Tuesday 18 January 2011

Messin' with the kid

An album I keep coming back to time and again is Rory Gallagher's eponymous solo outing from 1971. And as any self respecting, chin stroking, rock buff will tell you - step forward David Hepworth - 1971 was a vintage year for classic albums that has (probably) never been bettered.

After experiencing rave reviews with Taste (frequent comparisons were made at the time to Hendrix's combo) the lad from Ballshannon who had started out (as indeed had most young Irish musicians before him) on the showbands circuit, went solo.

He enjoyed considerable success on his home turf, in the UK and in mainland Europe. His gigs were invariably sell outs and often went on into the wee hours. Shows in excess of three hours were not uncommon - you just couldn't get him off the stage.

I won't dwell on his untimely end but instead give you an idea of just how high his stock was in the mid 70s. When Mick Taylor left The Rolling Stones it appeared that William Rory Gallagher was in the frame to plug the gap. Rory's brother, Donal, picks up the story.

"At the end of 1974, Mick left the band and Keith and Mick had to look for a replacement. In January 1975, I got a phone call from The Stones management wondering if Rory might be interested, because Mick saw a lot in Rory. That was the case and of course it also made my mouth water. The auditions took place in The Hague, in The Netherlands. Rory went there on his own, and to this day I regret that. He was put up in a hotel, jammed a bit with the band, but no decision was forthcoming. Even then The Rolling Stones were an unassailable mega act and could have everything they wanted and keep everybody waiting. Rory on the other hand had a tour of Japan in his agenda and those dates kept getting closer. The Stones’ management knew that, but probably thought that Rory would cancel it. However they didn't count on Rory’s stubbornness, as well as his loyalty to his fans. He kept waiting to the end, but finally packed his bags and left a note at the reception: "If you still want me then I will hear from you" and he left for Japan. If I had been there I would have tied him to his chair if I had to. I wonder sometimes: what would have become of him if he had become a member. Would he be alive still? There was never any word from The Stones. They were probably offended to death by his perceived impertinence."

Listen to Laundromat (Side 1, Track 1 from Rory Gallagher) and tell me that Mr Wood was the right man for the job. No offence Ronnie, but what the Stones needed back then (and probably still do) was someone who could bring something new to the table; not a Keef clone.

Rory Gallagher: Laundromat


  1. A great post John, a piece of Rory's history I wasn't aware of. I was fortunate to have seen Rory play live a couple of times back in the early eighties. And of course he had a plethora of delightful solo studio albums and notable outstanding live albums too.

  2. Jimmy - He had a great stage presence, didn't he? Long before it became de rigueur, after playing fast and furiously for an hour the band would go backstage for a beer leaving Rory out front to strap on his acoustic - he would then proceed to play some spellbinding folky, rootsy tunes for twenty minutes or so (I'm thinking of stuff like 'Out On The Western Plain') before the band would return and he'd pick up the pace all over again.

  3. Although he was packing a bit of timber by this point (1990) this is peerless.

  4. As much as I love his playing - he's too fluid, sparky and proficient for the Stones. Charlie would have worked a treat with him, but the Stones are all about the groove. Having said that lend your peepers to this to see what a fine ol' axeman Woody is..

    Great piece on Mick Taylor here

  5. What great footage! I completely take your point but the 'what if' scenario still remains tantalising. Keeping with the Wood Watch, can you remember The New Barbarians?

  6. I've got to agree with Mondo here, as much as I love Rory and the Stones I don't think it would have been a good match. Gerry McAvoy's book gives the impression of him as someone who had a deep mistrust of management and record companies so it's hard to see that he would have fitted in well the the Stones machine. The world is definitely a sadder place without him but it's good to see that his brother, Donal, is keeping his name alive with the occasional cd and DVD release.

  7. Great post. To me the only time the Stones really have been stunning was when Mick Taylor was in there - you look at the material he helped with and it is all the greats. The early stones Paint It Black esp was brilliant but the later stuff I've never thought much of if I'm honest.

    In some ways though I'm glad Rory didn't join them - he was a great legend on his own right, not as recognised by the fashionista as he should be but there you go.

    A couple of years back I went to Harrods where they had a guitar exhibition on, that included most of Rory's main axes. To the right were a bunch of Mexican Strats all done up by artists to be auctioned off for charity with loads of people ooh and arring at them. I stood for ages walking around the glass case holding Rory's battered no 1 Strat. The guy who was obviously came up and said hello. I just looked at him and said "Brute force and ignorance". He smiled and gave me a personal guided tour of the interesting stuff.

    I have an odd family connection to Rory - my father-in-law sadly passed away in the same intensive care bed in the same liver treatment specialist unit at Kings in London that poor Rory lost his battle in. Although I've never linked those things, it was less than a year later I was in rehab fighting my own addiction and waiting with dread my liver function tests - luckily mine wasn't too badly damaged.

  8. Hi there John, I never knew about Rory & the Stones. That's quite a mind-bending "what if?". I love those first couple of solo albums by Rory. Superb vibe to them and above all, not as straight forward as his later work would become. Saw him a couple of times in concert and didn't stop smiling for a week. Thanks for a great post!