Conversation with Rory Gallagher, June 19, 1991


SC. What are you recording plans? In an interview you said you'd probably do a boxed-set, a live set, an acoustic set. Is that all included in a boxed set?

RG. They will be separate. Even in a boxed set, probably one side will be acoustic of tracks that have already been done. But my plans are little bit tilted now at the moment because of trying to get a new band together and what have you, and mixing these two albums. I think a boxed set and an acoustic album will come together in the next nine or ten months. You know, I have plenty of engagements that I can take up at the moment, but the most interesting one that I might do is work with the Irish group The Chieftains.

SC. Oh yeah?

RG. They are doing a TV show in Dublin and they invited me on that, and they are also doing a week of gigs in London with different people they want to experiment with. I am not sure whether I am free for that at the moment. But that will be something worth doing, you know

SC. Have you ever thought of doing a video concert or documentary?

RG. Oddly enough, Welsh television and Irish television both separately want to do a documentary on me in the future. I'd rather wait maybe another year to see what develops because it is something I wouldn't mind doing, not for the ego's sake, but for the sake of covering 20 odd years of music. That could be something interesting to do. Other than that, I am interested in film music anyway.

SC. Have you done any film music?

RG. I haven't. There is one vague offer, and it is the story of a blues band. It wouldn't be like Crossroads, but something in that line. I am still waiting on the script. The problem with that kind of music is that [laugh] Ry Cooder has cornered all that market.

SC. Have you written anything since Fresh Evidence?

RG. Oh I have. During the American tour I taped quite a few things in the hotel rooms. Mostly music rather than lyrics. I'll have to settle down for the lyrics. On the road you always jot down little bits and pieces. Those songs will be coming together in the next couple of months.

SC. When you write music, do you remember where you wrote Shadow Play, or Tatoo'd Lady? Or did you got into the studio with the intention of writing Shadow Play, or did you wake up one morning with the idea?

RG. Some songs I can distinctly remember where I was, whether I was in Cork, in Ireland, or London, or America. Oddly enough, when you are in the studio and the tapes are running and everything, quite often they would actually inspire you to write a song or finish a song that is only in the notebook. I can distinctly remember writing Shadow Play with a 12-string guitar because I was in bed with the flu in Ireland, and the effect of the flu seemed to affect me with the lyrics. Because with a bad flu you get slightly dazed with sleep and all that. But other songs I can't recall to mind right now, but some songs of course are half written today and half written a week later, or quite often they lie in the notebook for six months and you just simply can't put it together with the music or vice-versa. But after writing quite a few songs now, I've got, not a method, but a way of being patient with a couple of verses or a certain set of chords. I can match them up quicker now than I used to. The one thing you do improve is songwriting.

SC. I have another question. On Philby do you have electric sitar on that song?

RG. Yes. Yes, that is electric sitar which I am crazy about. I love the sound of that. I rented that one from the Who. Pete Townshend has a hire company. Eventually I got one in New Jersey. It is very hard to get, but there is a company now in America doing replicas of them. Jerry Jones is the name of the company. Now that's another case. I was in Portugal once on a short holiday, and I wrote Philby there. I remember that distinctly.

SC. I mean, that's a great song, I love that song. That is one song I kept playing over and over again.

RG. Thank you. I was fascinated by his story. I read every book I could get on him, and of course he is not a great hero in England. I don't agree with spying and so on, but he was so audacious. I never heard a song before that - on a spy or a specific spy. I often wondered if he ever heard it.

SC. Well, he passed away a couple of years ago, I think in Russia, didn't he?

RG. Yeah, but that was quite a few years after the song came out.

SC. There's two other songs, you know, Daughter of the Everglades, - now that is another favourite of mine. That is something I don't think you've done in concert, have you?

RG. I think we only did maybe once or twice ever. It was quite hard to perform because its acoustic guitar is very prominent on the record even though there is an electric guitar. I could do it with Lou Martin on keyboards.

SC. Do you still play with him?

RG. I don't, but oddly enough he played on one track on Fresh Evidence and one track on Defender. But that song we played around Louisiana. It was a very obvious place to play that because of the setting there and so on. I had this sort of ballad, this story of someone drifting from the city away from somebody. It is kind of a sad little story, but I quite like it myself.

SC. There is another song I kind of like - Failsafe Day.

RG. Oh yes.

SC. You haven't played that live, have you?

RG. I played that live in Europe. But unfortunately not too many times [in America], possibly once on the American tour, but we played it here quite a bit. I can't remember where I wrote that. The idea is like a holocaust type of situation, you know. I tried to make it not obvious as an Armageddon or anything like that. It is like, well I can't think East Berlin anymore [because] it wouldn't be the case. It is not unlike the idea of Heroes that David Bowie wrote. It is an isolated - an unusual city - where someone is getting very affected by it and the other person saying, you know, “"keep your control, keep your grip. The people running the world are not playing by the rules", something like that, you know.

SC. Especially on Defender and a lot of your songs, it seems like you read a lot of mystery novels, like on Last of the Independents. Do you read a lot of mystery books?

RG. I do, yeah. Well, I am a great fan of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

SC. Continental OP - it's like a tribute to him?

RG. It is, yes, indeed. It is his character, the Continental OP, a very vain detective, and I just wrote that one night after reading various stories of his, you know. He's got a book of short stories called the Big Knockover, and the “"OP" is in that. I've also got quite a few books on the life of Dashiell Hammett, which is quite an interesting story on what he's been through and so on. And I wrote songs like Big Guns which is about a guy who has bitten off more than he can chew. It is about a small-time crook. He's got to the point where he has no friends in the underworld and the police want him as well. And I used a similar type of guy, but more innocent, in the song called Loanshark Blues.

SC. Yup! You did that in Boston.

RG. Oh, did we do that?

SC. Yeah! It was great.

RG. Thank you. That one I was slightly influenced by The Picture on the Waterfront. The atmosphere more than the story. But I do read a lot of crime fiction, and I like Patricia Highsmith - she is a favourite of mine as well. She writes more psychological sort of stories. She has a lot of crime stories where she has maybe only one murder and only one cop in it, and it is not all cops and robbers.

End of part two

(c) 1995 by Shiv Cariappa

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