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Description Edge Wins 1st Annual Rory Gallagher Rock Musician Award
excerpt from Hot Press, April 3, 1996
In his acceptance speech, Edge explained how much the award meant to him, as Rory was an inspiration that helped him to choose music as his path, as he described how he was "aged 15, at his first major rock 'n' roll show, down in Macroom, seeing what three guys could do with a couple of guitars and a set of drums. With that in mind, I want to accept the award on behalf of all the young men and women in bedsits and bedrooms all over the country trying to work out how to do that first Bar A chord, and dreaming of being in a rock 'n' roll band, up there on stage making a lot of noise. In 1966, that would have been Rory at home in Cork, and about ten years later that would have been me in Malahide doing exactly the same thing."
Backstage, Edge paid tribute to the pioneering work of Rory Gallagher as Ireland's first rock star. "In terms of his contribution to rock 'n' roll in this country, he will always be remembered. He was the first. He was the guy that did it when it was unheard of in Ireland. A lot of the bands and artists that came after him really should thank him for preparing the way.
"Rory was an inspiration on a number of levels, firstly, because he was Irish. That was a huge thing for me as a guitar player of 15 or 16. I took great pride in the fact that he was doing well. Seeing what Rory and his band could do on stage was an absolute eye-opener, a mind-blower. I had already started working with the four members of the band, because at that stage my brother Dick was with us as well, and it was a very critical point in my own life as a musician. It was a boost to my morale, and it gave me a new lease of determination and energy."
So what did it mean to Edge to lift this award, having won practically everything else worth winning throughout his career? For the first time all night, Edge's eloquence lets him down slightly, as he seems genuinely emotive and even choked up.
"There are awards and there are awards," he says slowly. "This is really special because it is the first time this award has been given to anyone. Particularly under the circumstances of Rory passing away last year. I just think it has extra significance for me. It is an incredible honour and great pleasure to be recognised with this award. But also, it brings it home in a very real way that Rory is gone now, so it brings mixed feelings."
Rory Gallagher is the unsung hero of contemporary blues-rock guitar. Unlike his peers who compromised their loyalty to the genre for the sake of commercial acceptance...the feisty Irishman wouldn't allow any singles to be culled from his albums. In contrast to the stylistic jazz-rock leaps of Jeff Beck, Gallagher remained a steadfast devotee of flinty blues-based rock throughout his career. And unlike the shooting star that was Jimi Hendrix, even though Rory died a premature death—at 51 due to a liver ailment—his career entailed close to thirty years and over a dozen studio and live albums...The antithesis of flash and celebrity, customarily dressed in flannel shirt and jeans, Rory Gallagher, stormed the stage and inhabited it as if a man possessed. And possessed he was by a devotion to the blues that perhaps has no equal among contemporary guitarists and musicians.
1974’s live Irish Tour is simply one of the greatest live albums of all time, an incredible document capturing a band that few (if any) others could match once the lights went down. Recorded at Belfast’s Ulster Hall at a time when few artists dared play in Northern Ireland, Gallagher instead was a unifier of fans during this violent and inauspicious time in the country‘s history. Not only recorded for audio, the tour was also filmed by Tony Palmer and released in the U.K. as a full-scale film, a precursor of sorts to the music-video craze that would follow years later.
What made the album so special?
“I think before that, Rory recognized that that lineup had clicked, particularly after the Tattoo album,” said Donal. “They were touring, and [the band] was a well-oiled machine. And they were playing night after night, so the band was firing on all cylinders. So, at that point, they were doing an Irish tour, and I remember saying to Rory that taking a crew to Northern Ireland wasn’t the safest thing to do right now. I remember him saying that he didn’t know if he would ever reach a point like this again with a band — there would obviously be different peaks with different musicians — but he thought this lineup was peaking right then.”
Peaking it was. Irish Tour is a selection of tunes cherry-picked from numerous dates within the country. The album is one highlight after another. We‘re treated to a blistering version of “Cradle Rock” and the slow burn of “A Million Miles Away,” with some of Martin’s finest keys work. The entire set moves with the energy of a herd of wildebeests crossing the Serengeti.
“Rory was flat out… I used to marvel at him. He was like an athlete. ‘How can you play guitar and remember all those lyrics?’ Plus, the hidden talent of being a great bandleader. He wouldn’t even tell musicians what the next number was. They’d get a clue by the little riff, and they’d just have to get in once he started — particularly the drummers, I think it took its toll. You just didn’t know how long any number might be. The sweat on those guys [the band members from playing]. I remember spending all night in the bars just to recover[laughs]. And some nights there’d be three or four encores.
“I think it was his interaction with the audience. He’d get on stage and hit you straight between the eyes, and then take a read of the audience as to what kind of audience he had — how he’d have to work them, if they were more laid back. He was very much sort of that master entertainer.
“Another hidden talent of Rory’s that doesn’t get mentioned a lot was that he had a great sense of theatre, and stage, and drama. And that’s why Rory’s really found his niche with these DVDs. Not a lot of music from that era stands up — stuff was very fashionable — but his music stands up because of the massive performance; there’s a drama. You can see that in people like Bruce Springsteen, where there’s a sense of stage drama.”
Gallagher’s talents, hidden or otherwise, were not going unnoticed among his peers. He would be courted by The Rolling Stones as a possible replacement for Mick Taylor — playing to an enthusiastic Mick Jagger while Keith Richards snoozed in a slumber, naturally induced or otherwise — and Deep Purple was interested in Rory to fill the shoes of a departed Ritchie Blackmore. But, he chose to stay on his own path and play his own music. One can only wonder, however, what the Stones or Purple would have sounded like under the mark of Gallagher’s guitar.
By his own admission, Gallagher lived and breathed music. A day without playing the guitar was virtually unknown.
In a 1976 interview with International Musician, Gallagher noted: “A day [without touching a guitar] is my limit. If I’m stuck in a city somewhere, and the gear has to fly on and I can’t get my hands on a guitar, I go nuts. It happened to me once or twice, and I really felt like the guy [Linus] in ‘Peanuts’ without the blanket. I have to go down to a music store and play for half an hour. It’s like a real hunger. I used to bring a Martin around with me, but now I’ve got a tune-up amp called a Dwarf. It’s like the Pignose, but you know the way the Pignose is very fuzzy. This one’s dead clean, but you can fuzz it up if you want. It’s good because it’s one thing rehearsing with an acoustic, but the electric is such a different character. You have to work on both of them. Sometimes, you can’t write on an acoustic and vice versa. But, I have ended up with some crazy situations whereby I wrote an acoustic number and it ended up as an electric number. ‘Sinner Boy’ was one like that.”
Gallagher’s uncompromising ways were great for his music, but it also put limits on who might actually hear it. Although he sold some 20 million albums during his lifetime, it was without the support of radio hits and singles. In fact, he was anti-single, not wanting to be pigeonholed into the “hits cycle” that so many others perilously rode before being tossed.
So much for the reviews. I was living in Southern California when he toured to promote the Irish Tour 74 album. After catching his set at the Don Kirshner Rock Concert taping (which I will upload if enough people like this) I was so impressed that I caught him 4 more times around the Southland the same week. No 2 shows were the same other than that they were ALL examples of what live performance SHOULD be (ie MUSIC over FLASH)
In closing, to quote Rory, Hope you like it
Type Concert Videos