Sunday June 14 marks the 20th anniversary of the legendary Rory Gallagher's tragic death. While the world has changed in many ways, the trail-blazing guitarist's impact is still keenly felt...
Twenty years. It hardly seems believable that two decades have passed since the death of Rory Gallagher. But the calendar doesn’t lie. It is just that: twenty long years since the grim news came through on June 14, 1995. We are all older now, except, of course for the ones that weren’t even born back then – the Leaving Cert students and younger school kids who shuffled onto this mortal coil after that desolate Wednesday, when, in King’s College Hospital, London, the G-man slipped beyond the reach of those who had tried to save him.
So much has changed over those intervening years that the world might seem unrecognisable to Rory now. And yet and yet – in so many ways, the song remains the same.
In the first six months of 1995 alone, there were momentous events that would in their different ways reshape the world. The year began with Sweden, Finland and Austria joining the European Union. In January, over 6,400 people were killed in an earthquake in Japan. The OJ Simpson trial began in Los Angeles. On February 1, Richey Edwards of Manic Street Preachers went missing from a hotel in Bayswater, London, never to be found. And in an early foreshadowing of the Edward Snowden case, on the morning after Valentine’s Day, the hacker Kevin Mitnick was charged with violating some of the most secure computer systems in the United States. Almost a fortnight later, Barings Bank collapsed, after Nick Leeson lost $1.4 billion of the UK bank’s money speculating on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Ah yes. The more things change the more they remain the same – only sometimes worse. As it happens, Nick is a decent skin; he went on to become CEO at Galway United...
The day before St. Patrick’s Day that year, Mississippi became the final U.S. State to abolish slavery. You read that right: it was just twenty years ago that the ‘right’ to own another human being was finally extinguished forever (we hope) in the United States of America: hard to believe indeed. But then, there are slaves now in Qatar. Four days later, members of the Japanese Shinrikyo religious cult released sarin gas on five subway trains in Tokyo, injuring 5,510 and killing 13. In Northern Ireland, there were signs of progress towards the Belfast Agreement: in March, for the first time in 20 years, there were no British army patrols on the streets of Belfast.
Elsewhere, bloodshed was a familiar stock- in-trade. In Gaza, in April, an explosion killed eight people. The conflagration in the Balkans raged on. The first Chechen war broke out in the remains of the USSR. And in the biggest ever US domestic terrorist atrocity, 168 people were killed in the infamous Oklahoma bombing; Timothy McVeigh, who drove the truck in which the bomb was carried to the scene, was arrested, charged and, much later executed. And, as recorded by Wikipedia, on April 30, the US government ceased funding NSFNET, making the internet a “wholly privatised system.”
In May, former Superman, Christopher Reeves, was paralysed from the neck down after falling off his horse. In June, the most volatile hurricane season in 62 years began: clearly, extreme weather events are nothing new. Capital punishment was outlawed in South Africa. And towards the end of the month in Seoul, in South Korea, a department store collapsed, killing 531 people and injuring almost a thousand. And we thought Irish builders were bad...
In July, Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, edged closer to the brink, amid new accusations in relation to the country’s biological and nuclear weapons programmes. Mobile phones existed, of course, but only just. And as for ‘social media’? Somehow, I don’t think Rory Gallagher would have taken to Twitter...
For music fans in Ireland, Rory’s death, just a week before the longest day, dwarfed all of these events in terms of emotional impact.
The legendary Cork guitarist was hugely loved. Not just because he was an extraordinary musician and a brilliant live performer. No, there was more to the relationship than that.
Go back now and listen to the early albums, beginning with Taste’s eponymous debut in 1969 and you immediately get a sense of Gallagher’s unique power. ‘Blister On The Moon’ from the album Taste; the Jimi Hendrix influenced ‘Same Old Story’, with its magnificent blues soloing and clever key changes; his fine, eminently musical version of Hank Snow’s classic ‘I’m Moving On’; the primal riffing and brilliantly varied soloing of ‘What’s Going On’ on Taste’s second album On The Boards; the raw blues meets boogie pop of ‘If I Don’t Sing I’ll Cry’, replete with harmonica shadings: it was all powerful, original stuff.
