apolla: (Rory)
I was going to post about a Certain Irish Guitarist but decided to dodge the bullet again. I was going to post some Dean Martin or something.

And then Lou Martin died.

Almost every truly great musical legend worked with other great musicians. They might not be as flashy or as charismatic. They might not be songwriters, but behind practically every single Golden God there is a backing group of brilliance.

Jimi Hendrix had Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell in his Experience.
James Brown had the likes of Alfred Pee Wee Ellis
Freddie Mercury had Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon.
Elvis had Scotty Moore and Bill Black
Miles Davis... basically just worked with the best.
Philip Lynott had his revolving door of guitarists, but he also had a fantastic constant in drummer Brian Downey.
It's not a coincidence that Clapton did his best work with Bruce & Baker and then with Duane Allman.

Rory Gallagher was no exception. One of the real great guitarists, he was also a charismatic frontman with a decent voice, but even he needed something behind him. He, like the other legends, knew the importance of working with the best.

Lou Martin was a great pianist. He could do blues, boogie-woogie and rock for sure but he wasn't a slacker when it came to classical. This link pretty much proves my point.

Funny thing is, Lou died on 17th August 2012. On 17th August 2008, I walked into the Cork City branch of HMV and bought my very first Rory Gallagher record: The Essential 2-disc compilation. It was raining on and off of course, it was a Sunday and I'd been wandering the town since 8am waiting for things to open. I'd even gone to Mass at the cathedral for something to do.

I wandered, listening to The Dubliners on my iPod. Ronnie Drew had died the day before and I was dealing with it in the only effective way I knew: immersing myself in his voice. I had french toast at a trendy cafe and continued my wander.

Rory Gallagher was a name I knew, but I didn't really know the music. I could've told you he was a blues rock guitarist, a dead Irish one no less. I had one of his songs - "Born on the Wrong Side of Time" on my iPod. The title appealed for obvious reasons. There in his hometown I decided I really should buy some record of his. In HMV I was confronted by a giant poster of Ronnie Drew, of all things.

I'm so glad I was in Ireland that weekend. Ronnie mattered there. Not so much here. 'They' knew how I felt. I was at home, geographically and musically. I couldn't summon the necessary to walk into a pub on my own so I didn't check out any of Cork's famous live music scene. I stayed in, watched the Ronnie Drew documentary on RTE 1 and read the liner notes of my new CD.

I went to Cobh, a pretty little port with a strong feeling of grief sewn into itself thanks to the Titanic, the Lusitania and the dreadful legacy of the famine and emigration. I read the liner notes again.

I got on a train to Dublin, where I ate at Gallagher's Boxty House as usual, ate at O'Neill's as usual and went to see Philip on his birthday, as usual. I stared at the Music Wall of Fame in Temple Bar, caring for the first time about the guitarist with the long brown hair. I nipped up Grafton Street to visit Philip's statue and there got into a conversation with two Dub rock fans about Rory.

It wasn't until several days later, back at work, that I actually listened to the CD. A secret: at first I wasn't all that impressed. I mean it was good but it didn't grab me totally. I liked the second song, "Moonchild", for sure. Then I listened to "Barley And Grape Rag". But I didn't get sucked in immediately. I'd be silly to, right?

According to this very blog, I listened to "Barley and Grape Rag" one hundred and eighty-seven times between late August and the end of 2008. I sang it at the work Christmas gig while wearing a Rory t-shirt. It was awesome.

But I wasn't sucked in. Oh no. I was up all night watching videos on YouTube, but I wasn't sucked in. I literally bought the t-shirt, but I'd have to be really fucking stupid to get obsessed by another dead rock star, right?

By 2008 I'd already carved plenty of other names on my heart. Lennon, naturally. Harrison. The lizardy fellow. Philip. Dean Martin. Valentino. Flynn. You pretty much know them if you've been here before. I'd be really daft to left someone else come along and gouge another scar, right?

