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THE GREAT, YET SOMEWHAT UNSUNG INFLUENCE OF RORY GALLAGHER | INTERVIEW

Published 3 months ago on December 7, 2023

By Jonathan Graham

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Rory Gallagher's eponymous 1971 debut solo album release—this issue of Guitar Interactive Magazine takes a deep dive into the legend of one of electric guitar's finest, featuring exclusive interviews with Rory's long-time bassist Gerry McAvoy, and MD of the Rory Gallagher Archives (and Rory's nephew) Daniel Gallagher.

One of the guitar-o-verse's pet topics is underrated and overrated guitarists. There is a rare cadre of players who receive widespread adulation that is 100% deserved (think genre-defining titans like Hendrix, SRV, EVH etc.). Then there are the "overrated" players—I'm not going to get into who this label might apply to, but I'm sure you'll all let us know on social media.

Finally, there are the "underrated" players. Players who are every bit as groundbreaking and sensational as the biggest names in guitar, but who often go overlooked by the masses. In my mind, nobody exemplifies this more than Rory Gallagher.

So often referred to as an "Irish bluesman", Ballyshannon-born Gallagher was a player of such phenomenal range and depth (especially for his time) that "bluesman" almost seems insultingly reductionist. It's a little like calling Eddie Van Halen "the tapping guy". Sure, Rory was as tasteful a blues player as anyone you care to name, but he was also a fearsome rock firebrand and a masterful slide player. His acoustic playing touched everything from barrelhouse country blues to beautiful Celtic folk with a level of authenticity few of his peers could hope to match. All this, and we haven't even touched on his singing, songwriting or legendary live energy.

It's rumoured that Jimi once referred to Rory in a Rolling Stone interview as the "best guitar player in the world", and while the providence of this quote is questionable (with Rory's long-time bassist Gerry McAvoy telling us he suspects it was "never said"), it does hint at the esteem Rory's peers held him in. So what better way to explore Rory's legacy than by examining the players he influenced.

Tone:

As far as legendary guitars go, Gallagher's '61 Strat is up there with the likes of Peter Green's Les Paul, Hendrix's Monterey Strat and EVH's Frankenstrat. But an often overlooked component of Rory's phenomenal tone is his combination of a Vox AC30 and a Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster. Gallagher began using AC30s when he cut his teeth playing in showbands in the early '60s, and while he dabbled with other amps, his AC30s were a constant throughout his entire career. Cranking the volume on the dark-sounding "normal" channel and slamming the input hard with a Rangemaster produced a searing, singing tone that could also be cleaned up using the guitar's volume knob.

It's an iconic setup, but one that's perhaps more commonly associated with another guitar player - Brian May. A pre-Queen May would regularly watch Gallagher perform at London's Marquee club, even going as far as to hide in the toilets to avoid being kicked out just so he could ask Gallagher about his incredible tone. Let's be honest: we've all done this (apart from the toilet bit, maybe?), and it's reassuring to know that our heroes are no different! According to May, Gallagher was very welcoming and more than happy to share the details of his setup. May ran out and bought a pair of AC30s and Rangemaster, and the rest is history.

 

Scales and phrasing:

Take a listen to pretty much any rock or blues guitar solo from the late '60s, and you'll hear a very similar vocabulary. Lots of pentatonic scales and licks were lifted from black blues artists and adapted for the rock sensibilities of the era. Even innovators like Hendrix and Page would fall back on these ideas when solo time came around. Now compare that to Rory Gallagher's work with Taste. Yes, there's a healthy amount of traditional blues in there, but there's also the beginnings of the kind of cascading modal phrasing that would later be exemplified by the guitar heroes of the mid and 70s like Michael Schenker (in fact, if you take a listen to the solo from "Rock Bottom", large swathes of it could pass for a Rory Gallagher solo).

Fast forward to the 1980s, and GnR axeman Slash would draw huge influence from Gallagher's integrity and tasteful blend of blues class and modal flash. To Slash, Gallagher's playing was an antidote to '80s neo-classical excess, which Slash himself later came to embody. His solos are practically littered with Rory Gallagher licks - and I can't help but feel his penchant for plaid shirts owes something to Gallagher, too!

 

Influence on heavy metal:

"Hell Bent For Leather" by Judas Priest. "Two Minutes To Midnight" by Iron Maiden. "The Power And The Glory" by Saxon. "Hellbound" by the Tigers Of Pan Tang. "Metal Thrashing Mad" by Anthrax. Ever noticed how all these riffs sound basically the same? That's because they're all basically taken from Rory Gallagher's 1976 track "Moonchild". Seriously, go take a listen: it's uncanny.

It should come as no surprise that Judas Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton considers Gallagher as a pivotal influence on his style. Tipton would regularly watch Gallagher in a "Mothers" in Birmingham and (much like Brian May) would emulate Gallagher's AC30/Rangemaster setup. While the AC30s would later be replaced with 50w Marshalls, the Rangemaster remained a key part of Tipton's tone. Today, it's standard practice for metal guitar players to boost an already high gain amp with a bright, mid-forward boost pedal, and there's an argument that we can trace the lineage of this setup back to Tipton's early work with Judas Priest - who in turn got the idea from Gallagher.

 

Cultural impact:

We could talk about Rory Gallagher's musical influence forever, but we'd be remiss not to take about his cultural impact, too - especially as an Irish musician in the 1960s. While the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones undoubtedly had a profound influence on a generation of Irish musicians, Gallagher's mainstream success with Taste gave Ireland its first homegrown rock superstar. Artists like Gary Moore, Phil Lynott, The Edge and Vivian Campbell have all spoken of the impact Rory's success has had on their careers. What's perhaps even more important is that even during "The Troubles", Rory was insistent on touring in Ireland - even when artists like Van Morrison wouldn't. Gallagher's legendary 1972 New Year's Day gig at Ulster Hall in Belfast marked the end full six months without a single rock concert in the city, and one year and one day after Belfast's biggest ever bomb blast. As it would happen, Gallagher was playing in Belfast on that night too, and went on to play a barnstorming set for the Belfast University ball.

If ever there were a guitar player whose importance is too often overlooked, it's Rory Gallagher. As a musical and cultural icon, few have done as much with a guitar as Rory - or with as much quiet dignity, class and integrity.

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Rory Gallagher's eponymous 1971 debut solo album, UMC/UMe is pleased to announce the September 3 release of a five-disc deluxe box set of the album. Rory Gallagher 50th Anniversary Edition will include a brand-new mix of the original album, 30 previously unreleased outtakes and alternate takes, a six-song 1971 BBC Radio John Peel Sunday Concert, plus four 1971 BBC Radio Sounds of the Seventies session tracks, all mastered at Abbey Road Studios.

Also included is a previously unreleased 50-minute DVD of Rory's first-ever solo concert, which was filmed in Paris for the "Pop Deux" television show. All formats are available to order HERE

The extensive box set package will also contain a 32-page hardback book with many rare and previously unseen photographs from British rock photographer Barrie Wentzell, essays and memorabilia from the album recording, including hand-written song lyrics by Rory, and an exclusive limited-edition poster.

The 2CD and 3LP editions of the album will be cut-down versions from the deluxe box set. There will also be a special limited-edition Neon Orange (transparent) 1LP featuring the John Peel Sunday Concert exclusively available via UMG's online stores uDiscover and Sound of Vinyl.

The box set will also include exclusive liner notes written by his brother and manager Donal Gallagher, his long-time bass guitarist Gerry McAvoy and photographer Barrie Wentzell, plus a full 1971 interview with Rory by journalist Roy Eldridge.

The debut album features some of the most beloved Rory songs such as "I Fall Apart" (Rory's second most-streamed song), "Laundromat" and "Just The Smile." While reviewing numerous tapes during the 2021 mixing sessions, two songs were added to the collection: the previously unreleased "At The Bottom," a track Rory ended up re-recording for his 1975 Against The Grain album, plus "Advision Jam," a rocking instrumental. The recording saw Rory Gallagher on guitar and lead vocals as well as alto sax, harmonica and mandolin, Gerry McAvoy on bass and Wilgar Campbell on drums. Atomic Rooster's Vincent Crane plays piano on two out of the ten songs on the album "Wave Myself Goodbye" and "I'm Not Surprised."