Up to that point Ireland’s impact on creative modern music had been negligible. Only Van Morrison – first with Them and then on his own – had made any lasting impact. Philip Lynott would follow with Thin Lizzy the following year, but Rory was a pioneer. He blazed a trail, which ultimately opened the doors for everyone, from U2 through to Hozier.The importance of his contribution can never be overstated. He was seminal.
And he did it against a particularly daunting backdrop. Rory was unique in that he insisted on playing north and south of the border throughout the Troubles – doing Belfast every year even when the city was on its knees as a result of the conflict. He was loved in a very special way by Irish fans as a result. His instincts were to shun the trappings of stardom and to walk and talk and act and look like the ordinary citizens, whose lives, loves and travails were celebrated in his blues-based music. As anyone who knew him will attest, despite his extraordinary talent, he was shy, modest and sensitive. But when he hit the stage, he was transformed.
A virtuoso guitar player, he truly was one of the great live performers. The footage is out there, on YouTube, of him on stage, giving his all. Track it down and you’ll see his explosive energy. But that can only ever give a hint of what it was like to be in a room, with Rory on stage. He played thousands of gigs all over the world and never gave less than his very best. He was a huge draw in Germany, Greece, Italy, France, Scandinavia and of course the UK and Ireland. And he was revered among the great rock’n’roll and blues performers, playing at various stages with Muddy Waters, Albert King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Albert Collins and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, and also performing and recording with The Dubliners, Davy Spillane, The Fureys and many more...
Check out the documentary Ghost Blues: The Story of Rory Gallagher.
In it, a procession of musicians and commentators, including Bob Geldof, underline just how pivotal he was. His guitar playing has been acknowledged as a major influence by The Edge of U2, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Johnny Marr of The Smiths, virtuoso hard rocker Joe Bonamassa, Brian May of Queen and many more. Last week, he was name-checked in the same breath as Jimi Hendrix by the punk poet Patti Smith, who performed her seminal Horses album at the RHK. He regularly appears in lists of “Greatest Guitar Players of All Time”, including in Rolling Stone.
The Taste experiment done, he released fourteen original albums as Rory Gallagher. Seven were gold albums and seven were silver on the basis of their sales in the UK alone.
Rory was also a very fine songwriter, who was influenced not just by Woody Guthrie, Big Bill Bronzy, Lead Belly, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan and his own biggest hero Muddy Waters, but also by writers like Dashiel Hammett and Raymond Chandler. This fascination was celebrated in the release in 2013 of Kickback City, a fresh compilation of Rory’s crime noir songs, which came complete with a specially written new story by the acclaimed Scottish writer Ian Rankin, who is a fan of Rory’s – and who featured Rory’s work in his best-selling Inspector Rebus novels. In all, Rory sold well over 30 million albums. And had fate not intervened so cruelly that tally would have been doubled by now.
We take so much for granted. And we bitch and moan to beat the band. But in so many ways Ireland is very lucky to be where it is today: a place where creativity is valued and musicians really have a chance to flourish. Of course, the tide of history was pushing us in certain ways. But it took the courage of David Norris to take on the State and win in the battle to decriminalise homosexuality. Without him, gay marriage would not be legal here now.
In a similar if less dramatic way, the courage that was required of the early rock pioneers – and especially of Rory Gallagher – that saw them refuse to stay within the showband straitjacket and carve out their own path against appalling odds was immense. They hadn’t a shred of support from the State for their artistic endeavours. They had to emigrate to follow their calling. And in London, they were outsiders looking in, Paddies who were often less than welcome at the party.
But they stuck with it. They worked at their craft till they could stand shoulder to shoulder with the very best and take anyone on in a scrap. They showed that the Irish had the musical chops. They showed that we had the songs. They showed that we were contenders.
Every fledgling act that steps out on the boards in 2015, with the kind of dreams of global success that Irish musicians are more than entitled to carry in their hearts now, owes an enormous debt to Rory for his trailblazing contribution. Without him, we’d be elsewhere. And who knows how grim and musically undernourished that place would be?
