Sunday, 17 March 2013

How I Became Obsessed With Rory Gallagher


This isn’t the most complex or unique story of a person becoming a massive fan of a particular artist, but it’s one I’m very grateful happened. In my early 20’s, apart from the usual suspects of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and Rolling Stones, I was mostly into contemporary music, an Indie-head or as I think my friends back then used to label me, a Britpop fanboy. I couldn’t get enough of Blur, Oasis, Supergrass, Radiohead ét al. Around this time I started playing in a covers band which in itself was an eye-opener to a wide variety of music I’d never really been exposed to, such as The Smiths, The Police, Marvin Gaye and Bowie. The seed was planted subconsiously one day however, when we were taking a break during practice and the guitarist, Conor, began playing an amazing guitar solo flawlessy (though he may humbly disagree), I can’t recall what song it was because I’d never even heard it before, I thought it might have been something he came up with himself, when I enquired he told me it was a Rory Gallagher song, ‘Hmm’, I thought, might be something I could get into, not Britpop-y enough for my tastes though.  

It might have been a good 12 months later, in 2002, I think, that I was in Dublin city centre in the now closed HMV shop on Grafton St (RIP) and I was determined to buy some music but had nothing in particular in mind. My eye was caught by Rory Gallagher’s albums being on sale, there were about 10 different cd’s with a 3 for the price of 2 offer. I duly texted Conor and asked if I were to buy a Rory Gallagher album(s) what would he recommend, back came the reply instantly ‘Tattoo’, ‘Rory Gallagher’ and ‘Deuce’. When I got home, and I was still living with my parents in Ranelagh, I lay down on my bed with the curtains closed and put on ‘Tattoo’, instead of drifting off I couldn't get over how great the album was and ended up listening to it the whole way through, immediately afterwards I put on Gallagher’s eponymous album and that blew me away even more, in particular the track ‘I Fall Apart’, which I think is quite possibly my favourite song of all time. For me personally, I was having a musical epiphany, I know how annoying it can be when people go on about their favourite things and get unbearably over-enthusiastic to the point where you want to irrationally hate what they like, but when I look back now, that evening in my old bedroom listening to Rory Gallagher for the first time, is equally as significant in my musical education as when I first put on my mother’s vinyl LP ‘Rubber Soul’ by a band from Liverpool called The Beatles, aged 15. 

Again, around this time I started going out with a girl from my neighbourhood who I had been in school and college with and she had to endure my new-found passion for Rory Gallagher, forced to listen to my favourite songs and forced to agree with me that he was one of the greatest guitarists of all time, and wasn’t it a disgrace that this Irish musician was so overlooked, in a torrid world of Westlife’s and B*Witched’s? Thankfully she put up with was starting to become an obsession, and even encouraged it (perhaps regretting it when she recently commented ‘Why are there so many f**king Rory Gallagher pictures in our living room?’). I went back to college in 2003 and had a 50 minute train journey 3 days a week from Dublin to Maynooth where I took up History again, this was a good opportunity to start reading again, something which I’m appalingly bad at. She bought me a book simply entitled, ‘Rory Gallagher – A Biography’, by Jean-Noel Coghe, a music journalist who accompanied many groups on tour such as The Animals, Jimi Hendrix Experience, and indeed Rory himself, on the inside on 18th Sept., 2003, she wrote; ‘To Remy, I hope this will help you on your way to being Rory’s biggest fan, Grá mór, Anna.’ I wouldn’t say that this was ultimately the reason I asked her to marry me 3 years later, but it was definitely a significant factor. I ate the book, I had it read within 3 weeks of college, an all time record for me, a person who can take nearly a year to read a book from cover to back.  And that was that, I was mad about Rory Gallagher and his music and I wanted to know everything about him, all of his albums and every detail of every song.

In the ten years since I have ensured that all my friends and family are aware how unhealthy my obsession is, I often get kind looks of pity when I get carried away talking about his music, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been pat on the head at least one of those times. About two years ago I managed to convince my wife to drive me to Rory’s graveside in Ballincollig, Co.Cork, it wasn’t a powerful moment or experience, it was underwhelming in many ways, I don’t know what I expected but I was glad to be close to something real, as he died in 1995 I never got to see him play live. I’m also hoping that one day I’ll discover I’m distantly related to Rory, my mother’s side are also Gallagher’s from Donegal, where Rory was born, but then again, I think everyone in Donegal is a Gallagher. I intended to do a bio of Rory Gallagher and it has turned out quite differently, I will do one down the line, but for the time being, if you’ve read down to this line, thanks for sharing my sad and personal fanaticism, if he was still alive he might need a restraining order against me. I’ll leave you with a few quotes by other musicians about Rory, a few photos, and most importantly, some of his best music, and if you’re really lucky, some day you might end up as sad as I am.

When Jimi Hendrix was asked in an interview for Rolling Stone magazine, 'How does it feel to be the greatest guitarist in the world?' Hendrix replied, 'I don't know, you'll have to ask Rory Gallagher'.

A young Brian May of Queen once met Gallagher, 'So these couple of kids come up, who's me and my mate and say "How do you get your sound Mr.Gallagher?" and he sits, and tells us. So I owe Rory Gallagher my sound.'

Johnny Marr of The Smiths; 'One of the things that was crucial for me  I got from Rory Gallagher, which was the idea of like, being a guitar player for life, and living it.'

 Rory Gallagher Place, Cork City

 Rory's grave, Ballincollig, Co.Cork, Ireland



Slash discusses Rory Gallagher

'I Fall Apart' my favourite Rory song

Incredible Live performance, 'Cradle Rock'

Rory interview, Cologne, 1976

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