- 14 Jul 20
As part of our special 25th anniversary tribute to Rory Gallagher, we're revisiting Dónal Gallagher's reflections on his brother's life and legacy.
ON RORY AND MUSIC FORMATS...
It’s kind of strange the way things have evolved, because I often say to myself: how would Rory feel about YouTube, or how would he feel about downloading? I mean, he was such a vinyl fanatic.
Even with the vinyl, I remember seeing a photo of John Lennon, and he had a button saying “Back to Mono”. And in my head, I was going, “The cheek of him!” We’ve all gone out to buy the stereo version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and I was telling everybody to.
But Rory said “Oh, I agree with him completely, because rock ‘n’ roll is jukebox music – it comes out of one big speaker.” And I was going, “Well hang on, everybody wants to hear the left and right.” But rock ‘n’ roll is direct.
THE BRIAN MAY CONNECTION...
Brian is a huge fan of Rory’s. Back in the ‘70s, he came up to me and said, “You’re with Taste - I adore Rory the guitar player. If I came back to the Marquee, could I get backstage to see him?” I said, “Sure, let me know.” And sure enough they did meet - I think you can see them playing together on YouTube. It became a friendly relationship.
Later on, Brian stopped me in the street one day and said, “We’ve a new band and we’re going to change the name.” Freddie was with him. He said, “We’re trying to get gigs, are there any gigs going with Rory?” I said, “Ring the agent David Oddy, there are bound to be slots.” A few days later, Brian knocked on the door and said, “We’re doing a gig in two weeks time with you up in Dunstable.”
When we got to the gig, the rest of us were a bit wary of the singer, running around backstage in the fur coat. The road crew were like, “Who the fuck are they?”
After Queen played, Brian asked us what we thought. Rory said, “The singer is remarkable. You’ve found the new Little Richard.” I think that was right on the money, in terms of the voice, the scale, and probably other aspects too!
I would see Brian the odd time. He’s still devoted to Rory. He contributed to the Taste documentary that was made for the Isle Of Wight concert video. He paid a lovely tribute to Rory in that.
ON HIS FAVOURITE RORY ALBUMS...
I suppose each one represents a different place in time. I look at the albums and I remember more about the time surrounding them, and how difficult some of them were to make. Post-Taste was such an uncharted period of time: Rory was stuck in London with no money.
My mother, bless her, would send him cash in the post, which was stolen by the people in the bedsit. You’d wonder, “How is he going to make another album?”
I ended up working for another band at the time. Rory was going into the studio with a small Fender, and working with the engineer from On The Boards, a guy called Eddie Offord. While Rory was doing that, I was working for Atomic Rooster and the late Vince Crane, the keyboard player.
Rory said he was trying to find a piano player to do a couple of tracks. I said it to Vince, and he came down to the studio and it was lovely. Rory said he wanted barrelhouse piano, and Vince did it. They’re the sort of things I remember: about the album and the individuals involved.
I would say it’s almost impossible to top the (Cork) City Hall gigs. I can say other gigs, but that would be a selfish thing, because you would be thrilled to bits that you were coming back to Cork; you knew you would be having the craic for a couple of days.
Any time you would play three or four nights at a venue, you had the same bed for a few nights. And it was Christmas, so it was always a great buzz.
It was also a rejuvenation for Rory – he would have a few days at home and he used to find that’s where he wrote. So in the afternoons, they would go in and rehearse, but rehearsing would be going in and trying out new material. He’d always throw in one new song.
ON RORY’S FIGHTING SPIRIT...
I suppose it was back in ‘95. I never expected Rory to die, because it was always the boxer spirit in Rory that made it seem he was going to come through everything. You didn’t plan for that. And even though he was recorded as the longest patient in intensive care at King’s College Hospital at that time, he’d survived.
Then it got to the point where we had to get him an ambulance, to take him back to Cromwell Hospital, because it would be closer. After three months in intensive care, the music was secondary, but that’s how Rory would have wanted it.
After 25 years, it’s great that his music is alive and well, and that it’s all available. And dare I say, I feel my kids will carry it on beyond that. It’s a torch that you pass on.
• From an interview conducted by Sheena Crowley, in the Rory Gallagher Music Library in Cork, in 2018. The interview – Remembering Rory Gallagher: World Premiere of Interview With Dónal Gallagher in Cork City Library – can be seen in full here.
The special Rory Gallagher 25th Anniversary Issue of Hot Press is out now – featuring reflections on Rory's legacy from President Michael D. Higgins, Imelda May, Johnny Marr, Mumford & Sons, Mick Fleetwood, Steve Van Zandt, Slash and many more. Pick up your copy in shops now, or order online below: