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Wijk aan Zee 2014
‘Dazed and Confused’
This is going to be a tour diary with a difference because (a) we weren’t on tour and (b) Rob wasn’t there so in the absence of his eloquence you will have to put up with my rambling drivel.
I’ve just got back from Wijk Aan Zee in Holland after the most fun I can ever remember having with my pants on or off! Sinnerboy weren’t playing this year so I headed over as a punter, and had the time of my life!
After an uneventful journey over on Friday by the van, a plane, two trains and a bus (I was a punter remember? so no Grinning Theo waiting in a limo - how the other half lives!)
I read on Facebook that Angela was having a nightmare journey from Scotland so I decided to wait for her at the bus station in Beverwijk, but after half an hour I was freezing my nuts off and my chivalry ran out (sorry!)
After some chips and mayo (yum) and a nap I arrived at ‘The Sun’ I knew that people would be surprised to see me there but I had totally underestimated the reception I got, it took me at least half an hour to get in through the door past the fagging it mob outside and once inside Anja slapped a wristband around me and Paul declared me his guest of honour, They made me feel really special and I was delighted!
Now you may (or may not!) be wondering how I could possibly have such a good time when I wasn’t playing as I love it so much, but the reason is that when one is performing one just doesn’t have the time to spend with the people, chatting about Rory and having a beer. It was such a pleasure to spend so much quality time with everybody, without having the gig in my mind and the performance pressures, and being conscious of cutting people short to try and talk to as many Rory fans as possible.
It took me another 45 minutes to hang my coat up, by which time Pat (McManus) and Salli had arrived, Pat took one look at me, flashed me those famous teeth and said ‘Right let’s get Barry a guitar’ I said ‘Pat, I’ll be pissed by midnight’ but he obviously wasn’t having any of it so I was going to get a play after all - hooray!
I contemplated staying sober so I wouldn’t make a complete arse of myself on stage but by that time the table was creaking under the weight of all the glasses of Amstel that everybody was shoving at me that I decided the hell with it, at least I’ll be able to provide some entertainment!
‘Brute Force and Ignorance’ were on first, Markus is my oldest friend in this business, and watching that band in Midleton years ago was the first time that made me realise that Rory could really be played authentically. They were magnificent; they had played a great gig for me in Liverpool in November but they found another gear on Friday and they rocked like hell!
Stefan and Marcu played amazing solos on (whatever it was) and they brought the house down, what an opening band – the scene was really set for a great night!
Watching Pat play is always an experience; virtuosity begins and ends with him, the reason being that he never takes his guitar off! This band plays absolutely everywhere, and if you’ve never seen them go…NOW! He is just as brilliant on a fiddle too!
Paul Falloon, apart from being one of the funniest and nicest guys I know, always drums up a storm, but they have a new bass player, who’s name I can’t remember but what a lovely tasty musician (Hang on to him for dear life Pat!)
At Lord knows what time, it was time for me to get up, so I took me jumper off and wobbled to the stage for a jam with the boys and Markus, Pat hung a Strat around my neck and pointed to a Fender something amp, and I plugged in (well the bass man plugged me in as I couldn’t figure out which hole) Pat’s sound went ‘WAAAAHHH, Markus’s sound went WOOOH, and my sound went ‘plink, plonk, I sounded like Bert Weedon with a bad thumb, but as we say in the music business ‘Sod it, let’s rock’ and we did! The smiling faces of the audience reassured me that all was well so we had a ball, we played ‘Messin with the Kid’, then Pat launched into ‘La Grange’; halfway through the song Markus bellowed in my ear that I should be playing this bit in ‘c’ but by the time my drunken brain had processed what he had said everybody else was back in ‘a’! Hilarious, but I doubt that the audience could give a shit, they were having such a good time. The usual buffoonery on Bullfrog Blues followed and that was the end of a really great gig!
An hour or so later, it was time to head off to the whisky bar for more fun and frolics, so off I went (with my great friends and Sinnerboy fanatics Annette and Karen) up the road to the scene of many a good time in Wiijk Aan Zee, but I must admit that I can’t remember much of what went on -apart from Will falling over.
Actually that is not the unusual part, as Will often falls over.
She has developed a technique for falling over, she is in fact a professional faller over, when she feels that she is going to fall over she adapts a sort of ‘boneless fish’ approach so that when she falls over she doesn’t hurt herself, (really, she explained it to me!) it’s an amazing experience to watch her fall over, she is the sweetest girl you could wish to meet, but I think she could make a lot of money by giving lessons on how to fall over.
No, the unusual part is that Marcu fell over, Will has obviously never taught her boyfriend how to fall over properly, if she had then Marcu wouldn’t have been quite so bad at it, when Will (the pro) falls over she lands in a soft, cuddly puddle, but when 6 feet two and 16 stone strapping drummer Marcu falls over it’s like the Hindenburg disaster, a f…..g big German catastrophe!
OK so its five O’clock now and time to go home, hugs all round and drunken promises made that will never be fulfilled and I head off to my hotel, now then, where the hell is it? I know it is on the big green grassy centre of Wiijk Aaan Zee so I find that, but if you can imagine my hotel being at 12 o’clock, I arrived at the green at one O’clock and went right around the clock from one to 12 which took me about an hour, to travel a journey that should have taken five minutes if I had turned right instead of left, oh well never mind I got there and collapsed in a heap!
So up at nine, showered, breakfasted and off to the beach for a bracing walk with Joe and Astrid and the dogs, but then I realised that is was midday and I’d missed breakfast, and the beach, and the dogs, and Joe and Astrid and I was still pissed! So I showered, dressed and went to find some food.
I went to the bar next to The Sun, and ordered Schwarma, it was bloody horrible but I needed some lining to my stomach, so I ate it (the chips were good though) as it was coming I saw Marianne passing and beckoned her in for a coffee, Marianne is a left wing politician in her home town of Alkamaar, and it was a pleasure to chat and get to know her.
The Brute Force mob joined us for coffee, then it was back to The Sun for the acoustic session. I didn’t pay much attention to it, partly because Pat and Eammon and and Dekko and all the others all play much better acoustic than me and they make me sick, and partly because Paul Falloon was bending my ear in his thick Northern Irish brogue about Lord knows what (but we had a great time) then before I knew it, it was Saturday night.
I went back to the same bar for dinner, chicken this time, it was delicious!
Jan had played a blinder, he had spotted a young Spanish band on youtube and invited them over. They were Awesome, they started nervously but once they had ‘settled in’ they were amazing, they are called ‘Last fair Deal’ shit name, but what a band! They were brilliant, somebody said to me ‘what did you think of that girl drummer?’ I replied that she wasn’t a girl drummer, she was a great drummer, boy or girl what the hell does it matter?
Got ensconced with great pal Danny Vlaspoel then, and lost an hour or so! Then got a text off him later telling me that Laundromat has been invited to Ballyshannon – great news, great band!
A Taste of Rory finished off the weekend with a brilliant set, if the people weren’t spellbound enough by Dekko’s ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ on acoustic in the afternoon then the guys mastery of harmonics can only make me weep with envy, the jam at the end was hampered by the bass amp going down but what the hell, we had a ball!
I was ready for the hotel and a sleep when Dekko said ‘Whisky bar?’ so off we trotted for another night of revelry, we celebrated Rory’s birthday properly, big toasts to him, Bibi on a chair taking pictures, everybody talking at the same time, Rory on the jukebox, me and Dekkos’ talented boys talking about their future, just a bloody great night! I love these people!
Sunday, going home time, what a pisser!
Met Annette and Karen, and started to head home, we got on the bus no problem, got to Beverwijk no problem, realised I’d left my hearing aid in the hotel, so we got off the bus and waited for the one back to WAZ.
When the bus came it was the same lady driving, and she let us off for the fare, (it wouldn’t happen in Manchester)
Hearing aid recovered, back to the bus, the new driver let us off too, (why does England not share the Dutch humanity?) Then we got on the train to Amsterdam, overshot the station and walked back to the platform, got the train back to where we should have been to be told there was no train to Schipol and we have to take a bus.
So eventually there we were at Amsterdam Airport, tired out after a wonderful weekend.
The girls went to their flight and I had five hours to kill at Schipol.
