Monday, 13 June 2022

Rory Gallagher Top 30 As Picked By Fans

 To mark the 27th anniversary of Rory's passing, fans were asked to pick their favourite songs for the Fresh Evidence sister blog Wired For Sound - click to read it here

Thursday, 26 May 2022

#29 - Loanshark Blues


 Album: Defender (1987)

Following 1982’s Jinx album, it would be five years before Rory Gallagher released another studio album, leading to some believing he had apparently vanished into the ether.

“I was quite busy, I wasn’t back in Ireland for a long time. We were playing a lot on the Continent, we were in America for a couple of trips. We also played behind the Iron Curtain. So it was more active than people would know, but unfortunately if you’re not playing in this part of the world, people think you’ve faded away.” Rory on RTÉ’s Borderline, 1 March, 1988.

Defender was released on 1 July 1987. It was the first album he released on his own independent label, Capo Records, having parted company with Chrysalis following Jinx. In many ways, it’s one of his heavier albums, ranging from rock to veritable blues classics. Recorded across a number of London Studios, including The Point, Olympic Studios, West 3 Studios, Music Works and Redan Studios, personnel included band regulars Gerry McAvoy on bass, Brendan O’Neill on drums and Mark Feltham on harmonica (‘Don’t Start Me Talkin’) , with former keyboardist and pianist Lou Martin making a return to guest on ‘Seven Days’. It was a successful album on the independent charts, with many positive reviews, some even describing it as Rory’s best to date. Discussing Defender on the aforementioned Borderline interview, Rory said:

“We did an album called Torch, it wasn’t satisfactory in the end. And it was like, it was a good thing it turned out that way, because sometimes it’s good to get really disgusted with the stuff you’re doing and give yourself a real ticking off and start again. Costs a fortune, but that’s more or less how we started the album.

“I feel very reasonable about this particular album; it’s nice and to the point and it has a nice mood to it, I think. That’s my own review, anyway.”

In these comments, it seems that, happy as he is about Defender, there comes across a very hefty personal self-criticism. Much has been written, mooted, discussed, and opined about Rory’s health and general state of being at this time. It is true he wasn’t in a happy place at this point, and it was during the Defender sessions, often working late into the night, that Rory said something ominous loomed over him. Many have taken this and his subsequent health issues as an opportunity to write off Rory as a musician and performer (Defender was his second last studio album), and it feels as though this is a sad and unjust line drawn under his talent. Indeed, there are some who won’t listen to Rory’s later work or footage of his live shows because of this. It’s deeply unfair and an injustice to the man. Take the time to sit down, watch and listen. He still had it in him. And if anything, he was maturing to something incredible.

‘Loanshark Blues’, the second track on Defender is a case in point. Rory is very much making his mark as a bluesman. The lyrics begin with a variation of the traditional call and response found in blues songs:

“Give me 'til Monday, that's only a day or two
Give me til Monday, that's only a day or two
I'll pay you back with interest the last thing that I do
I'll pay you back with interest the last thing that I do
Yeah, yeah”

Interspersed between variations of these choruses are verses that tell the tale of a man literally begging for the survival of his family and himself in the most desperate destitution:

“Wife needs shoes, the kids must eat
Feel so cold, I can't feel my feet
Can't get my hands on one thin dime
I'm gonna turn to a life of crime

No work here, so I walk the street
Sign on the door, I feel I'm beat
I know you run Pier 15
You got a grip on all my dreams”

It’s powerful stuff – thematically, the poverty is something featured in several traditional Delta blues. Rory must have had thousands of those songs stored in his inner ear by this point. There is also a hint of the books Rory liked to read, the hard-boiled detective novels, some of which, like the Delta songs, date back to the Great Depression. Both have simmered deep in Rory’s creative well it appears in ‘Loanshark Blues’. It was a song he was very satisfied with, to the extent of describing it as the best he had ever written:

“My favourite track. It’s a rhythmic thing, that I had to keep calm and controlled. There’s a sort of John Lee Hooker feel to it.”

