Initial Release: May 1st, 1972 / Remastered Release 2018
Record Label: UMC
Producer: Rory Gallagher
Rory Gallagher (Guitar, Vocals, Mandolin & Harmonica)
Gerry McAvoy (Bass)
Wilgar Campbell (Drums & Percussion)
Live In Europe has served as a massive influence on budding musicians: Adam Clayton and The Edge of U2 both cite this album as the recording that made them want to learn guitar and play in a band – they were still schoolboys at the time!
After sharing a festival bill in Berlin with Rory, Stuart Copeland (then with Curved Air) was so overwhelmed with the live impact of Rory’s trio, that he left that band and formed a trio which he called The Police. For some time Rory had wanted to capture the adrenaline and excitement of his live performances. Whilst touring extensively in Europe he decided to record his shows. The results were little short of phenomenal and Live! in Europe earned Rory his first gold disc.
In 1972 Rory was interviewed for Rolling Stone magazine by the renowned photographer and rock journalist Mick Rock. This excellent interview coincided with the release of Live! in Europe and offers the reader a unique insight into Rory on tour. As it perfectly captured the man behind the myth, that interview is reproduced here:
“It’s a dreary town; a dead one, some might say. And that’s not a bad description. But even lost little towns like this one, perched some thirty miles off the North-Western tip of London, have their events. The event this night was at the local polytechnic. At the door it was the usual scene; they were grabbing the money, and packin’ ‘em in so fast and tight, I thought at one point they were going to stack ‘em two or three high. “Rory, Rory, Rory” they chant impatiently.
Rory Gallagher has come to Luton. “It’s a strange town, this.” he muses, slowly crinkling his eyes. “Haven’t been here since the early days with Taste”. And that was over five years ago. It’s been a steady growth. For four years he led Taste, one of the tightest, bluesiest units around, while they built up a big following in Britain and Europe. Their one visit to the U.S. was as support to Blind Faith. When Taste split up just over a year ago, a lot of people were surprised. But it had to be. “It was a music thing. It got to be a blockade. Me and the boys just wanted to play different things. My ears wanted to do the sort of things I’m doing now. They wanted to write their own music; a kind of ‘lifetime’ thing. They formed a group the week after we split. They obviously wanted to do something very quickly. They took the manager.
I didn’t and went out on my own.” It was probably the best move he ever made. There were in fact two Tastes. Rory was the one common factor in both. But although Taste had always played Rory’s songs, they never somehow quite played his music.
Earlier this winter, he toured the U.S. under his own name with two new sidemen, and he’s returning in April. The trip put the big lights under his name and, more importantly to Rory, solidified the new line-up. “It’s a 24 hour music thing while you’re there. Wracks your nerves a bit, but it stirs your energy. It’s just what we needed.” He’s wary of his surge in popularity, which is rapidly spiraling him into the dubious heights of superstardom. “Imagine being last year’s superstar,” he grimaces. “I’d prefer to be thought of as a good musician. That other bit is too Hollywood for me. It seems a waste to me to work and work for years, really getting your music together, then to make it big, as some people do and just turn into some sort of personality. You play less, you perform less, you circulate less. It becomes something completely different. That young retired musician bit doesn’t interest me.”
He’s a serious man; somehow older, wiser than his 23 years. He knows the business well and, not surprisingly, finds it lacking. “The thing is to organise yourself as much as you can, to stay outside the system as much as you can, while still being able to organise your gigs and records.” Not that he has any complaints about his recording label, Polydor. “They give me all the freedom I need. Although, I think they are still a bit shaken by the Taste break-up. In some senses, things were going very well.” But Rory’s a very independent man. There’s only one way he’s going and that’s his own. “Luckily I’ve always known what I wanted. Sometimes I’ve found it difficult to explain. Sometimes I’ve waited too long for other people to organise things. Then I’ve had to go ahead and do it anyway. That’s the only way. I’ve realised that if you know what you want, you can go out and get it and people will respect you for it. If you talk to people straight, they’ll know where they stand and dig it.”