Now I know Schipol, I have spent half my life at that airport, wandering around trying to kill time, I ate an awesome pizza then dozed off, just in time to realise that after five hours on the airport I’m late for the gate, (39) the signs said it was 17 minutes to get there so off I trotted to try and find gate 39, only to find there is no gate 39,(must be some sort of disappearing ghost gate) I checked my boarding pass and it said gate 49!, so by this time I arrived there, sweating like a dying pig, deposited my jacket, belt, knife, gun, plastic explosive, and bottle of Bacardi and got on the plane with a minute to spare before I was kicked off the flight.
Back to rainy, cold Manchester airport, at least the van would start, having not left the lights on like a certain bass player I could mention whose name reflects his instrument but who shall remain anonymous. I am home again, after the time of my life.
Thank you to the organisers of WAZ, to my hero Rory Gallagher, to my fellow musicians, but most of all to the wonderful people of every nation that joins in at these great weekends.
Ireland solo next week, then back with Rob and Dave to Holland, Greece, Then Ballyshannon, and Cork Rocks for Rory!
Here’s to us my Rory friends – there’s nobody like us!
Goodbye 2013 – Hello 2014!
After a year of change in 2013 the band is now stronger than it is has ever been and we’re really looking forward to 2014. Here are a few things to look out for:
January sees us playing a few gigs in the UK before flying out to Oslo at the beginning of February. In March, Barry is doing a solo acoustic tour of Ireland before re-uniting with the band for a gig at The Cavern, Liverpool on March 21st and Quofest IV on the 22nd. At the beginning of April we’re off to Holland for a run of dates. In May we have our first gig for BMF at The East of England Showground, Peterborough - and of course, the Rory Gallagher International Festival, Ballyshannon, Ireland at the end of May. We’ll be back in Ireland at the end of September for an extended Irish Tour. We have some great summer festival dates to look forward to in the UK and Europe (details to be announced) and in October we plan to be back out to Europe for an extended European Tour. In between all of this we will be playing venues the length and breadth of the UK!
It’s going to be a busy year and we’re really looking forward to it.
Happy New Year to you all.
Read Rob's European Tour Diary
Thanks to all who turned out in Derby, Surrey and Mansfield to see the new line up - I'm very happy to say that we rocked like f***k! new Dave, and the Robster were inspired and I'm so looking forward to the coming gigs in Ireland and Europe - SEE YOU THERE!! Gig Guide
I am delighted to announce our new drummer Dave Burgess.
Hailing from the gritty Northern town of Sheffield, Dave has power and taste and he can swing like a good 'un!
We are rehearsing furiously to be ready for the upcoming autumn tours and both Rob and I are thrilled by the
way Dave, with a very fresh approach, is adding his personal stamp on the music whilst studying the styles of
Rory drummers so hard.
Welcome Dave, I hope our association will be long, fruitful, and a bloody good laugh!
It’s 7:30 AM as I write this, I’m on board the Kerkiera, heading for Corfu to catch a plane home after a weekend of friendship and rock in Ioannina.
I’m only on this boat, and back on schedule thanks to my friend George (The fastest taxi driver in the west) I’d set my alarm for 5:30 but my phone was set to PM (doh!) I won’t say how fast George drove me through the mountains in case there are any policemen reading this; let’s just say that Sebastian Vettel couldn’t have got me here any quicker!
I never cease to be amazed at how much the Greek audience love their Rory, the whole of Ioannina seemed to turn out and everybody (including the kids) knew every song and sang along with me – together we really rocked for Rory.
A huge thank you to the wonderful George Gakis, a big name on the rock scene over here, George, with a small bunch of volunteers, put on a wonderful weekend of music with goodness knows how many local bands playing, all with such amazing talent, George works tirelessly for his people, I am utterly impressed by him and it was such an honour to headline a festival like that one.
Big thanks to ‘Blues People’ a local blues/rock band who play with me whenever I’m here, Christos, Achiles, Akis and Leo have laboured hard to learn to play enough Rory material to make 2 hours fly past, and thank you Leo for the gift of a rare volume of jazz history, first printed in the year of my birth, 1952.
