A Taste for Rory Gallagher

Back in 1969 I was lucky to be working at the Marquee studio which was round the back of the Marquee club in Wardour Street, London. I would sneak in the back door of the club at the end of the work day after a drink at the Ship pub to sit and catch the best of the bands appearing at the club.                                              

In those days the club used to have about six to eight rows of chairs in front of the stage and one evening I got in real early and sat in front of a Vox AC 30 amp perched on top of a chair. Plugged into that amp was a Fender Stratocaster with most of the wood vanish rubbed off the body of the guitar with a treble booster with was used during the solos. By the end of the evening my ears didn’t stop ringing for a week, but what a special evening.

Rory Gallagher was appearing with his first  group from Ireland Taste a blues/rock  trio with John Wilson on Drums and Charlie McCracken on Bass. You have to go a long way to find a rhythm section as good as these two with Rory Gallagher on guitar and vocals and sometimes saxophone and harmonica this trio took some beating.

Like a lot of the European guitarists he was drawing heavily from the American  blues players of the 40’s and 50’s, but I must say the boy from Ballyshannon, County Donegal in Ireland could certainly play it well!                       

Their first release in 1969 was the self titled album Taste’  on the Polydor label. The album features tracks which would become live crowd pleasers like the blues classic ‘Sugar Mama’ a seven minute epic and ‘Catfish’ an eight minute epic along with originals ‘Blister on the Moon’ and ‘Same Old Story’. This album has a very raw sound with few overdubs. It is slightly jazzy in places but doesn’t stray to far from the  blues with Rory playing some great slide guitar and finishing off with a version of the Hank Snow country song I’m Moving On’.

After listening to the album you knew you had been listening to something special and live this was even more of a powerful experience seeing the band in action.

Night after night Rory and the boys would deliver on the live circuit with Gallagher acting very humble and thankful for the enthusiastic response from the audience. No superstar trip here this was a great live band delivering the goods. Rory would dress in his denim jeans and lumberjack shirt with his long hair hanging down in front of his face as he played and John & Charlie would not miss a beat whether they were appearing in a small club or at an open air festival across the countries of Europe.

In 1970 Taste released their second album on Polydor called ‘On The Boards’ which made the British charts. The album starts off where the previous one finishes off and the lead track What’s Going On’ shows a progressive maturity with all three players on top form.                                                          

The title track and ‘It’s Happened Before, It’ll Happen Again’ sees Rory playing a jazzy Alto Sax and the other two guys stretching out and showing their own capabilities on each track. Eat My Words ‘ allows Rory to attack his guitar with some vicious bottleneck playing then on other tracks you have the beauty of his acoustic guitar playing.

Both albums are worth seeking out.

I wonder what direction this band would have gone if they had stayed together….. maybe in a Van Morrison jazzier direction…. unfortunately Rory was to break up the band to head off into the world of  a solo performer while McCracken and Wilson were to form a new group called Stud with Jim Cregan (later guitarist of the Rod Stewart band). Rumour has it that dodgy management didn’t want Rory to spilt the earnings three ways with the other two and in future would keep his backing musicians on wages, anyway sad to say Rory Gallagher passed away in 1995 at the age of 47 but he did have a long and successful solo career.              

If you like your guitar players with a blues edge then add these albums to your collection and raise a pint of Guinness and remember Rory, John, Charlie and Taste the boys from Ireland.

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