He’s not far wrong in describing it as having a touch of John Lee Hooker. It appears Rory has fully come back into the blues he grew up besotted with and was taking it into a new direction, making it his own. His band by this point had transformed from the blues-rock/heavy rock of the 1970s and early 1980s to something with a heavier electric blues kick. Gerry McAvoy had been with Rory 16 years by time Defender came around and Brendan O’Neill had taken over from Ted McKenna on drums in 1981, becoming Rory’s longest served drummer. Mark Feltham had also become a regular in the line-up, often trading licks with Rory on live shows. It was a formidable unit to say the least!



For more information on Rory during this period, this article is a worthy read. And remember, mental health issues are no one's fault and help is available if needed.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

#28 - Bullfrog Blues


 Albums: Live In Europe (1972)

Also: Blues (2019), Check Shirt Wizard (2020)

When Rory Gallagher mooted a live album as his third solo outing, wanting to capture the energy of his live performance, his record label, Polydor, was somewhat hesitant. Nonetheless, in February and March 1972, he recorded shows from his European tour.  With Wilgar Campbell on drums and Gerry McAvoy on bass, the album was released on 14 May that year. It hit the top ten of the UK album charts and became his first gold record.

It also mostly featured songs that hadn’t been on Rory’s previous albums, several of them became firm fixtures of his live show from there on in. ‘Bullfrog Blues’ in particular has gone onto reach legendary status. It perhaps isn’t an exaggeration to suggest that several Rory fans would be delighted with a compilation album solely comprised of his various live versions of that one song.

‘Bullfrog Blues’ first came to the light of day with William Harris, who recorded it back in 1928. Harris was ‘discovered’ by Henry Columbus Speir, a white record store owner in Jackson, Mississippi, who also acted as a talent scout for a number of record labels including Columbia, Victor, Okeh, Paramount, Decca, Vocallion and Gennett. The majority of records he sold from his store were blues and it’s argued that if it wasn’t for Speir, much of the Delta blues would have been missed. Amongst those Speir brought to notice include Son House, Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Skip James, Bo Carter and the Mississippi Sheiks. As well as being regarded as some of the biggest names in the blues, Rory himself often cited them as favourites, interpreted their work in his own way, and in the case of the Mississippi Sheiks, even wrote a song about them!


Ted Gioia in his book Delta Blues, notes that when researcher Gayle Wardlow played William Harris’ recordings to older Mississippi blues musicians, they all commented that here was an authentic Delta player. Unfortunately, unlike the others picked up by H.C. Speir, William Harris appears to have disappeared down a black hole in history, though it’s thought that he may have been the first bluesman Speir signed. Very little is known about Harris outwith the songs he recorded for Speir in the late 1920s. Searches have been made with little success in the historic records for Harris. The only other information on him is anecdotal: he was said to have toured extensively, playing medicine shows, juke joints, house parties and street corners. He is also described as being religious and avoided drink, and guitarist Hayes McMullen recalls him at a house party in 1927, smartly dressed, cracking jokes and playing guitar whilst dancing with a woman at the same time. Other than that, there is simply nothing.

Nothing apart from ‘Bullfrog Blues’, which went on to be covered eleven times following its first release, including by Rory. Other notable versions include a late 1965 cover by John Hammond, which sounds close to the original and Canned Heat’s 1967 version, which, though called ‘Bullfrog Blues’, has developed with new lyrics. With old blues numbers, this is quite common. Certainly Rory took it and made it his own. There may be something of a personal bias here, but his version certainly blows Canned Heat out the house in terms of sheer raw energy. As Jamel_AKA_Jamal, a YouTuber who posts reaction videos to music requests, says in his recent video reaction to the 1976 Old Grey Whistle Test Rory Gallagher Special version of ‘Bullfrog Blues’, this is a band going crazy on stage.

If anything, it seems like Rory and his bandmates (in any of the line-ups of The Rory Gallagher Band) have a distinct case of the ‘Bullfrog Blues’ as described in the lyrics Rory puts to the song. A bizarre affliction that no medical intervention can cure but can only be dealt with by getting up and playing music. Rory varied the lyrics from performance to performance, but the gist is just the same. Got yourself in an uncomfortable state? Let the music take it out. The song itself seems to be the cure, which is probably handy as it’s a condition the entire family can have – “My mother got them, my father got them, my sister got them” – even Grandma gets affected!

