For reasons passing understanding, for many years I only owned two Rory Gallagher albums – Against The Grain, which I absolutely cherished, and the live album Stage Struck (with bonus 7”). And disappointingly, I never managed to see the great man live. But I still have a few fond memories of him from my teenage years, principally a terrific Old Grey Whistle Test ‘In Concert’ performance from the BBC Television Theatre (aka the Shepherds Bush Empire), which was what sold me on Against The Grain. The energy displayed on ‘Souped Up Ford’ - which I can now enjoy again, courtesy of YouTube - was a key ingredient for me, and the line-up with Rod de’Ath on drums and Lou Martin on keyboards continues to be my favourite even now. I also remember broadcasts of him doing ‘Rock Goes To College’ (I think) and the Montreux Jazz Festival, but that first encounter still stands out.
But I also remember reading, in Melody Maker if memory serves correctly, about a celebrated incident relating to a performance by Rory at Birmingham Town Hall. He’d arrived there a day ahead of the band and crew, apparently because of some publicity commitments, only to find on the night of the gig that band and gear were all stranded on the motorway because of fog.
So what did the bold Rory do? He went on stage with an acoustic guitar, apologised for the problem and promised to come back and do a full gig for free – and then delivered a set that brought the house down. There are various accounts of this performance, such as these from the forum on the Rory Gallagher website. Oh, to have been in the audience that night!
This story came back to me last year, after going to see Eric Clapton play at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. Notoriously, Clapton found the sound not to his liking, and walked off stage in the middle of ‘Cocaine’, which turned out to be the last song in his main set. When he came back he offered a quick “Sorry about that”, did an encore, and that was that - not even a reprise of ‘Cocaine’. And you ask yourself, would Rory Gallagher have done that?
Happy birthday Rory – a class act.