Brian May interview on Taste and Rory Gallagher – transcript



Full interview with Brian May of Queen talking about Rory Gallagher and Taste from the new film “What’s Going On – Taste Live At The Isle Of Wight”. The film and soundtrack are out now: DVD | Blu-Ray | 2-LP and CD formats.

What's Going On DVD


What made you go to the Marquee club, when you first went, the time you saw Taste? What was it about the place?

BRIAN MAY: The Marquee Club. Well it was the legendary place in those days. That’s where everybody played who was anybody and me and my mates used to go down there wherever we could whenever we could, I beg your pardon and certain nights would be certain things. Mr Gee was there, the manager was there saying this is so-and-so night and whatever, and Thursday night for a long time I think was The Nice.

We would go to see  every week and Rory Gallagher also had a residency there. We’d go and see Rory every week and just open mouthed, I think, at the way the guy played and the person he was and the way he interacted with his audience, the way he could just hold people by tapping his foot or his fingers or whatever he did. You know, he was just a magician as far as we were concerned as an entertainer and funny enough he probably wouldn’t think of himself as an entertainer. He’s such a pure man, Rory. He thought of himself as a musician and he never made any compromise towards building himself into a superstar but we went there every every week and saw Taste and they were magnificent. It was incredible.

Brian May Interview On Taste & Rory Gallagher

You mentioned the relation to the audience, was that something, was that you hadn’t seen before? How would you analyse that? What was special? What had he done that others hadn’t done?

I think Rory’s elemental and people could sense that. There’s no pretence whatsoever. There’s no showmanship, which hides what the real man is and he just came on there and played and would talk and you felt like you had a one-to-one relationship with him. That’s the way I see it. And his playing was incredible. He’s one of the very few people of that time who could make his guitar do anything it seems. Just seemed to be magic.

I remember looking at this battered Stratocaster and thinking ‘How does that come out of there? How does he do that? And we – we were boys. We hung around and hid when the Marquee was at turning out time, and then we kind of strolled over as if we ought to be there and [say[ ‘Mr Gallagher, can you chat to you’, or whatever – I don’t know what we said . He was incredibly patient. He was packing up his own gear, that’s the kind of man he was. He was packing up his guitar and his amp and everything and he had the grace to speak to us. He didn’t go ‘Get out of here. What you boys doing in here?’ and I said ‘How do you get the sound? What do you do?’ and he said ‘Oh, it’s very simple… I have this guitar and I have this little AC30 amp which is like nothing else and I had this little treble booster, Rangemaster treble booster, and that’s where the comes from.’

So I went straight out and got the AC30 and the treble booster, and my own homemade guitar thinking, ‘I wonder if this is gonna work?’, but basically it did. As soon as I plugged in.

I went to a place called “Take 5” in Wardour Street, not far from the Marquee and found a battered old AC30, which was for sale for 50 quid, I think, plugged Rangemaster treble booster into it, with my guitar, and it gave me what I wanted. It made guitar speak, so it was Rory that gave me my sound and that’s the sound I still have. That that’s my voice, so I have so much to be thankful to Rory for.

So those are the main things you took from the experience of meeting him? What did you take from him that went into your playing?

I took a lot more from Rory really because a lot of his technique was snapping on and snapping off, and that fascinated me. It seemed to make the guitar much more flexible, so that way he did his riffs like [ding ding… guitar noises] ‘Morning Sun’ and [makes guitar noises]

’What’s Going On?’ [guitar noises] hat I incorporated into my playing. I learned that directly from him, so something like ‘Tie Our Mother Down’, is really direct lineage from Rory.

Tell you what else I learned form Rory. Don’t be an ass, you know so many people you go up to them to say you know can I talk to you, and they go ‘I’m too busy’, or whatever, Rory was always a gentleman. He always had time for his fans and many many times I bumped into him he was he was always the same. I think the last time I bumped into him was in some studio in Shepherds Bush somewhere, and it was exactly the same. He said, ‘Oh hello Brian. How are you going on?’ He had such a gentlemanly gentle way about him, Rory, and I thought well, he’s treated me like that because we know each other now, But it went through my mind, he treated me exactly the same when I was a kid and he was a star in the Marquee. He was always polite. He was always caring, always had time to speak to you. So that’s what I took from Rory. He’s a gentleman and he had time for people, and my God could he play that guitar.

He sounds quite a self-effacing guy. What you see, should he have been pushier?  I don’t know.

No, ‘cos he wouldn’t have been Rory Gallagher if he’d been more pushy. No, he did it for the love and I saw him all over the world we used to bump into him, and I remember seeing him in Boston and it was the time of Aerosmith and us – we were the bands of the time. We were quite showy, you know. We consciously putting on a show. Rory had a very pure basic attitude. It was like ‘I go there and I play and I play my songs, and I speak to the audience, and you give me a couple of lights, give me my amps’, and that was enough.