For Rory, the main crux of the song appears to be the act of playing. He spends less time singing than he does enthusiastically letting rip on guitar, and the energy is passed around the band, each taking a solo and becoming the centre of attention, before everyone joins back in and continues to let rip even more. All the while, the audience is a bouncing, boogeying froth, getting more worked up as Rory gets worked up – rather famously at the Chorus Pour Paris 1980 show. ‘Bullfrog Blues’ closes the program and the audience leap up on stage, dancing around the band, with Rory eventually climbing on top of the amplifiers for a more scenic view!

Thursday, 24 March 2022

#27 - Cruise On Out

 



Albums: Photo Finish, 1978; Notes From San Francisco 2011

When recording Photo Finish, Rory Gallagher reworked some songs from the ultimately (and literally!) binned Elliot Mazer sessions recorded in San Francisco in late 1977. It was a time of new directions for Rory. He felt that the Mazer sessions had drifted from what he truly aimed for with his music and wanted to get back to what he felt was ‘Rory Gallagher music’. Part of this included ending his six year line-up of his band, with drummer Rod de’Ath and pianist Lou Martin being released for pastures new and the former drummer of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Ted McKenna, being brought in. The Rory Gallagher group reverted back to the trio set up it had started out with. Gerry McAvoy remained on bass. To say 1978 was eventful in the Gallagher camp is perhaps putting it mildly!

Having joined The Rory Gallagher Band in June 1978, Ted had to learn quickly, as they were in Dieter Dierk's studio in Cologne between July and August. There was, somehow fitted in there, in typical Rory fashion, a tour too! Add to that the fact Ted probably barely had time to breathe as The Sensational Alex Harvey Band had not long split up unexpectedly. Ted was in fact catching up with Alex on a night out when he found out Rory was looking for a new drummer and Ted’s name had been mentioned. Ted went along to audition. Afterwards, he was surprised when Rory and the others helped him take his kit back down to his car. “You don’t have to do that.” He told them. “That’s not how we do things,” came the reply. Ted recalled Rory signing an autograph for a fan in the street while holding onto Ted’s tom-tom. Shortly afterwards, while visiting his parents back in Scotland, Ted got the call to join Rory at the Macroom Mountain Dew Festival in Co. Cork. And thus, another well regarded Rory line-up was born.

'Cruise On Out’ was one of the songs brought into Photo Finish from the Elliot Mazer sessions. In his notes for Photo Finish, Rory’s brother Dónal, writes that Rory had Elvis Presley in mind for the rockabilly flavoured number. When thinking of Elvis’ 1970s output, with ‘Burnin’ Love’ and ‘Moody Blues’, it is a song that could have fitted in with Elvis’ oeuvre. It was fairly common for songwriters to produce the goods and see Presley work his magic on it. One such composer was Guy Fletcher, who saw Elvis record his song ‘Just Pretend’ in 1970 during Elvis’ RCA Nashville sessions. The seemingly random link will probably raise a few eyebrows of beleaguered parents whose little ones are fans of the high octane Justin Fletcher of Cbeebies fame, as Guy Fletcher is Justin’s father – there’s a random six degrees of fame!

The lyrics to ‘Cruise On Out’ depict what seems a typical scene of the 50s and early 60s of a young couple going out to a dance, featuring a group (possibly not unlike those Rory himself played in) that kept the crowd dancing all night, the dancers looking sharp and the young girl’s father perhaps less than impressed by the blossoming romance and dancing:

 

Well that cat you will be payin',
You ought to make you there,
When that drummer hits the rim shot,
It almost busts the snare.

You put on your cat clothes,
And I will put on mine,
Together pretty babe,
We're gonna cruise on down the line.

