Rory Gallagher’s nephew Daniel discovers gold in the archives on new album, Blues
The story behind the Irish guitar legend’s new album, and the labour of love unearthing it.
Image: Mark Sullivan / Contour / Getty Images
“For me, it’s just the talking between takes. Those are special little moments, as his nephew and also loving his music… hearing him… it’s a weird thing.” Daniel Gallagher has spent much of his adult life working with Rory Gallagher’s huge archive of gear and recordings. When we ask him to pick out a highlight of the meticulous process of creating the brand-new collection of rare and unheard material entitled Blues, it’s clear that it was a personal journey as much as a musical one.
“I don’t think anyone but the hardcore would want them on the album,” he chuckles, “but you get all these jokes, false starts… the drummer drops a stick and it starts a big argument… they’re really special.”
We’re sat in the rather lovely surroundings of New Kings Road Vintage Guitar Emporium – the legendary London guitar shop a stone’s throw from the house where Rory lived before his tragic death in 1995 and where Daniel grew up. Understandably, the location alone brings back plenty of memories of his uncle.
“Obviously, we weren’t out boozing together!” Daniel jokes. “But he’d come over a lot for Sunday lunch, because he lived up the road from us. I remember 1987 was the first time I saw him play live, at the Hammersmith Odeon. My dad took me and my older brother. He didn’t tell us where we were going and next thing we knew, we were at the side of the stage, and my uncle saw us and just started duck-walking across to us!
“It was crazy, because even though he would tell me he was a musician… I thought he said he was a magician – because he’d always do magic tricks for me! So I’d never really thought too much about it as a five-year-old! But I was just totally blown away by what he was doing… and then to look out and see this audience going crazy. I didn’t realise he and my dad were that cool!”
The process of putting together the full three-disc deluxe package has been a long one, facilitated by a deal signed with Universal Records and Chess that finally enabled Daniel to do something with the huge archive of recordings that Rory left behind when he passed away.
“They moved all of the tape archive over to New York to their storage and digitising team – there were over a thousand different masters and multi-tracks,” Daniel exclaims. “As we were moving them all over, I noted when I thought, ‘Oh that looks a bit odd…’ – things that had stuff written on that I hadn’t heard of before. And we were able to say: ‘Well, let’s digitise that and see what’s on it!’
“We found stuff that we never knew existed. There was a tape just marked, ‘Rory with Van Morrison’. And I was like, ‘If we’ve got a fucking track and he’s convinced Van to do the vocals…’ So straight away, I got them to digitise it, but it turns out that Van was just sat in the control room having a cigarette and a drink listening to the band record, but apparently the engineer wanted to mark the occasion!”
It wasn’t all wild-goose chases, however – sometimes the archive’s eccentric labelling turned up some gems.
“There’s a full electric version of As The Crow Flies with the full band that would have been recorded at Polydor Studios in 1973, the same session as Tattoo… but it was written ‘Crawford Files’, or that’s how it looked on the tape! So I was like, ‘Is this some old TV show that he’s recorded?!’ But we digitised it, and found these two takes of him doing As The Crow Flies, which he later decided to go on and do solo with the National resonator.”
“There’s some really cool stuff, but there’s still a tonne of other stuff – there’s only so many tapes I can convince them to let me digitise at once! So there’s a lot more to keep searching through.”