A taste of Rory Gallagher

As the guitar master is remembered in his hometown this weekend, his brother Dónal reflects on his legacy, writes Don O’Mahony

EVEN after a lifetime of being at the great guitarist’s side, both professionally and fraternally, Dónal Gallagher can still be taken aback by the broad and enduring affection there is for his late older brother Rory.

“I literally was just looking at a graphic that was published yesterday in Alaska,” he says. “In The Daily Times a cartoonist had drawn Rory, remembering him fondly from 1977. So it’s quite amazing how global Rory’s become. He travelled so much it’s extraordinary how it stuck in people’s memory.”

As the manager of Rory Gallagher’s legacy, Dónal keeps a keen eye on all things related to the legendary blues guitarist. Especially now, in the lead up to the 64th anniversary of Rory’s birth on Mar 2, when the reissue of his first six solo albums under the banner of 40th Anniversary Re-masters has been warmly greeted by new and old fans alike.

“I find it extraordinary, 40 years after the event, that it’s still in discussion,” says Dónal. “It’s terrific and it shows how the music stands the test of time, that it’s classic, that it sounds fresh to young ears. I mean, full credit to my son Dan in this regard.”

Daniel Gallagher took charge of mixing the previously shelved 1979 studio album, Notes From San Francisco, which was finally released last summer. The success of that release encouraged Sony Music to take a similar approach with the 40th Anniversary Remasters.

“We put Notes From San Francisco out on vinyl,” explains Dónal. “It was a bit of an experiment for Sony to do vinyl because they’re such a high-tech electronic company. That had become such a success for them that they then sort of looked to reintroducing the catalogue on vinyl as well.

“Dan went in the studio and went back to the original mixes that Rory had done and cleaned the tapes up with today’s technology. Then, we were looking to do something to celebrate 40 years, and rather than the usual box set that people have to pay a lot of money out for, it seemed more appropriate just to reintroduce it after 40 years in a vinyl format and the same with the CDs, just to give it that vinyl feel.”

The six reissues are lovingly packaged, featuring original artwork, liner notes and a digital download, and they comprise his self-titled 1971 debut, Deuce, Live In Europe!, Blueprint, Tattoo and Irish Tour ’74.

The film version of the last release was lovingly restored and remastered last year and Dónal will be in Cork this weekend to introduce its screening on Friday as part of a mini festival at the Triskel Christchurch titled When I’m 64. The film captures Rory in all his modest glory as it follows him and his band around Belfast, Dublin and Cork.

While most touring musicians were giving Northern Ireland a wide berth due to the Troubles, Rory insisted on playing there annually. This caught the attention of the BBC.

“The film was commissioned as an Arena programme for the BBC,” says Dónal, “But effectively, Rory was very cautious about what would be portrayed, ie he didn’t want a documentary just showing a very negative side of Ireland, particularly the North and bombs and bullets, with the result that basically the film was made independently and given to the BBC for their Arena programme.

As befitting the appeal of Rory, this weekend features performances from the Dave McHugh band and promising young Cork talents Mishap, who will play a full set of Gallagher material.

While Rory’s genius lives through his records and the young musicians who have either found his music directly, or via the praise of high profile fans such as Johnny Marr and Slash, Dónal is aware of the failed campaign to memorialise Rory by renaming Cork Airport in his honour. Dónal feels that Cork has already given so much to Rory.

“Look, I think Cork has been tremendous. You can’t get much better than having a city square named after Rory. Dare I say, Rory’s buried in Cork; that’s where he wanted to be. Cork gave so much to Rory growing up. I mean, it was a great city to be inspired in and particularly reflecting back on the whole thing and then writing the eternal book about Rory, as you go through all your memories of Cork you say, ‘well, God, would you have got this experience anywhere else?’”

* When I’m 64 — Celebrating Rory Gallagher. Mar 2-3, Triskel Christchurch, Cork. www.triskelartscentre.ie


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