He wasn’t into that kind of thing. He was not into show biz and that’s part of him and that’s part of what we have to love and respect. Of course, he didn’t get the recognition he deserved, no way, because I think he side-stepped the things which would have made him a Bruce Springsteen or an Aerosmith or whatever you know. He just was always content to play and he liked the club environment – that’s obvious. He probably wouldn’t have enjoyed that much doing stadium shows because he would have taken his intimacy away. I don’t know you know, I’m guessing, but the guy had no – Rory didn’t – well the Rory Gallagher’s that i saw didn’t have ambition outside being a fabulous musician, playing fabulous music.

Did you ever play his guitar. That’s a bit of a question.

Now that is a question, I can’t – you know I can’t remember. Don’t quote me ‘cos I can’t remember. It’s shame, isn’t it. I’d love to be able to say yes.

You talked earlier about sticking together as a good idea. Did you feel that the members of Taste was something that held them together? What was it held them together?

Well, Taste is a little bit different from Deep Purple, I would say, because Taste is so much focussed on Rory. It is his band. It is his songs. It’s him whose doing the talking and the playing and the singing, so I don’t know if we were conscious of the interactions between the members of Taste and I also don’t know what happened when they split up. I wasn’t party to that. I don’t know what feelings were like, but seeing Rory Gallagher with his subsequent bands, I didn’t get a terrible sense of loss. May be that’s a terrible thing to say, you know. I think Taste is still some of my favourite music that Rory made but I enjoyed seeing him with his other bands as well, just as much, because I guess I didn’t really take me’ eyes off Rory. [laughs] That’s the way it was really.

Did you ever get the chance to talk to Rory about the influence he had on you?

Yeah. Yeah, I think whenever I bumped into Rory I was conscious that I wanted to let him know how much he’d given me. Yes, so I generally did make a point and he was always like you know, very self-effacing, was Rory, but yeah I would make a point and I’m glad I did. I’m glad I took the opportunity. My God he was taken from us so prematurely, it’s awful, and so sad. What a great guy, what a wonderful player.

The last thing, Brian, is give you a list of songs from the set list from the Isle of Wight. I made this quickly, see if any specific memories for you.

What’s Going On?

That’s off the “On The Boards” album – yes I learnt it, you know. There’s not many guitarists that I actually learn, but I did [guitar noises]. It’s a nice little exercise for anybody whose learning the guitar to play that track, ‘What’s Going On?’ It has a nice way of pounding as well, you know, it’s a real out and out rocker and he can he can sing, sing the hell out of it.

’Sugar Mama’

I don’t know it so well.

I’ve got ‘Morning Sun’, which we touched on.

‘Morning Sun’’s great and ‘Morning Sun,’ of course, has that syncopation which is fairly rare in sort of great rock hits What’s Going On DVD very – it’s much more blues than rock and much more blues than pop, of course. I think Rory never could have been called a pop star. He never came close to being a pop star by choice, and yeah, that’s one of my favourites. Always will be and we will still play it at soundchecks. It’ll always be inside me.

‘I’ll Remember’?

Yeah, ‘I’ll Remember’. That’s nice. There’s a lot of heart in this song. It’s the sort of wistful side to Rory. Love that. ‘You’re So Good’? No. [chuckles]

‘Catfish Blues’?

Yeah, I know “Catfish Blues’. It’s good, good Rory standard. Yeah, I think that’s another thing that anyone can play when they get together and jam, you know. They don’t wanna play just ordinary 12-bar blues. Play something by Rory – a little twist there.

And the last is ‘Same Old Story’. ‘

Old Story’s great. It could almost be Rory’s epitaph couldn’t it really, you know.

I didn’t know Rory well enough to know what his private life was like, you know, what his love life was like, but I get the impression he was so dedicated to playing it was probably, it probably had to be a very much second thing, you know. the secondary activity. I feel like I know Rory probably better through Donnell, since he went, ‘cos Donnell told me a few things about him as a person, which are revealing, you know, and I think there is a lot of sadness in his songs, but Rory probably would always understate that ‘cos it was about performance and connection. He wouldn’t wallow in something being sad.

On 18 September 2015, Eagle Rock Entertainment released “What’s Going On – Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970” by Taste. This is a simultaneous release on DVD, Blu-ray, 2LP and CD formats represents the first ever video release of this legendary performance.

The film tells the story of Eire’s seminal rock band Taste, formed in Cork, Ireland in 1966 by Rory Gallagher, Taste had a brief but influential career, releasing two studio albums in 1969 and 1970 and disbanding shortly after their legendary appearance at the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival, which is the centrepiece of this film. The core of “What’s Going On” is the band’s performance at the festival on August 28th but it is encapsulated by a documentary on the history and importance of Taste and setting the scene for their Isle Of Wight Festival appearance. This features contributions from Rory’s brother and Taste road manager Donal Gallagher along with Brian May (Queen), The Edge (U2), Bob Geldof and renowned guitarist Larry Coryell. Taste’s performance at the festival was so well received that Jimi Hendrix when asked on the Sunday, “How does it feel to be the best guitarist in the world”, replied, “I don’t know, why don’t you go and ask Rory Gallagher?”