Rory Gallagher, thank you. We'll never forget the G-man...
To mark the 20th anniversary of the death of the Irish rock legend Rory Gallagher, we asked some Irish musicians and media folk for their recollections and reflections on one of the greatest guitarists of all time.Read More
On the 20th anniversary of his death, the memory of the Irish rock legend was superbly evoked at a gathering in Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday. PHOTO CREDIT: Ann LaneRead More
Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the sad passing of Irish guitar legend Rory Gallagher, Hot Press has been scouring the vaults for classic examples of coverage from his storied career.Read More
A new music space in Cork city opens its doors on the day of Rory's 20th anniversary.Read More
'Tattoo'd Lady' will ring out across airwaves to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death.Read More
NO HOME SHOULD BE WITHOUT THIS STUNNING BOXSETRead More
'Band of Friends', featuring Gerry McAvoy, are celebrating the life and music of Rory Gallagher later this month in Dublin.Read More
Rory Gallagher's old amp, rare U2 memorabilia and Michael Jackson items will be just some of the treasures up for grabs in Dublin at the end of May.Read More
Thousands of fans set to descend on Ballyshannon for the much loved festival.Read More
Rory Gallagher’s family have donated a replica Fender Strat and the rare Oberheimer Studio Amp he used in the 1970s to raise funds for the Ballycotton RNLI.Read More
Donal Gallagher speaks of how his brother would be "incredibly touched" as over 10,000 people sign petition to rename Cork International Airport.Read More
The audio-visual show, bringing Ian Rankin's The Lie Factory, comes to the City Library this month.Read More
Rory Gallagher’s noir-themed tracks inspire posthumous collaborationRead More
Ian Rankin has been confirmed as chief collaborator on a new, crime-inspired special release featuring the music of Irish guitar legend Rory Gallagher.Read More
Donal Gallagher has been talking to Hot Press following the closure of the Cork music shop where his brother Rory picked up his famous guitar.Read More
Sadly, it’s not all good news from The People’s Republic. Shortly before the county’s hurlers engaged in their titanic winning battle with Dublin at Croker, the shop where Rory Gallagher famously bought his 1961 Fender Strat announced that it was closing.Read More
The legendary blues rocker died this day 18 years ago...Read More
Rory Gallagher Festival Launch, Music MakerRead More
The 12th annual Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival will take place in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, later this month.Read More
Five of the guitarist's albums are to be re-released.Read More
Must-see collection for Gallagher fans...Read More
Mick Taylor & Horslips were among those to play at the festivalRead More
Two of the guitar legend's performances will be broadcast next week.Read More
They may be the first ever recordings of the singer...Read More
The Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival begins in late May.Read More
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Rory Gallagher's eponymously-titled first solo album, Daniel Gallagher – nephew of the Irish guitar legend – has lovingly remastered the first six albums that formed the bedrock of the Cork legend's remarkable solo career.Read More
Modern guitar wizard Joe Bonamassa donned Rory Gallagher's legendary Fender Stratocaster at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo, and he wasn't the only one to get his hands on the famous six-string...Read More
Modern guitar wizard, Joe Bonamassa is set to play Rory Gallagher's legendary Fender Stratocaster at his London show tonight, Hot Press has learned. The gig takes place at the HMV Hammersxmith Apollo.Read More
It was one of those meetings of remarkable men that promised much. But nothing went according to the script when Ireland’s ultimate guitar hero, Rory Gallagher, travelled to San Francisco to record with the legendary Janis Joplin and Neil Young producer, Elliot Mazer. All of 33 years later, fans are about to be treated to a full Rory studio album which was – literally and controversially – binned in 1978.Read More
Rory Gallagher plugs 'Colours' later this month in The Workman's Club.Read More
Notes From San Francisco comes with a bonus live CD.Read More