I am that fucking stupid. By the time I even noticed, I was much too far gone. I should've noticed when I was on the tube late one night, returning home from being in the Just A Minute audience and I was dancing in my seat to the delta-like sound of "Who's That Coming" and I should've noticed when every visit to HMV began with a trip to the 'G' section of Rock and Pop. I should've noticed when the panic of leaving my gymbag in Starbucks was more to do with losing the newly-purchased Against The Grain CD than my sneakers.

No, I should've known exactly what was going to happen on 17th August 2008. He is a dead Irish rock musician who was fantastically good at his job. King Cnut had better odds against the tide.

Truly though, I didn't quite get it right away. It took a little while for my ears to get attuned to his work. It took even longer for me to beleive that he meant it about not selling out, about being dedicated to the music and even longer than that to believe he wasn't secretly a bastard.

Turns out he was that dedicated to the music and I've still yet to find anyone who has a bad word to say about the man himself.

Four years later, I love that man's music more than I can tell you. That's why it's taken until now for him to be the subject of the challenge, because I can't speak about it. I can't tell you how I love it, only that I do. I can't tell you how deeply it is now scored into my soul, as if forty years had passed with me stood by the side of his stage every night.

I picked one video above all for this post. It is the song which probably ensured a part of my heart will be forever Rory's, because he wrote down my pain and gave it voice:


Rory Gallagher - "A Million Miles Away" - which incidentally features footage of Cork City and some excellent Martin organ.

"There's a song on the lips of everybody/There's a smile all around the room/There's conversation overflowing/So why must I sit here in the gloom?.... I'm a million miles away, I'm a million miles away, sailing like the driftwood on a windy bay."

I have been that bleak, adrift and disconnected. Sometimes I still get close to it. Knowing that one of my heroes was able to write a song which so exactly described the state of my soul worries me: I wouldn't wish it on anyone. That he might have felt the same breaks my heart, and I hope it was one of those occasions where a writer was able to portray a world without inhabiting it.

I have been that bleak, adrift and disconnected and that song was, ironically if you like, an anchor I used to drag myself back to shore. That's one reason I love his music so.

Most of it is Rory's guitar and his voice, his songwriting, his grasp of the genre he loved so much. But he wasn't alone on that stage. First with Taste, then with his various Rory Gallagher line-ups, the classic of which involves Lou Martin's keys.

I can't tell you what I love and why without writing a dissertation, and I already wrote one of those for Jim Morrison. You have to listen to the music itself and decide for yourself. It's between me and the music and it's between you and the music. The contract is personal and non-transferable.

For me, the most succinct I think I can be is this: It is a deep scar on my heart and I wouldn't have it any other way.

*

Part 15 - The Shadows - "FBI"
Part 14 - Marilyn Monroe as Elsie Marina - "I Found A Dream
Part 13 - Kenneth Williams as Ramblin' Syd Rumpo - "The Ballad of the Woggler's Moulie"
Part 12 - Chas and Dave - "Rabbit"
Part 11 - The Beatles - "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"
Part 10 - Duke Ellington - "The Mooche"
Part 9 - The Doors - "Who Do You Love?" featuring Albert King
Part 8 - Queen - "These Are The Days Of Our Lives"
Part 7 - Thin Lizzy - "Don't Believe A Word"
Part 6 - The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band - "Monster Mash"
Part 5 - Craig Ferguson - "Doctor Who Cold Opening"
Part 4 - The Bees - "Who Cares What The Question Is?"
Part 3 - Marvin Gaye - "Got To Give It Up"
Part 2 - The Dubliners - "Octopus Jig"
Part 1 - The Allman Brothers Band - "Statesboro Blues"
apolla: (Rock Chick)
In the days, weeks and years to follow, you'll hear a lot of stories about Amy Winehouse. Most everyone with a half-decent anecdote will inflict it upon the rest of us whether we want to hear it or not. This isn't new, and it's even understandable. Reflected glory (notoriety) is still glory (notoriety) after all. If you're very lucky, some of the stories might even be true.

