Rory Gallagher’s best songs

By Sergio Ariza

Rory Gallagher is one of the best guitarists that ever existed, we all agree on that, but that fame makes us forget that this guy also composed and performed great songs, beyond his splendid solos. It's a shame that today he is still remembered more for a false story, (the one that says that when Jimi Hendrix was asked what it felt like to be the best guitarist in the world and he answered "ask Rory Gallagher") than for having written songs like A Million Miles Away or I Fall Apart, or albums like Tattoo or Calling Card. So, from Guitars Exchange we would like to pay tribute to him remembering some of our favorite songs from his golden repertoire.

A Million Miles Away  

A Million Miles Away is my favourite song by Rory Gallagher, it begins with an introduction riding a British folk flavour that recalls the work with the acoustics of people like Bert Jansch or John Renbourn, who were without a doubt some of Gallagher's favourites. Then comes his voice, which is not as savvy as his guitar playing, but is able to express a lot of emotions until he reaches one of his best chorus. Of course, such a song can be used several times to show off his guitar, highlighting its spectacular use of harmonics. The original studio version appeared on the album Tattoo, released in 1973, but the definitive one appears on the best album of his career, the incredible Irish Tour released live a year later. For the studio version he used an unusual guitar, although he also recorded Cradle Rock with it, a Danelectro 3021 plugged into a Fender Twin, while for the live version, on the Irish Tour, he used his particular Excalibur, his 1961 Fender Stratocaster plugged into a Fender Bassman.

I Fall Apart

When you think of Rory Gallagher you often think of his most explosive pieces, played by a virtual volcano on stage, but the best of his discography may be in his slower tempos and ballads. When Rory turned down the tempo, the magic used to come out in bursts. An example of this is I Fall Apart from his first solo album, released in 1971, in which he builds a magnificent crescendo until he unleashes a magnificent riff that serves as a preamble to a solo in which his Strato flies free plugged into a Vox AC30, acting as the final climax.

Tattoo'd Lady

Tattoo'd Lady is another of the great songs of his career. It is one of his best compositions and is performed with brutal strength and conviction, both in its studio version, in the remarkable Tattoo, and live, in the outstanding Irish Tour. The latter is only capable of transporting you to guitar paradise, if there is such a thing (listening to Rory, one would say yes).

I'll Admit You're Gone

Gallagher's best moments may have come from wasting adrenaline on a stage, but that doesn't take away the fact that his studio albums have true wonders. Of all the studio albums, my favorite is Calling Card, released in 1976. It's an album full of great songs, from the jazz touches (reminiscent of Van Morrisons Moondance ) in the title song to the 'hard rock' force of songs like Moonchild or Do You Read Me, but my favorite moments in it come in the calmer moments. The best of all is this acoustic beauty in which Rory brings out all his delicate, sensitive moments. His work with the acoustic slide is masterful but the song stands on its own, a folkie wonder that shows us the tenderest side of the Irishman. It sounds halfway between Rod Stewart's first solo albums and a song by Dave Davies from the late 1960s.

Bullfrog Blues (Live In Europe)

I said before that when we think of Rory we imagine him unleashing the ecstasy of blues rock on stage. Basically we imagine him playing Bullfrog Blues on the mythical Live In Europe, along with the legendary Gerry McAvoy on bass and Wilgar Campbell bangin’  drums, which in this song also have their brief moment of glittering glory with their instruments, although in the end, they are eclipsed by a new demonstration of class by Gallagher with his special Telecaster for songs with his slide touch.

Edged in Blue

One of the greatest hidden jewels in his catalogue. Edged In Blue is one of the saddest, most beautiful pop melodies of his entire career. His introduction on the guitar is simply masterful, serving as a preamble to a song in which Rory manages to thrill us completely. It was included in the magnificent Calling Card, the album that served as a farewell to his classical line up with Gerry McAvoy on bass, Lou Martin on keyboards and Rod de'Ath on drums, with which he recorded five of the most important albums of his career, including the aforementioned, Tattoo and  Irish Tour.

Bad Penny

Top Priority, released in 1979, is one of the hardest rock albums of his career, as proven by songs like Philby or this Bad Penny, in which Gallagher sounds in tune with other Irish musicians of the time, Phil Lynott's Thin Lizzy. Something that is not so strange if we bear in mind that that same year Gallagher shared the stage with them in Hamburg, in a concert in which he even played 'Greenie' herself, Peter Green's Les Paul that belonged to Gary Moore. Although, how could it be otherwise, in this song, he relies on his beloved Strat again, to which he added a pedal BOSS ME-5 for the live versions.

Who’s That Coming?

Who's That Coming? is proof that, beyond Duane Allman, there is no one who can throw shade at him with the slide. He recorded it for the remarkable 1973 Tattoo but, as was always the case the Irishman, the song found its best version performed live, specifically in the legendary Irish Tour the following year. For this song Gallagher momentarily leaves behind his famous ‘61 Stratocaster, to play his favourite on the slide, his white ‘66 Fender Telecaster. The result is as spectacular as you would expect from one of the best guitarists of all time.


Crest Of A Wave

Rory's second solo album, Deuce, is his first great solo work and the peak of his career as the head of a 'power trio'. It is enough to listen to the song that served to close of it, this Crest Of A Wave with a fantastic bass by the indispensable McAvoy and incredible work to the guitar by Gallagher, again shining with the slide, achieving a sharp, raw and aggressive sound.

For The Last Time

Included in his first solo album, Rory Gallagher, this brilliant slow tempo number is about the bittersweet separation from Taste, the band he played with at the Wight Festival, and how his manager kept all his money after the breakup, causing Gallagher to borrow money from his mother in order to record his debut. The bitterness is reflected both in the music, with his Stratocaster sounding lofty, as well as the lyrics. At just 23 years of age we can appreciate an absolute master, able to get the most out of the emotions on his instrument. Rory may not have been a paragon of virtues when writing lyrics, but with his melodies and guitar work he was able to express himself with the same emotion as a poet laureate.