A documentary on Rory Gallagher brought back the extent to which Irish artists were marginalised by Irish media. The sad truth, however, is that the new generation still struggle to receive their fair share of air-time on Irish radio. Why?Read More
A statue of the legendary Irish guitar maestro Rory Gallagher, who died in 1995, was unveiled in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal recently.Read More
A bronze statue to honour the late Irish guitar legend Rory Gallagher is to be unveiled in Ballyshannon, the town of his birth on June 2, to launch the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival.Read More
Rory Gallagher’s brother and manager Donal has agreed to speak at the official launch of the book Cork Rock: From Rory Gallagher To The Sultans of Ping, written by local journalist Mark McAvoy.Read More
Rock fans are in for a special treat with the addition of a special Rory Gallagher Exhibition to the attractions at the Music Show, which takes place at the RDS on October 3 and 4.Read More
Mercier Press have published Cork Rock-From Rory Gallagher to the Sultans of Ping, a book that tells the story of the growth of rock music in the City over the last five decades.Read More
Guitarist's memorial to be unveiled in June 2010Read More
The Gallagher faithful will be out in force tonight in Dublin.Read More
The last recording made by Irish guitar legend Rory Gallagher is finally going to be released.Read More
Photographer Fin Costello will present his collection of classic Rory Gallagher shots in a new 80-page book.Read More
Sinnerboy is set to spread the words of Rory across Ireland.Read More
The fifth international tribute fest for late Irish legend Rory Gallagher will see 63 events take place over four days.Read More
An online petition has been launched calling for Cork International Airport to be renamed Cork Rory Gallagher Airport in honour of the city’s favourite adopted son.Read More
Rory Gallagher, the influential 70s rock star who died in 1995, has been commemorated by Belfast with a special day which took place on 29 December.Read More
Rory Gallagher fans are in for a treat as the Triskel Arts Centre stages a Homecoming tribute to its adopted son.Read More
Temple Bar was brought to a standstill at the unveiling of a sculpture honouring Rory Gallagher last Friday.Read More
The legendary guitarist is back at number one, this time in the DVD charts, 11 years after his death.Read More
Mark McClelland was a feature and music writer for Cork's Evening Echo for four years. Here, he presents his top ten most significant musical acts to emerge from Cork.Read More
A bronze sculpture of Rory Gallagher's famous Stratocaster guitar will be unveiled in a ceremony next week in Temple Bar - and you could be there.Read More
In tribute Rory Gallagher, a bronze replica of his trademark Fender Stratocaster will be erected on Rory Gallagher Corner, Temple Bar, Dublin.Read More
Rory Gallagher fans will be spoiled rotten with the release of a 3 DVD boxset on November 28.Read More
Rory Gallagher is the subject of a new RTE Radio 1 documentary series, which premieres at 11.12pm on Sunday July 24.Read More
It was Wednesday June 14th, 1995, when the terrible news of Rory Gallagher’s death was first phoned through to the Hot Press office. In more ways than one, it was the end of an era. On Wednesday November 8th, a commemoration service was held at Brompton Oratory in London. The ceremony ended with a tribute, which was delivered by Niall Stokes, editor of Hot Press. As a special remembrance of Rory, on the 10th anniversary of his death, we reproduce here the full text of that tribute.Read More
One of the most iconic Irish musicians ever, Rory Gallagher died ten years ago, on June 14 1995. This month, he is commemorated with a comprehensive retrospective, Big Guns – The Very Best Of Rory Gallagher. His brother, Donal Gallagher, who was both manager and mentor to Rory, talks to Colm O’Hare about the work involved in compiling the album, the guitarist’s legacy – and the fascinating story of how he nearly joined the Rolling Stones.Read More
The tenth anniversary of Rory Gallagher's death will be honoured with a very special event in Ballyshannon, plus a Best Of album and a Gerry McAvoy autobiographyRead More
Fine Gael councillor Brendan Travers is campaigning for the naming of “The Rory Gallagher Theatre” in the Donegal town of BallyshannonRead More
