The Jemverse ‘Leaps n Bands’ series is, throughout 2020, featuring a track by track expose of the albums that have spoken loudest to me over the years. And ‘loud’ is very definitely appropriate to my second part of the series – Rory Gallager’s ‘The Story so far’ from 1974.
There’ll be more about the album itself between 21 January and 2 February, but I’m kickstarting things in reverse order with the last track on side 2 and the reason for my buying the album in the first place – Bullfrog Blues.
At the back end of the 1970’s I was an art student in Sussex. My best mate Josse lived in the small town of Arundel and, as we were more or less inseparable, and he had an attic bedroom far away from his parents, I was at his house most the time.
In the summer of 1978 Josse’s next door neighbours went away on a business trip leaving their sons – James and Richard – home alone. One word came to mind – ‘Party’! And it was a cracker. There was beer in barrels (first time I’d seen that), lots of brilliant music and lots of bleary eyes and sore heads the next day.
I guess Josse and I must have left sometime in the early hours to crash in his attic bedroom. But we were still up and about by eight. And what better way to dust off the cobwebs than with some good tunes turned up loud? Josse had an old Dansette mono record player on the floor in the corner into which he’d jerry-rigged a couple of large speakers. And the first record to hit the deck that morning was Rory Gallagher’s ‘Bullfrog Blues’.
It had a profound effect on me. Not just down to the volume which, in that smallish attic loft space, was close to deafening. But also because of the solid 12-bar blues played in a far more ruthless and free-er way than I’d heard up to then. I wanted more. And boy did I get some!
Much later on the morning following the party, Josse and I were knocking on James’s and Richard’s front door to invite them down to the pub. But on opening the door, James came very close to thumping Josse in the eye.
“Bullfrog bleeding blues at eight o’clock this morning, you b******s!” was shouted – or words to that effect – followed by a slammed door and a smaller pub contingent that we’d been expecting. They followed soon after though and it was friends again. But there was a fraught moment there for a while.
You see, Josse’s attic room was built into the roof eaves and part of it extended directly over James’s bedroom where he and quite a number of others from the party were crashing. So, when we’d put on ‘Bullfrog Blues’ and turned the volume up to 11 earlier, they’d all heard it just as loud as we had but with extra bass amplified through the floor!
I brought ‘The story so far’ – Rory Gallagher’s 1974 best of compilation album – that same week, some four years after its release but since, over the intervening 40+ years, played more times than I can tell. And ‘Bullfrog Blues’ has been played more than most.