Come on and cruise on out with me,
Won't you cruise on out with me


It’s a scene Rory probably experienced many times from his days as a showband guitarist in the sixties while in his teens. The best definition of a showband is given on the website Irish-Showbands.com: “The term ‘Irish Showband’ generally refers to a particular type of musical act popular in Ireland in the 1950's and 1960's.” Showbands played the sizeable dance circuit in Ireland, some of the groups becoming immensely popular. They tended to play what the audiences liked to hear. Some have been disparaging of the showbands, claiming they ruined many a musician. But as the young Rory himself found, they were a great way to get experience of playing live on stage, and several young musicians such as Rory, and indeed, Eric Bell of Thin Lizzy, served their time as showband musicians.

Rory answered an advert seeking a guitarist for The Fontana Showband, which later was re-named The Impact. They auditioned him and, impressed at his skills, gave him the job. He was only 14 at the time and stayed with the group for a few years, playing all over Ireland, London and eventually mainland Europe. This he mixed in with school, usually heading off for lessons, and even his first Leaving Certificate exam, on the morning immediately after shows. It’s not hard to picture him seeing the scenes depicted in ‘Cruise On Out’ during his showband days on many an occasion.

The two versions of ‘Cruise On Out’, the earlier one found on Notes From San Francisco and the later one on Photo Finish, on one level come across as having the same energy level and structure. Both are pure and simple bona fide rockers. The earlier one of course has Rod and Lou on drums and keyboards respectively, while the later one has Ted on drums. Differences are present – the barrel house piano that Lou was renowned for is a big presence on the Notes From San Francisco version, trading licks with Rory’s guitar, and at times swapping lead and rhythm runs. The differing styles between Rod and Ted as drummers is also noticeable. One key thing the two versions show is the change in the switching of the Rory Gallagher band line-up. By time they hit Elliot Mazer’s studio in late 1977, Rory had a tight group of over five years standing that could match many as a great blues band with a big sound. When the song was recorded again the following year for Photo Finish at Dierks’ Studios, it’s a rawer, stripped back experience.

The fact that Ted had only been with Rory for a matter of weeks by rights should have shown a less connected band, but Ted seems to effortlessly slide in and help take Rory’s sound in a harder, heavy rock direction. The fact Ted had played with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band for six years not long before no doubt helped – Ted had to learn quickly with Alex, who would grab and shake the cymbals of the drum kit when he wanted Ted to put more leather into it. Or, as we say in Glasgow, ‘gie it laldi!’ In other words, he came to Rory very well basted from the frenetic oven of SAHB live shows.

‘Cruise On Out’ is a favourite of Dónal Gallagher – and the reason why his son Daniel added it to The Best Of Rory Gallagher compilation released in 2020.

The first Notes From San Francisco version is below:



 To find out more about the rich history of showbands, check out the Irish Showbands website.

 

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

#26 - Moonchild



Albums: Calling Card, 1976

See also: Stage Struck, 1980 and Check Shirt Wizard, 2020


Rory Gallagher shook things up a little when it came to recording the Calling Card album, which saw its release on 24 October 1976, after being recorded that summer. Rory had only had someone else produce albums for him while he was in Taste – he had taken on the job himself for his solo albums up until now.

For this album he was keen to find a producer who had an affinity with traditional rock values but was open to new ideas.” Writes Dónal Gallagher, in the Calling Card article on Rory’s official website, “On his previous release, ‘Against The Grain’, Rory had started to shift away from the blues/rock style he’d made his own, creating an album with a harder sound. He was keen this progression should continue but needed to find a producer who shared his convictions and could help create the sound he wanted.”

Enter Roger Glover, bassist for Deep Purple. Rory and his band had already supported Deep Purple on tour and Glover had booked eight weeks at the Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany, for his own work. Rory bought four weeks off him and work began. The band that Rory took into the studio consisted of his by then long-time line-up of Gerry McAvoy on bass, Rod de’Ath on drums and Lou Martin on piano and keyboards. Glover noted that the band appeared very dedicated to Rory. This was the final album he recorded with this particular line-up. And from a personal perspective, what a line-up it was!