Off stage, he moves slowly, thoughtfully; on stage he stomps and shakes and sweats like a master. Suddenly during a number he’ll leap right up close to his bassman, Gerry McAvoy, or drummer, Wilgar Campbell, and pound his guitar at them, yowl and spit, urging them further and further into the music. “It just happens like that. I mean, it’s jungle music, isn’t it? If there’s a beat there, it wasn’t intended so that you’d stand there with a straight face.” Rory’s face performs muscular miracles when he plays. “If I’m doin’ something slow, then I don’t move much. But some nights I get out there and there’s so much excitement I’ve got to move a bit. I wouldn’t like people to hold it against me. I wouldn’t like to get into that showman first, musician second thing.” He pauses, thoughtfully. “But I like to move about .” Still he is a showman and no-one seems to hold it against him. He’s good value for money by any standards. He played for two and a half hours that night after being booked for one. Luton had its event. It cost Rory six strings. “I’ve never done that many before,” he says, puzzled. “A strange night.” He sits there, staring out in front of him. “I love playing to people. It means a lot to me, the audience. it’s not the whole thing. I love recording too. But I need regular and frequent contact with the public. It gives me energy.” He talks quietly, but with emphasis, patiently weighing each new turn of conversation. Rory can’t remember what stage-fright means. “I get a little nervy, tense sometimes but that’s all. I’ve been playing in front of people since I was nine, you see.” Which does make a difference. “I was playin’ before that even. I mean I had a wooden guitar at nine but i had a couple of ukuleles before that. Not that I could really play them. But it was a start.” Gently he rubs a cloth over his battered guitar, a companion of eight years. He lifts it to his ear, resting the strings. “You’ve got to respect your audience. I played in Irish showbands years ago; you’d be playin’ for 5 hours at a time and never get a clap…It was all dancin’. I was fifteen when I first started with one. I’d already done the school boy Lonnie Donegan bit. I only joined a showband ‘cause there was no other place to go with an electric guitar. It was alright. I could do some of the things I liked. We’d have to play all the Top 20 stuff. You learn a lot of basic stuff. Mostly you learn what sort of music you don’t want to play. Things are different now.” They are. Luton is typical.
He has a well-balanced act. He warms up with a couple of electric numbers; continues with some acoustic, a mandolin one – his country style, Goin’ To My Hometown, as yet unrecorded, but to be featured on his new ‘live’ album which is being recorded on his present European tour, is already firmly established wih his audiences; some slide work, then, anything…‘Sinnerboy’ from his first solo work, Rory Gallagher, is a crowd favourite. “It’s probably my favourite on that album too. It’s got a bit of a story to it. About an alcoholic. I like that sort of thing. You know, like Woody Gutherie’s stuff. I like to mix it. A lot of my stuff is very personal. It’s good to get away from it sometimes.”
In the car on the way back to London, Rory has mellowed out. He has every reason for feeling cool. He has recorded the first tracks for his live album; he’s in the mood to talk about it. “There will be one or two standards, maybe ‘Sinnerboy’, a lot of current songs and one or two entirely new ones. So it’ll be about 90% unrecorded material. Luckily I’ve got some numbers that are almost stage favourites which have never been on record.” Rory has always been known as a bluesman; but he’s keen to develop his sound. “I’ve always been interested in things other than blues, but the blues have always remained somehow the strongest in me. Sometimes I’m much closer to people like Hank Snow or Hank Williams. Basically I’m into what used to be known as ‘down-home’ music. Something that’s closer to the ground. Obviously I do it my way – but that’s the kind of feel I’m after. I wouldn’t be satisfied if it was just playin’ other peoples’ music or just the blues, mine or anybody else’s. It’s my own songwriting, my own development which is more important.”
And Rory is a prolific songwriter. He writes all the time. Already he’s looking ahead to his next studio album, which will be completely new material, not even on the ‘live’ album. Rory sits hunched. He’s always hunched; the result of so many years nursing guitars. His eyes are definitely twinkling now. Once he warms to someone he gives off a very good feeling. A direct, trusting one. He refuses to play the star and resents any attempt to lay it on him. He never puts anyone down. He just somehow withdraws and gets on with what he’s doing. People keep saying that he doesn’t realise how good he is. And he is good. So good that his next tour of the States will see him riding far higher than he’s ever wanted. But it won’t change him; that’s certain. “Man, he’s just always been like this,” says an old friend who now works for him. For all the respect for the older musicians, he considers some of the younger ones just as important, maybe more so. “There are the few who are showing where it’s all goin’. I really dig Ry Cooder and John Hammond. They’re much more important than the guitar superstars. They explore much more deeply. And I really liked Al Wilson with Canned Heat. His slideplayin’ and his harp playin’ were very special. He struck me as a serious sort of musician. Not that intellectual sort of seriousness. Just the total involvement. He was definitely in contact with somewhere else. I met him once. We didn’t talk a lot. But he’s really stuck in my mind. You see, I like people who write songs, and maybe collect them. I’m not too knocked out by a guy who just plays a good guitar, you see. It has to go beyond that.”
He’s not worried about the attention he gets. He has it well worked out. “Some people get all worried about this fantasy and reality thing, you know, the stage only being the fantasy. I don’t see it like that. It makes things easier if you treat the stage as reality. Reality is doing the thing you’re best at.”
One thing does worry him. As we speed into the heart of the city, Rory hunches deeper into his seat. He turns slowly to his driver, crinkling his eyes: “That’s a strange town, you know. When did I ever bust six strings in a night before?”