Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rory Gallagher: A Million Miles Away

It is a rainy day in my home base of the bustling metropolis of Beckley, WV and I am feeling a little distant. For my first blog commentary, I'm featuring a little Irish blues from the late Rory Gallagher: "A Million Miles Away."

In 1976, I had the opportunity to buy a fellow student’s (Steve Jerles) entire album collection of 120 or so items for what I considered a bargain price of $100. Of the recordings he amassed was an album that features this very same recording – Rory Gallagher’s Irish Tour '74. It was my introduction to one of the lesser known guitar greats: Rory Gallagher.

Gallagher is immediately recognizable by lamb-chop sideburns (which seem passé in 2009), the typical garment of choice (although not shown in this video) – a flannel shirt buttoned above the forearms, and a beat-up Fender Stratocaster that reportedly was the first of its kind imported into Ireland.

If you love the blues and this song strikes a chord with you, I would suggest as an introduction to the guitar playing of Messr. Gallagher to buy this CD posthaste. The albums "Tattoo" and "The Story so Far" are also recommended.

As for Rory, his battle with alcoholism resulted in a liver transplant in 1995. While the transplant was generally considered a success, a MRSA infection developed which resulted in his death on June 14, 1995 in London. Having no progeny to carry on his legacy, his brother Donal has consistently kept Rory’s memory alive.

Long live this Irish guitar great.

As a side note, this song also features a keyboard solo by Lou Martin. Martin's instrument of choice was an RMI Electrapiano, which was used by many British artists in the '60s and '70s.  While this was not my favorite electric piano (I owned a Wurlitzer that I beat to death), it did have some interesting sounds.  I only had the opportunity to play an RMI once.  It was owned by the keyboardist of the Pittsburgh based "Brick Alley."  "Brick Alley" later changed their name to the "Iron City Houserockers" when they signed to MCA Records.

The name "Brick Alley," by the way, is infamously associated with my hometown of McKeesport, Pennsylvania. If you are curious, search "Brick Alley" and McKeesport and you'll find the story of one of the Tube City's worst claims to fame.

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