It was great to meet Stefan from Big Sleep and Dafni (taxi George’s daughter) and to see good friends Michalis and his lovely lady, and to spend an hour over coffee with Sophia, I am finally coming round now to the Greek way of enjoying coffee; ordering the coffee then sitting talking for half a day while it goes cold!
Thanks also to Thomas and all the sound crew; and to Alex for trusting me to play his awesome custom Stratocaster.
But the biggest thank you is for the people of Ioannina – you are ALL amazing I will miss you all so much.
As usual I forgot to pick up copies of the posters and leaflets that advertised the gig all over the town so if any of the organisers are reading this can you save me some stuff please?
I played my first ever bike rally last weekend - Stormin the castle in Co. Durham. (Although the boys have played them in other bands - Robin did the Bulldog bash with Dumpy's and Jonny with Brutal Deluxe)
Man what a great bunch of people - was knocked out by both the reception they gave us, and the respect and courtesy they showed us - I hope we get some more biker gigs!!
There is a lump in my throat as I make this announcement - Jonny Brutal is playing his last gig with Sinnerboy at the end of August.
I will be announcing his replacement soon - well as soon as I can find one, his shoes are not going to be easy to fill.
Sinnerboy really rocked with Jonny on the drumstool and I'm sure you will all join me in wishing him every success with his future plans.
Jonny is one of the best guys I have ever met, or worked with.
Many apologies for the recent disappearance of the website - I bet you all thought I hadn't paid the bill eh? - as if!
Erm, well actually I hadn't but it's not my fault - honest! (Well, maybe it is)
It was that the domain name had run out, I took it on 10 years ago so the company was sending me emails to tell me to pay for another ten years, but the address they had was ten years out of date - anyway we're up and running again - sorry!
Ballyshannon was great - I say it every year but it DOES just get better, for me at least.
Funny gig at the Rock hospital on Friday - my contract said 1PM which was unusual cos it's usually 12 so I thought I'd get there half an hour early just in case - I was half an hour late! when I got there i was soundly booed by the crowd as I drove the van into the grounds (All arranged by that rascal Dave McHugh of course)
I got there to Dave singing a blues song about 'Barry Barnes not getting up this morning'!! Anyway it turned out great and Dave had already collected over 300 Euros for a local charity - well done him.
Got a great present from the Norgies - two 'Artified' pics of myself!
The Norwegians and the Dutch mob were out in force and really know how to have a good time!
Our big Top gig was all we could have wished for - Seamie O'Dowd and the lads were great, Virgil and the Accelerators were next and they were so hot I thought we couldn't follow them but it was a great Rory crowd and we did really well. I must say how chuffed I am with Jonny and Rob - we rocked! JJ lent me a slide which belonged to Rory too which was a great buzz - didn't come complete with Rory's slide playing technique though - ah well...
Pat McManus and his merry men were fabulous as usual and then Andy Powell hit the stage to 'The King will Come' and I thought it couldn't get any better - until Rob and I joined them for a working of 'Bought and Sold' It was the second time I've got to play with Andy - what a privilege, I never missed a Wishbone gig at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and there we were swapping solos - awesome! Big thanks to Pat and Sallie and the lads.
Rocking solo gig at Owen Rowes bar on Saturday followed by the hosting of the first Rory Gallagher pub quiz at Melly's - this should be a regular and more publicised thing from now on (And had a good laugh with Dino and family) then forgot to read the answers out - what a nob!
The Lantern bar gig on Saturday night was amazing, I think Hugh will have to build a bigger pub - there were loads of people trying to get in and giving up!
Sunday, and the Bridgend 'Open Mike' thing showed more talent than ever before and what great talent it was too - the highlight was Shaunies' 'Old Grey Whistle Test' theme - I accompanied him on a djembe that I picked up from a Glossop charity shop, which Pete Woodpecker showed the crowd how to play properly - then told me how crap it was!
The Spancil Hillbillys from Ayreshire played some great stuff, Bob played his guts out, some fantastic rhythmic blues playing from John Buttimer, Danny Vlaspoel then played with him which brought the house down.
