- 21 Jul 20
Promoter Peter Aiken shares his reflections on Rory Gallagher's legacy, as part of our special 25th anniversary tribute to the legendary Irish guitarist.
Someone recently gave me a copy of Melody Maker from 1972, when Rory was on the front cover – and the headline is: ‘Rory Rocks Belfast’. The concert took place at 11am on New Year’s Day – because people wouldn’t go out at night. This was the start of the Troubles. Things were pretty bad – and he was the only one that came to play. The article inside is a two-page spread, and it describes how much that really meant to people in Belfast. I was only 10, but I still remember the excitement around the house about it.
Later he did that famous movie, Irish Tour ‘74 – and in that, you can see what Belfast was like then. It was a complete warzone, with the bombed-out buildings, and the police and army driving around. Guns everywhere. Rory came up and did three nights, which was pretty special.
There was always a big connection between Rory and Belfast. He kept coming back. We’d have his records around the house, because we were promoting him. Back then, it’s not as if you had 100 albums in the house – you had maybe two or three, so you’d listen to them over and over again.
Rory was always a big thing around Christmas. I remember being in boarding school, and it felt like the whole school was going to see him. I sold about 60 tickets for one of the Christmas shows. Everybody was there.
Around ‘78, I went on the road with him. I was about 16. We went all over the UK – staying in B&Bs, doing back-to-backs up and down the country, playing all sorts of halls. It was mad. That’s when I learned how to smoke properly!
Back then, Rory would be doing a couple of nights at the National Stadium – but there was only one ticket outlet. There was nowhere else you could buy tickets, except Golden Discs off Grafton Street and you had to go there. Now you have all these Ticketmaster outlets, and you can buy online. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Rory would be capable of doing up to ten nights at The Point now! That’s how big he was.
In Belfast, everything would close after the show, so I remember Rory, the band and the crew coming back to the house for a few drinks. You’d just seen this unbelievably exciting lead singer going absolutely crazy on stage – and then he arrives into the house and he’d be so quiet and humble. He was a very gentle person.
On stage, he had that X factor – the way he could control the whole crowd. There was none of the production values you have nowadays, with screens and all that, but he had that charisma that only a few artists really have.
The people who saw him live remember how incredible he was, but he doesn’t really get the credit he deserves. He was truly one of the greats – not just in Ireland, but internationally.
The special Rory Gallagher 25th Anniversary Issue of Hot Press is available to order below – 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.