Gerry noted that Rory attempted to make things a little more relaxed in the studio. Bringing Roger Glover in was the first time Rory had worked with a ‘name’ producer, so things were a little different to how they had previously worked. Rory had a very strong sense of humour, and as the studio sessions proved, not averse to the odd gag. While recording ‘Barley and Grape Rag’, he said to Lou to take a turn on vocals to try something different. Lou was duly sent to the microphone set up in a bathroom, which Rory liked the acoustics of, and started singing, to the high amusement of everyone in the recording booth. Gerry himself became a ‘victim’. Rory decided they would have a day off and they went to a local bar, enjoying a drink. Then Rory announced there was something he wanted to try, and they had to go back to the studio. He wanted to get the bass off of an organ or keyboard there, and as bassist, Gerry was given the job. He found himself lying on the floor, pressing the various pedals attempting to get it right, when the sound of laughter let him know he had been had!

Rory was always serious about his craft, but he didn’t come in with screeds of paper when introducing a new song, as Gerry mentioned recently on the podcast The Strange Brew. Rory would simply start playing it on guitar, and Gerry, who played guitar before taking up bass, could see what Rory was playing and transfer it to bass, with the drummer joining in. Rory also wrote according to what each band member could bring in, each musician being different.

Calling Card is seen as the most eclectic of Rory’s solo albums, as he started to head in a harder rock direction. However, listen closely and the blues really aren’t far behind. ‘Moonchild’, the third song on the album, is probably one of his most iconic. From the start, with Rory’s rocking guitar intro and Rod’s heavy drums, it’s a song that makes a statement from the start.


"You are a moonchild and pretty soon child

I've got that feeling

That I'm gonna make you smile forever

If I can.

Just give me a sign and I'll show you my plan."


The song lyrics are about, as Rory said himself in an interview, a mythical woman he made up. It almost seems as if she has a folkloric quality, perhaps like one of the fae, with mentions of ‘just give me a sign’. Anyone who knows even just a little bit of Celtic mythology could tell you that the fae-folk or fairies, are an enigmatic lot. They form a large part of Irish folk culture, with the Sidhe and Tuatha Dé Danaan. It is of course mere speculation on my part, but it is a thought that perhaps there was a touch of this inspiring Rory when he wrote ‘Moonchild’.

It’s song that sears itself on your mind and falls into the category of earworm, but fortunately an earworm that you really want to have. The fact that the line-up of Rory, with Gerry, Rod and Lou had been together for a few years by this point, with countless performances beneath their belt shines through. They are very tight and gel together brilliantly. You can hear what each musician brings to the table, Rory leading with his guitar solo, Lou echoing the riff on keyboards providing a strong background and adding to the heavy edge of the song. Gerry’s prowess as a bassist shines through beautifully, giving it a further edge. And Rod’s drums are phenomenal – I have said it many times, but I’ll say it again – Rod is one of the best drummers in rock and blues and deserves to be recognised as such.

‘Moonchild’ is one of those songs that Rory could raise the roof off the house with when played live – if it was possible to raise it any higher by time he started playing the opening riff!


Today's post marks what would have been Rory's 74th birthday, and what a song to remember him by! 

Thursday, 13 January 2022

#25 What's Going On


 

Album: Taste – On The Boards (1970)

Also: Taste – What’s Going On – Live At The Isle Of Wight (2015)

Basically, 1970 is the year that, had certain undercurrents been different, Taste should have gone stratospheric. Their second album, On The Boards, was released on 1 January 1970 and peaked in the UK top 20 album charts and marked the then 21-year-old Rory Gallagher as a composer and musician of some note. It received rave reviews everywhere.

Produced by Tony Colton, it featured Rory on vocals, guitar, harmonica, and sax, with fellow Taste bandmates John Wilson on drums and Richard McCracken on bass. The first track, ‘What’s Going On,’ is an instant earworm and thought to be the groups best known track. With the high praise from the likes of Lester Bangs, who wrote, “Everyone else is just woodshedding: Taste have arrived.” Enthusiastic audiences across Europe, Ireland, and the UK wherever they played certainly are the mark of a band ‘making it.’ August of that year saw the now legendary performance at the Isle Of Wight Festival in front of 600,000 people that resulted in several encores. From then on, there was no turning back.