German John played some great harp, a young man called Donagh? (forgive me if that's not right) played some great Dylan, and Danny and I finished with 'Wheels' to hardly a dry eye in the house (especially mine)
This gig more than any other of the weekend is the one that would make (If I may be so bold) Rory smile the most.
I'm sure I've forgotten somebody but no doubt I'll hear from them if I have!
Then my favourite gig of the weekend - The Big Top gig was fantastic but at Rory Gallagher place you can see every face in the crowd and those smiley faces just spur a performer on to give his best - Thank you everybody.
Finished at last! 6 gigs (plus the quiz) in three days was tough and it meant I'd had no time for any socialising so I crammed it all in on Sunday night, got to watch an incredibly great set from old chums Tony Dowlers Hellhounds, then the first half from more chums 'Moonchild' (lovely young lads) had a few pints with Trapper John then got halfway through Laundromat's blistering second set and set off on the 4 Kilometere walk back to the lovely bungalow we were staying at, then came across a sign which said 'Ballyshannon 8 Kilometres! I'd overshot and walked the 4 back - a 12 Kilometre walk was not quite what I intended to finish the weekend off but I enjoyed it anyway.
fab - fab - fab - a great weekend all in the name of Rory Gallagher, my idea of heaven!
Barry O'Neill for Prime Minister of the world!
New clips from Ballyshannon on the video page!
Wow - Wijk Aan Zee rocked this year!
The new Sinnerboy line-up seemed to go down a storm, I got to play some acoustic with Danny (Laundromat) and Peter (Juke Joints) and I jammed with the Juke Joints and with one of my bezzy pals Larry Miller. Laundromat played a great set too!
It's always such a pleasure to play at the Dutch Rory tribute, all the people there are warm, generous and share a passion common to all these tribute concerts - Rory Gallagher!
Tattood Lady (video)
You've got to get to see the new Sinnerboy - Robin is fantastic!
(Short biog. here)
Wow - Greece was awesome!
After two rehearsals with the Mano's (Koutsakis and Delotis) Sinnerboy Greece hit the stage at Kyttaro club to 650 wonderful wonderful Greek Rory fans - as long as I live I will never tire of seeing the seas of happy smiling faces as they soak up the Rory songs, their enthusiasm and singing made three hours fly by in a flash - thank you and well done to Simos Pavlidis, Anna Gika and all who were involved in promoting a fantastic night in Athens!
Next was an acoustic gig with my great friend and ace guitar player Manos Kampouris at 'San Allote' in the Filadepfia area of Athens, famous for being on the site of the old stadium where Rory played in 1982 - I rang Donal from the site and he bade me give his best wishes to the people of Greece. The audience were, again amazing as were the owners of the bar (Dimitris and Nikos)
Sotiris Tsallis gave me a new Rory story well worth reading here
Then Manos and I said a sad farewell to Richie Beum (Woof Woof) and headed off on the tour.
Patras first where I've not played for a few years and was so good to see the guys there, Spillios and Panos gave us a very warm welcome at the Stone Bar - some people were missing as Olympiakos (The Grek Man United) were on telly but we rocked anyway!! I might get Greek hate mail about the United bit now - but they lost anyway!
On to Ioannina where we had a lovely afternoon sailing to the island with my lovely young friend Myrto Kat - who took us to a coffee house where we smoked a big bong full of apple smoke (Not dope) I was a bit green for an hour or two but these things must be done!
The gig was at Cafe Kaplanio which is owned by George Gakis who is not only a legendary Rock star in Greece but also the nicest guy you could meet, Me and Manos played a little acoustic then I played some electric with 'Blues People' an excellent local blues band who work really hard on Rory songs just to make me sound good once a year!!
Thessaloniki next where we had dinner at club owner Georges restaurant with our lovely hosts Evi and Maria then rocked next door at Dizzy Dolls, great to see Sotiris and his lovely chums and the Maria's Vassilikis and Stargazer along with Silvia Giannapolou. (apologies to all the boys there but those three are, erm let's say rather memorable!) We had coffee the next day at Evi and Manos cafe, Evi disapeared for a while and returned with a large box of the best thing about saloniki - Trigona! (Little sweet parcels of pure wanton gorgeousnes) As a footnote I have never visited Thessaloniki with Manos without him managing to pour some kind of food or drink down his trousers.
