Tag Archives: Rory Gallagher

rory gallagher – a taste for the blues

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – February 2021)

Eleven vinyl LPs; one vinyl EP; two ‘box set’ CDs; one triple CD set; twenty-one CDs; five DVDs and four Taste CDs.

You’d be correct in assuming I like Rory Gallagher!

I recall the very first time I heard Rory’s music. It was sometime in 1972. I was playing Subbuteo at my pal’s house. I was Chile, that day – red shirt, blue shorts. I can’t remember what team Derek was, but it wouldn’t matter – he’d have whooped my ass anyway. I was rubbish.

Derek shared a large bedroom with his older brother who at that time was a long-haired, senior school student, about four years older than me. He’d been doing paper rounds for several years and so was ‘minted,’ as we’d say in Glasgow. And all his money it seemed, he spent on records, particularly the heavy end of the musical spectrum. Deep Purple and King Crimson I vividly remember being played. I know this because as a Slade, Sweet and John Kongos fan, (yes, John Kongos) I just couldn’t get into this new fangled ‘progressive’ music.

Anyway, as my Chilean right winger was about to take a corner, something new burst out the record player. It went on for ages, too. Wow!

“That’s ‘‘Catfish,’ my mate said. “By a band called Taste. Alan’s just bought it. Like it?”

‘Like it?’ That was me. Hook, line and sinker.

So – this is the Blues? A fourteen year old kid had just been enlightened.

The LP was ‘Taste. Live At The Isle Of Wight.’ With a little more prompting, I was told the band were no longer together, but the guitarist, Rory Gallagher, had embarked on a solo career. In fact, he’d already released three albums. Always late to the party, me.

A few weeks later, I’d saved enough from my paper round to send away, through a ‘small ad’ in the ‘Sounds’ paper, for a copy of Rory’s latest release, ‘Live in Europe.’ (Going to watch football on a Saturday normally accounted for most of my earnings.)

As it happens, I was fifty pence short in payment for the post and packing, but the nice record store still sent me the LP. They asked I just send a postal order for the shortfall, something I never got round to doing. I read a month or so later that the company had gone bust. I felt ever so guilty.

That was late 1972 and I still have that album. It remains my favourite of all my Rory recordings, although I have to say, the ‘Check Shirt Wizard – Live in ‘77’ triple album pushes it very close.

The next stage in my Gallagher development was to see him play live and that opportunity came in March the following year, when my parents finally acceded my pleas to be allowed to go to a concert. And so shortly after the release of his fourth solo album, ‘Blueprint‘ (my second favourite) I trooped up to Glasgow with a couple of pals to the Green’s Playhouse (later to become the world famous Apollo.)

My seat was about eight rows from the front, just left of centre. Perfect. Until Rory came on stage and everyone jumped to their feet. I was a short-arse then, still am, and suddenly I was struggling to see my musical hero.

But the bouncers at Green’s and even more so when it changed to The Apollo, had a fierce reputation. There was no nonsense. If you were told to sit down, you sat down. If not, you’d only be able to hear the gig from the alleyway at the back of the theatre. (This heavy handed approach always worked … until The Clash came to town on 4th July 1978. But that’s another story!)

The concert was everything I hoped it would be. And more. The relationship Rory had with the crowd was amazing. It was like a personal friend was putting on a show. There was no posturing. No garish showmanship. Just straight-up, blues infused rock ‘n’ roll with a tiny touch of folk influence.

Rory was dressed simply, in his trade-mark check style shirt and jeans, and although he wore a denim shirt on the cover of ‘Blueprint,’ I always associated him with the checks. It must be a ‘first impressions’ thing, for I don’t recall seeing him wear that again on any of the other four occasions I was lucky enough to see him.

In the early to mid-seventies, bands would generally only hit your town maybe once a year although I was fortunate in that Rory did return to Glasgow later in ’73, at the end of November. After that though, it was December only, and ’74, ’75 and 1976 were my last shows. It’s interesting to note that the most I paid for a ticket was the £2.50 in 1976.

I wonder how much you’d have to pay these days? I’m sure Rory would have done all in his power to keep prices at a sensible level, but what with ticketing agencies these days …. aargh! Don’t start me!

While my love of Rory Gallagher has been unflinching, I am not one of those fans who listens exclusively to their hero and that particular style of music.

Although I still rushed out to buy his immediate subsequent releases, ‘Photofinish,’ ‘Top Priority,’ and ‘Stage Struck,’ I was, from 1976 onward, more into the punk and second wave rockabilly scenes.

The only groups, however, that even then could come close in my overall ‘favourite band’ list were / still are, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and The Rolling Stones. (Over forty albums of the latter in my collection.)

And of course, there is a close connection between all three bands with SAHB‘s late great Ted McKenna latterly taking over on drums for Rory, and Rory himself famously auditioning for The Stones back in 1975 when Mick Taylor left.

I must say, I’m so glad Rory decided not to hang around and wait for Mick and Keith to get back to him, and toured Japan as he had planned. I just couldn’t see Rory as anything other than a front man. Ronnie Wood is perfect for the role in appearance and style.

It doesn’t always follow that a group betters itself by absorbing ‘the best.’ Look at The Eagles. Did Joe Walsh really add to what was already one of the most popular bands in the world? Did Joe Walsh lose a bit of his identity by joining The Eagles?

‘No’ and ‘yes’ would be my two answers.

But back to Rory.

It pained me to see him on The Old Grey Whistle Test or wherever as the rather large and bloated musician he’d become by around 1990 as drink and various prescription medications, administered to deal with the rigours of life on the road, had prematurely and noticeably aged him.

In the end, 1995, he perhaps cut a sad image – the archetypal solo rock star, not necessarily fading as such, or clinging to past glories, but perhaps lonely and just sheer exhausted from all he gave.

And he gave so much. The vast majority of his fans, like me, never met him, but Rory came across on stage, and in media interviews, as a very personable and likable bloke. There were no frills. You got what you saw.

He was genius on guitar. He could literally turn his hand to make it gently weep; or laugh; or sing. He could make an audience dance – in an ugly, uncoordinated, shaking-head, rocker style, maybe, but it still counts.

Best guitarist in the world? Many of us would say so.

I guess it’s all a matter of Taste.

no apologies – apollo’s the best.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – February 2021)

Every city in the UK, every city in the world for that matter, will lay claim to having had the best, the most iconic ‘live’ venue of The Seventies.

Every city in the world, except one, however, will be wrong. And that’s because the most revered, the most venerated theatre to play was right here in Glasgow – The Apollo. End of.

Opened in 1927 as the equally famous, Green’s Playhouse it could initially accommodate ten thousand people between the cinema complex and the dancehall which was situated above. From the ‘40s through to the ‘60s the biggest dance / jazz bands around, such as The Joe Loss Orchestra and Ronnie Scott’s Big Band sought bookings there.

As the music scene took on a more rebellious nature with the advent of rock ‘n’ roll, subsequently spawning The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, there was no shortage of controversy. Kids who had been jitterbugging and lindyhopping to their hearts’ content some years ago, were now parents of their own teenagers, and absolutely disapproving of the long haired, dope-smoking,  dishevelled looking ‘stars’ of the day.

The Green’s had played host to most of them by 1972, of course – even Jimi Hendrix had appeared there five years earlier. But the polemic of decency was raised yet another notch in November 1972 when the already notorious Alice Cooper, rocked up for a one-off show.

I was not longed turned fourteen but was already a big fan of the band – ‘Love it to Death’ was the second album I’d ever bought, money being no object now I had a paper round.

This would be my first ever gig. Or rather ‘concert’ as they were quaintly called back then.

Unfortunately, the band’s reputation had made national news in UK and my parents got wind of this ‘perverted, twisted, sick drunkard.’ (I always think Vince Furnier would have been quite chuffed at that description.) Not only was I banned from going to the show, I was put on lockdown for the evening of 10th November.

It was so unfair!

My friend Callum however, had somehow managed to smuggle a small tape recorder into the concert and a couple days later let me borrow the recording. The sound quality was totally pants, but at least I felt in some small way, that I’d experienced the show.

It would be another four months before I was allowed to my first gig. Rory Gallagher. He seemed like a nice Irish lad and didn’t chop off dolls heads and dance with pythons, so my folks were ok with that.

I just had to hope my ticket allocation was successful. Having seen the concert advertised in in Sounds music paper, I hand wrote my letter to the Box Office of Green’s, asked my Dad to write a cheque for£3.30, the cost of three tickets (additional ones for pals) and bought two first class stamps – one for the required S.A.E. (stamped addressed envelope) which would ultimately spill forth the requested tickets or my Dad’s uncashed cheque.

(Ya dancer! I was successful as it happens.)

Of course there was always an alternative to the hassle of a postal application – you could turn up in person at the theatre and pay cash. Dependent on the band you wanted to see, this could be quite straightforward. But for the likes of The Faces, Status Quo  and The Stones, the queue would start at least the day before the Box Office opened and wind its way down Renfield Street and through the lane.

There was no shelter either. If it rained, you got soaked. And I can tell you, there’s nothing more uncomfortable than walking around in loons that have initially become wet at the bottom hem, but the damp patches permeate the denim material, working its way up to your knees, and beyond.

Queuing though was an experience you really had to, erm, experience. Nobody had smart phones to occupy them of course, and so many friendships were formed and dates arranged. Most folk brought a wee ‘kerry-oot,’ and the beers and fortified wine were liberally shared around; which then inevitably led to the question of toilets, or lack of, and ultimately the occasional fight.

Yup – a microcosm of Glasgow life, right there. In one street.

So why do I steadfastly maintain the Apollo (it changed hands from the Green’s in September 1973) was THE best venue of the decade? Well, the glowing feedback from the bands and artists themselves cannot be ignored – if you were liked, you were LOVED. If you sucked, you’d best keep the tour bus engine running. You knew where you stood with a Glasgow audience!

(I only saw one band get real pelters from the crowd. Rather surprisingly, it was Badfinger. I still like the band’s music to this day, but the night of The Apollo, I think the gods were against them as well as the crowd. The sound was poor; their voices decidedly ropey and just the ‘feel’ of their set was sub standard. They took a good deal of abuse, it has to be said and I truly felt for them.)

Some of the tickets I managed to retain.

Other aspects to relish of this incredible venue were the distinctive aroma (!!) the battered seats; the bouncers, who by their reputation alone generally kept everyone safe – though I think they met their match the night The Clash played in July 1978 …. and apparently when an army of teenybop David Soul fans got hold of them!

There was the famous bouncy balcony (actually built that way intentionally, I believe) which I witnessed first hand, being in the front row for a legendary Christmas show in 1975 by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. If I was scared witless in the balcony, I wonder how the poor souls in the stalls below felt?

And then there was the incredibly high stage area. This was terrific for wee short-arses like myself in the Stalls. For although the bouncers were quick to enforce the ‘no standing’ rule on those by the aisles, they couldn’t reach those in the centre so easily. They escaped a battering and felt empowered to stand on the seats as they pleased. But due to the stage height, my view was not much impaired.

However, the experienced Apollo gig goer soon realised that it was best NOT to get seats in the first few rows if you wanted to see not only the band frontman, but the band itself, who were set further  back and consequently out of sight.

Artists such as, Status Quo; AC/DC; Rush; Roxy Music and King Crimson are amongst the many that recorded ‘live’ albums at The Apollo They were quick to realise that such enthusiastic crowds on their records could only further enhance their reputation as live acts. They could have chosen any theatre in any country, but they chose Glasgow.

Why? Because our mantra is ‘People Make Glasgow.’

People made The Apollo, too.

And my top three Apollo shows? I’d be tempted to say three of the five Rory Gallagher gigs I attended. But I’ll go for:
1) Rory Gallagher – March 1973 – my first gig.
2) SAHB – December 1975 – widely acknowledged as one of the band’s
best ever shows.
3) I should say Queen – but Lynyrd Skynyrd tips it just for the incredible
atmosphere and the fact they had Steve Gibbons Band supporting.

If you’d like to share accounts of your favourite Apollo shows, either leave a Comment below, or contact us at submissions70s@gmail.com