Fianna Fail councillor Gary Keegan has spoken out against the National Photographic Library's blocking of the Rory Gallagher tributeRead More
Rory Gallagher tribute act Sinnerboy will play Dublin, Cork, Kilkenny and Dundalk in November, demonstrating the continuing appeal of the guitar hero's music.Read More
A proposal to erect a memorial sculpture at Rory Gallagher Corner has been blocked by the National Library of IrelandRead More
A proposal to erect a memorial sculpture at Rory Gallagher Corner has been blocked by the National Library of IrelandRead More
The 'Live at the Rockpalast' series of DVDs seem to be going down well in Germany, with Thin Lizzy's charting at number five and Rory Gallagher's shooting to the top of the music DVD chartsRead More
This album closes with a rendition of ‘La Bamba’ (replete with an organ sound made entirely from cheese) that’s marked by the stinging clarity of Gallagher’s guitar tone and the throwaway rasp of his vocal.Read More
Get your self to Hammersmith next week: Rory Gallagher + guitar workshops, talks, films and giveaways to bootRead More
Rory Gallagher’s posthumous Wheels Within Wheels is a remarkable collection of previously unreleased acoustic material by Ireland’s guitar legend. It comes complete with a cover by the celebrated painter, David Oxtoby, that is certain to make a lasting impression.Read More
Rory Gallagher was the real deal, a hard-rockin’ blues devotee whose live act, at its heady peak, was one of the best in the worldRead More
The first three albums scarcely need any new recommendation from me. For all that, the disc which makes this boxed set an absolute must-buy for all Rory Gallagher fans, is the splendidly titled Waiting For The G-Man.Read More
Eamonn Sweeney reports from the re-launch in London of an historic Rory Gallagher tour documentaryRead More
A Tribute To Rory Gallagher by Niall StokesRead More
Taken from the 1995 Hot Press Rory Gallagher tribute issue, the late Gary Moore speaks of the early days supporting Taste and his continued friendship with Gallagher.Read More
JOHN STEPHENSON recalls RORY GALLAGHER'S incendiary finale to the Sense Of Ireland festival in London, in 1980.Read More
Hot Press has been scouring our archives to bring you some great Rory Gallagher gems over the next couple of days.Read More
Taken from the December 1995 Hot Press Rory Gallagher tribute issue.Read More
LIAM FAY remembers Rory Gallagher, the superb raconteur with a dry witRead More
NIALL STOKES takes a very personal journey back through the music and memories of a friendship with a man he was proud to have known.Read More
A selection of RORY GALLAGHER quotes from the back pages of HOT PRESS including the truth about the rumours that he nearly joined the Rolling StonesRead More
DERMOT STOKES takes a browse round the gallery of styles that made Rory Gallagher one of the great bluesmen. (From the 1995 Hot Press Rory Gallagher tribute issue)Read More
The Rory Gallagher Story - a star-studded saga of music, magic, mayhem, merriment and the highs and lows of the long and winding road. Interview by Liam Fay. (Taken from the Hot Press 15-year anniversary special)Read More
Throughout a long and often glorious career, Rory Gallagher has maintained the kind of punishlng touring schedule that has left lesser mortals in a severely burnt out state. But why does he continue to do it? Ronan O'Reilly caught up with him during his recent British tour and attempted to find out.Read More
After a recording silence of five years Rory Gallagher returned towards the end of last year with ''Defender'', regarded by many critics as his finest album to date. In Dublin recently for a series of storming gigs at the Olympia, in a wide-ranging interview, he spoke to Bill Graham about Ireland in the showband era, his early experiences playing in the sleaze pits of Hamburg, his rediscovery of the blues – and the longstanding love of the thriller genre which informs his latest album.Read More
Dermot Stokes reviews Rory Gallagher's 1987 album, DefenderRead More
This is the point at which we finally jettison any attempt to lumpen Rory Gallagher with the HM crew, new or old.Read More
John Waters meets Rory Gallagher on his 1981 tour in support of JinxRead More
When Rory Gallagher hits the stage at this year's Macroom festival gig, it'll be his last appearance in Ireland, a year that has seen him forgo some of the spotlight he's enjoyed over the previous ten years in Britain and Ireland in particular.Read More