On to Lamia to a blinding venue called 'Cosa Nostra' owned by a delightful lady called Thekla Lignou. We really did a good job there with a great sound and stage setup, next day we had lunch as guests of Tolis and his lovely wife (Shrimps in this cheesy stuff - awesome) and drinks at Tolis wine bar before heading back to the paws of Richie Beum in Athens (Woof Woof) Then drinks with Anthia and Manoulis.
I miss Greece so much after one day, but I can't get too maudlin 'cos we're on the way to rock in another of my favourite places in the world - Wijk Aan Zee tribute in Holland!! - (report soon)
Barry (Back of the van - M6)
What a few weeks it's been, first touring IT74 with Jan, then a brief foray into Europe then the Cavern and last wekend to Furth in Germany to play with the guys there, in the words of that doyen Greg Wallace "Rocking doesen't get any better that this"
We had so much fun with Jan. he is such a lovely guy and what a player, I keep trying to kidnap him but he keeps going home to Germany - cheek! Playing irish tour 74 live was certainly a challenge, it's a real technical piece but Nick, Jonny and Jan pulled it off (not too sure I did but hey, there was only one Rory!)
The Cavern rocked (As always) It was great to have the Jed Thomas band back after a long absence from the Rorygig, the original line up too with Nibbs and Paul (great) The guys played a few non-Rory tunes too which I wasn't sure about but the crowd didn't seem to mind, I'd be interested in any feedback please mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me if you think the gig should be 100% Rory or you don't mind a little variety.
I had my buddy from Athens Manos Kampouris join me onstage for a short acoustic set, Manos plays the guitar on some of the tracks on my solo album 'What do you mean you've not heard it - it's here!!!: Shop he is a superb player and the crowd seemed to appreciate it, I'ts never easy following rock and roll with acoustic but we showed 'em!
Jan joined us again for IT74 and then we had the usual mayhem jam at the end, but the biggest thing to come out of the weekend was 'Keep your eyes on 'Mishap' if these three talented and affable young Irishmen don't make it in the music business I will show my arse on the town hall steps!
Stefan 'Kugie' Kugler asked me over to Furth in Germany to play some acoustic and to jam with The Loop, Remember Rory, and The Bearded babies, after giving it some serious and deep thought (for about .1 of a second!) I accepted and I'm so glad I did - it was fab!
A really good band called 'Blues factory' opened up with some tasty guitar and unusual song choices which don't usually get outings (Including would you believe Wee Wee Baby) then I lowered the tone a bit with an acoustic set (My mate Paul joined me on harmonica) then i got up with the Loop for I Take what I want. When I play with somebody in the class of Volkhard Schuster I just do my own thing, if I try to play like him I end up with my fingers stuck in the strings!
On Saturday we went to Nurnberg to see the famous Chrismas market, it was too famous! Packed from one end to the other. Paul and I shuffled about for a few minutes, had a sausage (as you do) Then went to drink Gluewhein with Asle and Marette instead - a good decision. I got up for a couple of numbers with the bearded wonders, oh and paul brought the house down when he joined us on 'Off the Handle'
Another acoustic set (Stefan joined me on acoustic bass for a couple of tunes) Then the weekend ended with the excellent Remember Rory, I jammed with them too and was very drawn to Stefan and Anselm - surely one of the best rhythm sections out there and a joy to play with.
Solo Ireland next week - yippeeee!!! I'm being joined for the Dundalk gig by a great young sax player caller Adrian Kelly - don't miss him!
Jimmy mentions his admiration for Rory at 22:26 Here
Cork City has the blues. An air of deprivation lingering across the city’s Celtic Tiger-era edifices may explain why Cork strongly embraces the memory of Rory Gallagher, its most famous son and a bluesman of extraordinary talent.
Rory Gallagher (1948-1995) was the Irish Republic’s first rock star. With his blazing guitar and beatific smile Gallagher was the Gaelic guitar hero. And in his humble manner very much a musician of the people. Yet by the 90s Rory was a reclusive paranoid, his torso swollen by steroids. When he died (from complications following a liver transplant) an outpouring of grief followed: Van Morrison, U2, Johnny Marr, Brian May and Slash all saluted Rory’s musical brilliance and personal generosity. Now, with a comprehensive reissue of his solo albums underway, Gallagher’s legacy is finally being celebrated. Thus I’m walking the streets of Cork with the man who knew Rory best – his brother Donal Gallagher.
“Talking about Rory can get a bit heated,” says Donal, noting how football fans in Cork and Donegal recently clashed over which team “owned” Rory’s allegiance. Such are the tribulations surrounding a local legend. “I’m constantly encountering fans from all around the world,” he adds. “And they’re often youngsters. You-Tube’s introduced Rory to a new generation.”
Donal and Rory grew up sharing the same bedroom above a Cork pub. A year Rory’s junior, Donal became Rory’s roadie. Then tour manager. Then manager. And now he looks after the estate. He truly is his brother’s keeper. Fortuitously, Rory owned his solo recordings and Donal and his son Daniel are overseeing the reissue of Rory’s first eleven solo albums (1971-82). Listen to the young gun – strong songs, warm vocals and the guitar playing . . . the guitar playing is just in-cred-i-ble. Outside of Jimi Hendrix and Peter Green no other rock guitarist has managed to convey such warmth, finesse and wild excitement. Yet like Hendrix and Green, Gallagher’s talent could not protect him from the storms of life.
“Rory could build a guitar but he couldn’t boil an egg,” says Donal. “Music was everything to him. Once he started playing guitar as a boy he ignored everything else. Just stayed in his room practicing and practicing.”
Thus Rory’s social skills remained underdeveloped.
“Rory found it impossible to form lasting bonds with people,” notes Donal. “He was his own worst enemy. Playing music was his all. Off the road he didn’t know what to do with himself.”
Rory showed a propensity and passion for music as a child. In his early teens he convinced his mother to buy him a second-hand Fender Stratocaster on hire purchase. Aged 15 he joined the Fontana Showband, working dances across Ireland and England before heading out to Hamburg’s Star Club. The pimps, prostitutes and merchant seamen who frequented the Star hailed Rory as the most exciting rocker since The Beatles learnt their trade there. Forming Taste, he based himself in Belfast. Word quickly spread of the teenage prodigy. Management, a contract with Polydor and the inevitable shift to London followed.
Taste lit up London – John Lennon described them as “the only band worth seeing” while Eric Clapton invited Taste to support Cream’s Royal Albert Hall farewell – and their two albums proved international hits. Yet after playing 1970’s Isle Of Wight Festival Rory quit: the band’s manager had him on £15 a week wages and Gallagher chose to walk away rather than fight.
“We were living in Earls Court bedsits,” recalls Donal. “Taste were in the charts, headlining major festivals, but not seeing the proceeds. Later, when I became Rory’s manager, I insisted we go to court to get the royalties. Even then Rory was reluctant. He didn’t like conflict.”
Rory’s gentle nature made him an icon of peace and goodwill in a divided Ireland. As The Troubles worsened Rory became the only major musician willing to tour Northern Ireland, his concerts cathartic events where Catholics and Protestants could gather in a conflict-free arena.
“Rory emphasized that he would not take sides in the dispute,” says Donal. “He insisted we tour there because he believed in the positive power of music. While Tony Palmer filmed his 1974 Irish tour he tried to push Rory into taking a stance but Rory refused. He was there to bring joy not politics.”
Palmer’s film Irish Tour ’74 remains one of the great concert movies while the resulting live album captured Rory at his most exciting and inspired. No wonder The Rolling Stones, then searching for a guitarist to replace Mick Taylor, invited Rory to join.
“Rory flew to their base in Holland and stayed three days,” says Donal. “But Keith was too stoned to play and Rory had a Japanese tour lined up. He left without even a ‘goodbye’. At the time Rory was outselling the Stones across Europe so it’s not like he needed the gig. But, in retrospect, I wish he had communicated more with them as it could have worked. He and Charlie Watts would have got on very well – both being consummate musicians and jazz fans.”