Recorded at the legendary Advision Studios in Fitzrovia, London, Rory's eponymous debut album showcases the Irish guitarist as a multi-faceted interpreter of the blues with a cross-section of the blues from acoustic to heavy blues soul. Advision was one of the hottest recording studios in the 60s and 70s and home of classic albums recorded by The Yardbirds, The Who, The Move, T. Rex, David Bowie, Kate Bush, Elton John, Slade, Gentle Giant, Gerry Rafferty, and many more.

'Rory Gallagher 50th Anniversary Editionis out now worldwide via UMC/UMe.

 

Rory Gallagher – 'Rory Gallagher 50th Anniversary Edition' Tracklist

 

4CD + 1 DVD Deluxe Set / Super Deluxe Digital

 

CD1

Laundromat - 50th Anniversary Edition

Just The Smile - 50th Anniversary Edition

I Fall Apart - 50th Anniversary Edition

Wave Myself Goodbye - 50th Anniversary Edition

Hands Up - 50th Anniversary Edition

Sinner Boy - 50th Anniversary Edition

For The Last Time - 50th Anniversary Edition

It's You - 50th Anniversary Edition

I'm Not Surprised - 50th Anniversary Edition

Can't Believe It's True - 50th Anniversary Edition

 

CD2

Gypsy Woman - Tangerine Studio Session

It Takes Time - Tangerine Studio Session

I Fall Apart - Tangerine Studio Session

Wave Myself Goodbye - Tangerine Studio Session

At The Bottom - Alternate Take 1

At The Bottom - Alternate Take 2

At The Bottom - Alternate Take 3

At The Bottom - Alternate Take 4

Advision Jam

Laundromat - Alternate Take 1

Just The Smile - Alternate Take 1

Just The Smile - Alternate Take 2

I Fall Apart - Alternate Take 1

Wave Myself Goodbye - Alternate Take 1

Wave Myself Goodbye - Alternate Take 2

 

CD3

Hands Up - Alternate Take 1

Hands Up - Alternate Take 2

Hands Up - Alternate Take 3

Hands Up - Alternate Take 4

Hands Up - Alternate Take 5

Hands Up - Alternate Take 6

Sinner Boy - Alternate Take 1

Sinner Boy - Alternate Take 2

Sinner Boy - Alternate Take 3

For The Last Time - Alternate Take 1

For The Last Time - Alternate Take 2

For The Last Time - Alternate Take 3

It's You - Alternate Take 1

It's You - Alternate Take 2

I'm Not Surprised - Alternate Take 1

I'm Not Surprised - Alternate Take 2

Can't Believe It's True - Alternate Take 1

 

CD4

For The Last Time - Live On BBC "Sounds Of The Seventies" / 1971*

Laundromat - Live On BBC "Sounds Of The Seventies" / 1971*

It Takes Time - Live On BBC "Sounds Of The Seventies" / 1971*

I Fall Apart - Live On BBC "Sounds Of The Seventies" / 1971*

Hands Up - Live On BBC "John Peel Sunday Concert" / 1971

For The Last Time - Live On BBC "John Peel Sunday Concert" / 1971

In Your Town - Live On BBC "John Peel Sunday Concert" / 1971

Just The Smile - Live On BBC "John Peel Sunday Concert" / 1971

Laundromat - Live On BBC "John Peel Sunday Concert" / 1971

It Takes Time - Live On BBC "John Peel Sunday Concert" / 1971

* Off-air recording

 

DVD

Interview

Hands Up

Wave Myself Goodbye

It Takes Time

Sinner Boy

For the Last Time

The Same Thing

I Fall Apart

 

For more information on Rory Gallagher, please visit:

rorygallagher.com

 


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