I'm not going to tell my own Amy Story now, and I'm not going to pontificate about THE DANGERS OF DRUGS or THE DANGERS OF ALCOHOL or ROCK AND ROLL IS EVIL or any of that bollocks. This isn't even entirely about Amy, to be honest.

How many stories have you already read about The 27 Club? How many lazy journalists have drawn lines between Amy and that clutch of poor fuckers who died 1969-71, whose names we all know so well? I have a Google News Alert set up for Jim Morrison, and I get maybe one or two links a day. On Sunday morning I had rather more than that... because his name is being invoked in many of the Amy Stories. There's a thing on the BBC website which looks like it's almost entirely Copy Pasta from Wikipedia.

It's not fully clear what we're supposed to take from these stories. It never has been. Yes, quite a number of notable musicians died when they were 27 – but the moral 'they' want us to learn is unclear. Are we supposed to just take it as a straight-up tragedy of a dead young person? Or as some would say, are we supposed to learn from their mistakes? Are we supposed to condemn them as dirty junkie wastes of humanity? Are we supposed to laud them for living 'on the edge'? I guess it depends on what you're reading.

There are several problems with the live fast, die young myth. First off, it hurts all the people who love you. Second, you can't make any more music. Third, and maybe to me most important: you lose control over your work and self. You can't defend yourself.

I have never been in a physical fight with anyone, but I've come close several times, and most of those times were related to Jim Morrison. Once, there was a guy who told me that the best thing that ever happened to Jim was to die. He really believed it, too. Another time, a couple of years ago, there was a drunken twat at the London Film Festival screening of the latest Doors documentary. He was berating the quiet audience as we left (quiet largely because of what we'd just seen – the agonised and contrary life of a great artist), telling us that we should rip it up because 'Jim would want it' and basically taking only the hedonism from Jim's work and nothing else. I've had many moments of wanting to pummel people but that was the only time I actually considered doing it. All this because if he can't stand up for himself, then I will.

Dead people cannot sue for libel. Anyone can say basically anything they want about that person and they're untouchable. An 'author' in the 1980s accused Errol Flynn of being a Nazi spy during the Spanish Civil War. There was almost nothing to support this, and indeed most of what EF wrote at the time and later suggested he was left-leaning. Accusations like that stick, and even recently I saw an article which dredged it up again. Like Flynn was ever going to take time out of carousing for espionage! I could accuse Jimi Hendrix of selling nuclear weapons to Kafiristan, or say that Janis Joplin was planning to assassinate Richard Nixon, and there's nothing much to be done. Whether people believe it is a different matter, of course. I could say that Brian Jones was one of the most unpleasant human beings ever to make music and... well, that would be true, actually.

The problem is more than just plain ol' libel. The artist in question loses control of their reputation certainly, but they also lose control over the music itself, and how it is regarded. I recall a Popular Culture class in California where we discussed the image of Bob Marley before and after his death. Before his death he was presented (presumably with his consent to an extent) as a rebel, someone politically dangerous to the status quo. A fighter, if you like. Since his death, he has been largely repackaged as a poet, as a gentle thinker type – look at the album art for Legend. The danger has been removed and because he can't argue, it stays like that.

By a weird quirk of fate, I've been looking into Janis Joplin a little this weekend. I'm not a fan because I don't like her voice, although I would be lying if I suggested she wasn't good (same as Amy, actually). Now, I'd forgotten how massive she was back in the second half of the 1960s. Since her death she has been relegated – in the mainstream – to a cautionary tale, to an example of what happens to the wimminz when they try to live like the guys, to just another member of the rock dead. Example: those of you who aren't already Joplin fans, name me five Janis Joplin songs you've heard. In death, she lost control of her image, of her music. She has been somewhat airbrushed out of history – how many documentaries about that period of time in music really deal with her on a musical level? No, she's been half-forgotten as an artist and mostly remembered as a dead junkie bogeyman to scare the kids into behaving themselves.