Rory certainly didn’t need The Stones for money: he sold over thirty million albums and innumerable concert tickets. Yet perhaps the camaraderie of playing in The Stones would have helped calm his anxieties. A fear of flying fed phobias that developed, in the 80s, into hypochondria. Amoral GPs wrote him prescription after prescription. Addicted to pills and liking a drink, Rory’s health collapsed.
“Rory wouldn’t smoke a joint,” says Donal, “but he self-medicated with prescription pills. And that caused so much damage. On tour I once went through his baggage and found a hornet’s nest of pills. I checked with a German pharmacist who said ‘if he’s mixing these with alcohol it’s the devil’s brew’.”
Donal’s had a long time to deal with losing Rory but his frustration and grief remain palpable.
“Rory got more and more paranoid. He played Montreux Jazz Festival with Bob Dylan in 1994 and Dylan, who had always been a fan, came up after the show and said how he would love to record with Rory. I thought ‘manna from heaven!’ and that this would be the fresh start we needed. That night Rory locked himself in the hotel’s penthouse and wouldn’t come out for three days.”
Donal swapped Rory’s prescription pills for homeopathic placebos. He confronted the GPs. He confronted Rory. He sent Rory home to mum in Cork. Too late: a liver transplant in early-1995 appeared successful but Rory’s rare blood type and shattered immune system lead to rejection. Like George Best, another Irish genius of the same generation, Rory Gallagher would die before his time.
“My wife wonders if Rory was autistic. That’s a possibility,” says Donal. “Anyway, what Rory achieved can’t be taken away. People love his music. Across the USA they’re rediscovering Rory for the first time since the 70s. In Paris there’s a Rue Rory Gallagher, Hamburg has a plaque, Dublin and Ballyshannon have statues. Fender’s Rory signature guitar is one of their best sellers. There’s a biopic in the works. It’s a bit like those old black bluesmen Rory loved so dearly – he’s more appreciated now than when he was alive.”
Garth Cartwright — garthcartwright.com
(published in the Sunday Times, September 30, 2012)
I know everybody in the world of Rory will mourn the passing of Lou Martin.
Lou was such a warm and friendly man, we used to visit him regularly when we were gigging 'down South' we'd sit and listen to his stories of life in the RG band. He was ill then after his stroke but he would have us howling with laughter. His Mum Margaret would sometimes ring me up to see when we were coming down because Lou enjoyed our visits so much.
My favourite Lou moment was after the Rory tribute gig in Hammersmith, we were staying in a hotel that had a piano in the lounge bar, Lou played EVERYTHING i asked him to from Jelly Roll Morton to Chopin, he really was a superb player. However the evening drew to an end when I joined him in a version of 'Nutrocker' by drumming on the lid of the piano - we were told sharply to shut up by the management and escorted out of the bar and up to bed. Lou told me not to worry about it as he'd been thrown out of much better hotels than that!
I'm not trying to claim I was a close friend or anything but I'll miss him.
This is the awesome audience in Rory Gallagher Place 2012, click on the image to see it bigger - if you see yourself send me an email telling me who, and where you are in the shot.
So far I've got:
John Hynes (Centre, hat giving it large)
Juney Dennis (left, faggin it)
Jen Skelson (left studying camera)
Kai and Tia Clayton (kids at front left)
Ben Cuddihy (Glasses, grin right, middle of crowd just behind hand)
JJ (baseball cap, middle)
Gordon Flash (beard, behind JJ)
Laura White (Blonde, front)
Tommy Dolan (he says he's just out of shot on the right!)
Jamie Callaghan (he says he's just out of shot to the left!)
Alysson Murray (front,left, hat)
Maria Brown (at the back looking for Laura!)
Jacinta Deevey (Blonde girl behind arm on far left, to the right of the security guy in the high vis jacket - phew!)
Bob farrelly (To the right of Jacinta)
Karl Hammond (Green shirt, big smile behind guy in black jacket and glasses near the front)
Three great drummers - Ted, Rod and Brendan after Lou's funeral.
The one in the middle has no idea the pain Jonny Brutal is going through trying to learn 'Irish Tour '74'!
Pat McManus, Barry, Andy Powell (Wishbone Ash) Gary Murphy (Sound Shop Drogheda)