Last week I finally purchased the Rory Gallagher documentary Ghost Blues, a 2 DVD set filled with interviews, general information and a whole set of his BBC performances, and yesterday I finally got the chance to watch the whole thing. And I will admit right from the start: I am totally biased here, because Rory is one of my all time favorites. So what else am I going to tell you other than if you don’t own this masterpiece already, then you’re missing out on something, this is as good as it gets, hands down. I do have a lot of Rory material, meaning primarily DVDs, CDs and a few VHS tapes – which reminds me I should get them converted to DVD asap. Anyway, this documentary is a gem, because it not only features Rory’s brother Donal Gallagher sharing a lot of his insight into his relationship with Rory, but also a bunch of other music icons such as Slash, Bob Geldof, The Edge, Bill Wyman who all had an individual and interesting perspective to offer. Of course, it’s not surprising that everybody has nothing but praise for Rory, acknowledging both, his brilliant guitar playing as well as his qualities as a humble and down to earth person.
One interesting fact I was actually unaware of is related to Rory’s infamous Sunburst Fender which always looked like it got ripped around the scenes quite a bit – however, I learned that the deteriorating coating of the body of his guitar was actually a result of high alkaline levels in Rory’s blood. So it was actually primarily Rory’s sweat that caused this kind of signature look his 100 pounds – that’s what his parents had to pay for the instrument which was back then an enormous amount of money – Fender is known for. As Donal also stated, Rory had a super rare blood type which later on became a big issue as he got sick.
Ghost Blues – Rory Gallagher And Why He Did It His Way
I knew that Rory was offered to join the Rolling Stones after Mick Taylor had left the band. But it was actually very interesting hearing Bill Wyman sharing more details around what happened. They actually played together for a couple of times but I guess it became clear that this guy was not somebody you could put next to two super egos such as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Rory is not only a fabulous guitarist, but he is also a great singer and that makes him a true leader and frontman. Getting molded to fit into the “let’s produce another hit single” machine known as the Rolling Stones wouldn’t have worked out. Thank God. And before I get too much heat here, I do like the Stones – and yes, maybe Rory would have been able to make much more dough but if one thing is clear, this was a man of integrity and belief who wasn’t willing to give up what he thought was the right thing to do just for money.
He was authentic and this in my opinion sets him apart from many of his peers. Because it’s not that he wouldn’t have had ample opportunity to get in for some quick wins – after all, the Stones offered him the job. He was also repeatedly asked to play in showbands and produce cookie cutter hit singles. And I wholeheartedly believe he could have produced them easily – but he didn’t want to, because he followed a different philosophy. I guess you could also say that it appears that money was never really a true motivation for him.
Ghost Blues contains two DVDs. The first one features all the interviews with Rory, Donal and the other guys I had mentioned (and I few others that I didn’t bring up here). The second one are selected performances of the “Beat Club” sessions. Everything has been technically enhanced for this DVD so sound and picture are phenomenal. Here is the track list:
The Beat Club Sessions
2) Hands Up
4) Just The Smile
5) Used To Be
6) In Your Town
7) Should’ve Learned My Lesson
8) Crest Of A Wave
9) Tore Down
10) Pistol Slapper Blues
11) I Don’t Know Where I’m Going
12) Going To My Hometown
13) I Could’ve Had Religion
14) McAvoy Boogie
15) Hoodoo Man
16) Messin’ With The Kid
To this day I’m not sure if I prefer the Taste stuff over his solo work. I think I like them both equally well and I don’t think you can actually compare them to each other. But anyway, Ghost Blues covers both periods extensively. When I finished watching the first DVD I was kind of sad. What a shame that he died at such a young age. I only had the chance to see him once at a music festival in Germany. A couple of years later he had died and I remember that our local newspaper granted him a small article titled: “Der Gitarrenkumpel ist tot.” You could translate that to “The ‘Guitar-Buddy’ is dead”. I think this expression describes very well how his fans view him – he’s not up there on a pedestal doing his thing looking down at the audience. He’s right in the middle of the crowed, right on the same level, he didn’t mind when people hopped on the stage starting to dance or headbanging with him. Just an all-around likable guy who happened to be one of the best guitarist ever – or the other way around, I don’t know.
I bought my Ghost Blues: The Story of Rory Gallagher & the Beat Club Sessions through amazon – here is a link: