Rory Gallagher (A-Z #45)

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Born in March 1949 in Ballyshannon, Donegal, Ireland, Rory Gallagher started his musical career in a series of school bands in Cork before forming his first true band – The Fontana Showband. A little later they changed this to The Impact and by 1965 had secured a residency in Hamburg mostly playing Chuck Berry covers.

In 1966, just as the British blues revival was gathering steam, Rory disbanded The Impact to form ‘Taste’ with Norman Damery and Eric Kitteringham. Although the band’s debut album failed to break through, Taste persevered and hit the top 20 with the 1970 release of the follow-up ‘On the Boards’.

The album established Rory Gallagher as Ireland’s ambassador of the blues guitar and set the stage for his forthcoming solo career. Releasing a self-titled debut which made the top 40 in 1971, Rory continued to build his audience base with an exhausting touring schedule. Described as ‘the working man’s guitarist’, mainly due to his non-conformist attire of checked shirts, jeans and ruffled hair, he followed the debut with ‘Deuce’ later in 1971. But it was the massive top 10 success of ‘Live in Europe’ released in 1972 that catapulted him to super-stardom.

For me though, excellent as ‘Live in Europe’ is, there are several other albums which are unjustifiably under-rated. ‘Blueprint’ (1972), ‘Tattoo’ (1973), ‘The story so far’ (1976) and ‘Fresh Evidence’ (1990) stand amongst his most overlooked.

Moving to Chrysalis records shortly after the release of the double live album ‘Irish Tour 74′, sadly his form began to slump a little faced with the pressure of a new, leaner breed of up and coming guitar acts. But, although his commercial appeal subsided a little with each subsequent album release, his live performances never waned.

Ultimately death was the only thing that could prise Rory Gallagher away from his guitar. He passed away in June 1995 after suffering complications following a liver transplant. However, even though it’s now almost twenty years, the excitement and sheer brilliance that sealed his entry into the ‘Rock n Roll hall of fame’ lives on in this electrifying version of ‘Bullfrog Blues’ from a French gig in 1980.

Free (A-Z #44)

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Although All Right Now is undoubtably the starting point into the Free story for those still discovering them some 44 years after their main split early in 1971, it was in fact the last track they recorded for the album it would eventually close – the ground-breaking ‘Fire and Water. The album itself was released in June 1970, just as the single was being kept from the Number 1 spot by Mungo Jerry’s ‘In the summertime’

Fire and Water was actually the band’s third album but they’d been together for just 18 months when they recorded it over two separate sessions at the beginning of 1970. However, it also marked the beginning of their demise thanks, in no small part, to the brilliance of ‘All Right Now’.

This was quite possibly the first truly post-modern song in rock, its memorable song-along lyrics and the stuff of myriad post-millenium karaoke sessions an admission of pragmatism to the ‘love is freedom’ mantra of the late 60s coupled with one of the greatest rock guitar riffs of all time. ‘All Right Now’ reached Number 1 in over 20 countries world-wide after which it would go on to receive upwards of three and a half million airplays over the succeeding forty-four years.

So it’s sadly ironic that the success of ‘All Right Now’ robbed Free of the musical freedom they had built up in the 18 months leading up to the release of ‘Fire and Water’. All Right Now became bigger than all of them; they couldn’t follow it with anything that came close and, despite a number of post-album landmark gigs in several countries, Free split early in 1971.┬áThere was a brief reformation a year later and two more albums – but the spark had gone and, as the glitter years took hold, Free disbanded for good.

Fire and Water lives on though. It’s a timeless classic and is as much about now (2015) as it was about then (1970). It’s got that timeless something that grabs you by the unmentionables and shouts into your soul. Just seven tracks from the opening magic of the title track through to the closing thunder of ‘All Right Now’, but seven tracks of heaven that assure Free of Classic Rock band status and the album as one of the best of our times.

to make way for the massive success

Public Service Broadcasting

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Tickets for the Public Service Broadcasting gig at Brighton’s Corn Exchange on 22 April sold out in under 24 hours. And having now witnessed first hand their eclectic stage show, I can fully understand why.

Fronted by the flamboyant and corduroy-clad J Wilgoose Esq, PSB use samples from old public information films, archive newsreel footage and propaganda material to accompany their mostly lyric-free alternative electronica complete with keys, synths, loops, percussion, guitars, banjos and brass.

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Admirably supported by the Smoke Fairies (this marked the seventh time I’d seen them live), PSB took an enthusiastic audience through a mixture of material old and new. Some from their debut album – ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ (2013) and some from their latest ‘The Race for Space’ (2015). Joined on stage by Katherine and Jessica from the Fairies for ‘Valentina’, Public Service Broadcasting certainly were an ‘education’!

My boat has been well and truly floated and I will definitely be up for more of the same should another opportunity arise.

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Focus (A-Z part #43)

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I brought my cassette version of the second studio album from Focus – Focus II (aka ‘Moving Waves’) on the strength of the 1971 release of ‘Hocus Pocus’. The tape version (pic above) sound a but dubious these days, but the vinyl, CD and digital versions are still going strong. And Hocus Pocus remains as fresh as it did 44 years ago!

Hocus Pocus is a ‘rondo’ – an alteration of the classic rock chord riff followed by varied solo verses all performed by Thijs van Leer. These include yodelling, organ playing, scat singing, flute riffs and whistling. Here’s the original in all its wonderfulness…

Fatboy Slim (A-Z #42)

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On Saturday 20 July 2002, Brighton was brought to the brink of disaster when 250,000 people attended a party on the beach hosted by local resident Norman Cook.

The free event – ‘The Big Beach Boutique’ – featuring Mr Cook’s alter-ego ‘Fatboy Slim’ was expected to attract 60,000. But word of mouth coupled with a rising heatwave saw wave upon wave of people descend on the city. The emergency services couldn’t cope, public transport ground to a halt and traffic on virtually every route in and out of the city was brought to a standstill. It was a truly memorable event!

Franz Ferdinand (A-Z Part #41)

One of the best gigs I went to in 2004 was Franz Ferdinand at London’ Brixton Academy. Playing to a packed house, Alex Kapranos and the band took us through most of their forthcoming self-titled first album, the stunning ‘Michael’ filling a full eleven minutes of the set.

Formed in Glasgow in 2002, the band have so far released four studio albums – the self-titled above in 2004, ‘You could have had it so much better’ (2005), the rather unimaginatively titled ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (2009) and ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words (2013).

Fat Freddy’s Drop (A-Z #40)

Fat Freddy’s Drop are a 7-piece outfit hailing from Wellington, New Zealand where they formed in 1999. They play a multi-genre style including diversities from Techno to Rhythm & Blues, Reggae to Jazz and Dub to Soul along with anything else that just happens to slip into the mix.

Here’s ‘Wandering Eye’ from 2006 to give you a taster…