The irreplaceable Irish blues-rock guitar virtuoso Rory Gallagher was a cruelly young 47 when he died after complications from a liver transplant on 14 June 1995.
William Rory Gallagher was born in Ballyshannon in County Donegal and raised in Cork. He began to whip up a storm with his guitar sorcery when he co-founded the trio Taste in 1966. He was a mere 18 at the time. When they started to go international, a couple of years later, they won admiring glances from fans of Cream (for whose famed farewell Royal Albert Hall concert they opened) and Blind Faith, the short-lived supergroup on whose North American dates they also guested. In August 2015, the four-CD I’ll Remember box set celebrated Taste’s legacy.
Taste only lasted until 1970 themselves. But by then, they had played at that year’s Isle of Wight Festival and made two studio albums. The second, On The Boards, was a top 20 success in the UK. Gallagher swiftly started recording in his own name under a new solo deal with Atlantic. He made the top 40 with his self-titled debut. A swift follow-up, Deuce, arrived the same year, 1971.
They were the first in a long line of releases to win either silver or gold certification. It’s appropriate, too, that the sole Gallagher album to make the UK top ten was one on which his celebrated, blistering style as a live performer was commemorated, on 1972’s Live In Europe. That also enjoyed by far his longest chart run, at 15 weeks. The next year, Rory won his initial US album chart appearance with Blueprint.
Never one to court fame for its own sake, Gallagher continued to enhance his awesome reputation. His prolific recording and touring schedule went on for the rest of his life. His last studio album, his 11th, was 1990’s Fresh Evidence. Rory had plans to tour the record, release an EP and more besides, at the time of his death.
But it was always all about the music for Rory Gallagher. “Regardless of fashions there are still blues and rockabilly fans,” he told Chris Welch in Metal Hammer in one of his last interviews. “Certainly for a while, the press overlooked rootsy music [which] they thought was old fashioned and irrelevant.
“But what I’m trying to do,” he continued, “is create music that respects the roots, but is based on new material as opposed to just me doing old blues, acid rock standards all the time. That’s the key really, to update the music itself by hitting it on the head, and coming up with new chord changes and tunes.”
Rory Gallagher’s Live At Montreux can be bought here.
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