 Or so you might think, for just before the performance (which, incidentally the band’s management threatened to cancel as they didn’t know a film crew was about!), Taste had decided to call it a day and split up! Ongoing issues with manager Eddie Kennedy and differences between Rory and the rest of the group had finally come to the boil. As the group were heading out to the festival, they found their van had been broken into, and some gear stolen. Rory pointed out that this was another example of bad management, as he had been pointing out they needed a better van for quite a while. The result was they decided to split up, though Taste had to fulfil a final tour before what turned out to be their final performance at Queens University, Belfast on 24 October 1970.

 In many respects, “What’s Going On” is the perfect song for the situation. The lyrics, short and to the point, ask several questions about a scenario that is unclear and bewildering. Rory perhaps was wondering just what was, er, going on, with his band:

 

What's going on?
Everyone acts crazy
Yes or no means maybe.

What's going on?
Could you correct my vision?
Helping my decision?

 

Looking back at that period, it’s understandable why, when he went solo, Rory very much made sure that he was in charge, with the help of Dónal Gallagher and other trusted people to help keep the cogs running smoothly, and ensure that Rory knew, erm, just what was going on.

 Songs have a certain beauty in the fact that they can be a very subjective thing. For Rory, ‘What’s Going On’ certainly had its own personal meaning – the one that no doubt inspired its composition. For those of us coming across it years later, it can take on a whole new meaning. The song was released in 1970. Coming down the line to nowadays, it’s a song that fits the mood of the early 2020s. With a pandemic that never seems to be going, the bizarre world of social media, politics all over the place, the interesting phenomenon of cancel culture, the rise of reality TV and associated celebrities, as well as a great many other things that it would simply take too long to list, many of us often do find ourselves asking what is going on. And if truth be told, I find myself singing the song!

 For the most blistering version of the song, you need to go to the Isle Of Wight performance. Rory literally is on fire here, screaming guitar and singing his guts out. All you have is him, John’s drums and Richard’s bass – a simple three-person set up – yet they set the entire isle ablaze and hold literally hundreds of thousands in awe with the power of their performance. The uncertainty rents the air and it will leave it’s echo for years to come. Rory may have been angry and unsure of his future, but the world was sure as hell paying attention to him as a musician.


Friday, 10 December 2021

#24 - Cradle Rock


Album: Tattoo (1973), Irish Tour ‘74 (1974)


One of those random coincidences that life likes to throw up is the fact that Rory Gallagher was born at the Rock Hospital in Ballyshannon, County Donegal on 2 March 1948. Fans and writers alike have made many a quip about the aptness of this given the musician that Rory turned out to be. It wasn’t lost on Rory either, as, according to his brother, Dónal, in the linear notes for the Tattoo album, ‘Cradle Rock,’ was inspired by this as Rory “literally rocked all his life.” An added twist is the fact that Rory was also christened at the Rock Church in Ballyshannon.

Rory certainly was on rocking form in the summer of 1973, when he and his band started work on Tattoo, rehearsing at a rowing club in Rory’s hometown of Cork. For those now scratching their heads at the jump from the province of Ulster, where Donegal is located, to Munster, where Cork is, settle yourselves for a brief geographical digression. When Rory was born, his father Danny, who was also a notable musician, being Ulster champion on the accordion, was working on the Erne Hydro-electric scheme in Ballyshannon. The family then moved to Danny’s native Derry, where Dónal was born on 9 August 1949. By the latter half of the 1950’s, the family relocated to Cork City, where Rory and Dónal’s mother Mona came from. And now, back to Tattoo!

Rehearsals progressed so well, that Rory was able to work out the music for his third solo studio album in a relaxed manner, the album being recorded quickly at the Polydor studios in London and released on 11 November 1973. Reviews for Tattoo were positive. Rolling Stone Magazine wrote that its predecessor Blueprint was excellent, and that Rory ‘is a confident and intelligent rock and blues guitarist,’ Tattoo was an indication that he was also becoming ‘a composer of note,’ finding a sound that was his.

