kitteringham on bass and Norman ‘Sticks’ D’Amery on drums. Seven numbers were recorded in the Maritime Hotel, Belfast (Van Morrison & Them’s old stomping ground) as a demo to interest record labels; there are versions of ‘Blister on the Moon’ and ‘Born on the Wrong Side of Time’, recorded as singles for the Major Minor label (run by Belfast promoter Phil Solomon), songs that were re-recorded with Wilson and McCracken for Taste’s debut album on Polydor the following year. The four tracks recorded at the Woburn Abbey Festival in England in the summer of 1968 showcase a lively, powerful band, with a great sense of fun.
‘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.
In its latest issue, Hot Press, Ireland’s leading music magazine, published a list of Ireland’s greatest gigs since the magazine’s inception in 1977. The number-one spot in the festivals category was claimed by none other than Rory Gallagher at the Mountain Dew Festival, Macroom, County Cork, in June of 1977!
And who could argue with the result? Not alone was the Mountain Dew Festival the first major, open-air music festival of its kind to be staged in Ireland, but it was headlined by the nation’s first true Rock God!
As Hot Pressputs it: Rory Gallagher had soundtracked the 1970s for so many people, playing powerfully incendiary shows in the National Stadium and the Ulster Hall every year, but the first Macroom Festival was a moment when Irish music entered another dimension.
Follow the link below to read the full honour roll and scroll down to the Top10 Festivals section to read the entry on Rory in Macroom.
Were you there in Macroom in 1977? Do you think it deserves the top spot as Ireland’s greatest ever festival? Feel free to share your memories in the comments below!
This year’s Cork Rocks for Rory weekend was a great success and attracted Rory Gallagher fans from all parts of the globe to the city on the Lee Delta!
The Rory Gallagher Music Library played host to the fabulous Dave McHugh who played an acoustic set of blues tunes which inspired Rory himself. This is Dave’s own rendition of ‘Gamblin’ Blues’, a tune associated with the great Lil’ Son Jackson and which features on Taste’s record, ‘Live Taste’. Rory played a smokin’ hot version of this tune at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 on his Fender Telecaster.
As part of our Rory 20 commemorations in the Rory Gallagher Music Library we have made available online for the first time, an amazing collection of rare photographs of Rory & band in full flight, taken in Manchester in the late 70s!
The photographer is Stephen Smith and we would like to thank him for donating his collection to our Rory Gallagher Archive.