This is a fair summation. With his highly regarded line up of Lou Martin (keyboards), Gerry McAvoy (bass) and Rod de’Ath (drums), there were few parts of Europe, Ireland, the UK, and North America they hadn’t played by the summer of 1973. Rory had started to cement a distinctive sound and hit a stride in his music. They were a tight group. Watch any video of them from 1973 onwards, and they jump into a song straight off the bat. Their strength as a cohesive performing unit is very evident on the Irish Tour movie and accompanying live album, Irish Tour ‘74, which seems to me to join both the music of Blueprint and Tattoo magnificently and highlights a band at its apex.

Irish Tour ‘74 opens with the announcement, “Hello, ladies and gentlemen, Rory Gallagher”, a crowd cheering enthusiastically in response, and a few strums of a guitar, before launching into the riff, the rest of the band joining as a whole in the first few bars to create a wonderful, thundering sonic onslaught. If you’re only going to listen to Cradle Rock one way, this is it.

There are two things that come to mind listening to Cradle Rock. The first is that Rory has without a doubt plumbed the depths of his talents and brought them to the fore, no holds barred. The music digs right into the guts and livens you up. If you’re struggling to get yourself going, I thoroughly recommend it, though any neighbours catching a glimpse of you through the window dancing unabashedly, throwing in some air guitar for good measure, may raise their eyebrows. Not that you’d care at that moment, being caught in the music.

The power of Rory’s guitar playing is wonderfully highlighted in the song. He really lets rip and the guitar does all the talking, wailing, swooping, and diving all over, with a nice bit of slide halfway through to take it that bit further. On the Irish Tour ‘74 version, you also get a nice example of that remarkable ability Rory had for being able to sing and scat along with the guitar as he plays, note perfect. As Gerry has previously said, Rory at times sounded like a guitar himself.

As much as Cradle Rock showcases Rory’s musicianship, it is also an example of his generosity as a band leader. Gerry, Lou, and Rod could have been expected just to provide a toned-down sound, toeing the line while the ‘main show’ demonstrated what he could do. But Rory didn’t roll like that – he collaborated with musicians who were immensely talented and he let them show it.

Rod’s drumming on this is one of the reasons he is one of my favourite drummers. He throws his all into it – watching him on the Irish Tour movie, it’s a wonder he doesn’t have to be wheeled out after Cradle Rock alone for a lie down. And the end of the film after the show, he looks utterly exhausted. Rod has been unfairly disparaged by some snobs who don’t think he’s up to much. Rory himself often stated he was a fantastic drummer and many fans believe he nailed the Rory Gallagher sound perfectly.

Lou Martin trades licks with Rory in Cradle Rock like a maestro and at one points switch over to take the lead on his keyboards, carrying on the swooping nature of the song before handing back to Rory’s guitar. Lou was a classically trained pianist, who fell for the blues hard. Rory enjoyed his encyclopaedic knowledge of the blues and probably knew there was potential when he told Rod to bring his ‘piano playing friend’ to rehearsals one day, Lou having previously been in the band Killing Floor with Rod, who just happened to enthusiastically tell Rory at great length how good Lou was. It wasn’t long before Lou was a member of the band. An interesting aside is that as a kid, Rod also studied piano, before giving up at the age of 12 to his later regret!

Gerry McAvoy remained Rory’s bassist for 20 years. And he still rocks to this day, some describing him as the reason they themselves picked up bass. On Cradle Rock, he provides the glue that helps keep it all together. It’s often said the Rory and Gerry had a sort of telepathy on stage. Rory said in a 1978 interview with the Cork Examiner:

“I wanted Gerry McAvoy to stay with the band because we’ve always had a great understanding for each other when we were on stage. His play inspires me. I don’t know why, it’s hard to explain. But when you play with someone like Gerry, there’s just this electrifying spark on stage here and there. However, he’s an excellent bass man.”



Birthday wishes are due to both drummer Brendan O'Neill and the aforementioned Gerry in the timing of this post.