Jim, on the other hand... actually, it's pretty much the same with him. He was someone who was fucking with the establishment before he died and since his death he has been reduced to just That Poster and a punchline to a joke about a fat guy dead in a bath. His death has given people the freedom to talk shit about him, to adapt him as they want, to lose all perspective. You might be able to tell that this is the one I care about... I still argue that the Doors are still 'dangerous' thanks to the music, but it must also be accepted that in dying, Jim handed over his power to the myth-makers and the detractors in equal measure.

I haven't really even mentioned the control they lose over the music itself. Do you really think Queen would've released Made in Heaven as it was, if Freddie had lived? Course not – there's tracks on that record which only saw the light of day because there wasn't anything else. A lot of it is to do with the record labels and marketing types, but it is also dependent on who gets control of the Estate. Tupac Shakur has had more music released post-mortem than in his lifetime – did he want it released, and in the mix/arrangement he wanted? We can't know. I'm not knocking Donal Gallagher for a second, but I don't think the recently released 'lost' album Notes from San Francisco by his brother, guitar god Rory, would've been the same record if your man had the choice. I mean, the vocals on 'Overnight Bag' are double-tracked! On a Rory Gallagher record! Would he have wanted that? We can't know for certain, although the fact he dropped the record in the bin is a clue... Without new material, the labels and the estates seek out what they can find to release, whether the artist considered it worth releasing or not. It's understandable, but we don't have to like it. We can only wait and see what will happen with Amy's music, depending on who gets control of it and how much unreleased material there is.

Dying ain't much of a living: maybe record sales sky-rocket, but there won't be new music. The Glorious Rock Dead are frozen in time, unable to fight their corner, unable to respond to attacks, unable to tell their adoring worshippers that they're fucking idiots. They hand those who hate them the freedom to tear them down. Sure, they leave behind good-looking corpses (theoretically) and remain forever young and beautiful... but it seems to me that there is more freedom in growing, developing... and even if they can't fully control what is said and thought about them, they can at least respond and defend themselves.

I don't know what the future holds for Winehouse's artistic reputation. As with the others I suspect it will become a tale of two images: super-artist beyond criticism on the one hand, drunk junkie who pissed it all away on the other. Both are true – to an extent – but the image of Amy now rests not with her but with marketing and record label executives. My money is on her being packaged as a 'Tragic Chanteuse' in the Billie Holiday/Edith Piaf mould. I also expect a shit, cookie-cutter biopic within a few years which will basically be La Vie En Rose in the 21st Century, Walk The Line without the happy ending, or The Doors without the American Indian.

There is nothing good about this 'club' of damaged people dying at 27, and the next person who says so about Morrison near me does run a very serious risk of injury. If he can't defend himself against both the haters and the acolytes, I will.

apolla: (Rory)
It's two days late because I'm still having various computer issues. Late, but no less sincere in its feeling...

Sometimes – but rarely – music comes along that changes your life. Sometimes – even more rarely – a musician comes along who changes the whole way you look at life, the world and everything. Even I, who can lay claim to several phases of serious musical obsession, must admit that the latter of these two is as rare as a shooting star who turns out to be Claire Danes.

The first for me was probably John Lennon, as I expect he was for many people. While I had loved and adored Elvis and Buddy Holly from the youngest days of my consciousness, they touched my soul but they didn't change it. John turned a few things upside down, whether I wanted him to or not. I suppose Jim 'him again' Morrison did the same, given that he helped change my attitude towards myself in particular. It wasn't solely the music, but their attitudes (in public, at least) and their thoughts and opinions as presented to the world.

Now, I love Thin Lizzy, I truly do. Philip gave me back Ireland and gave me music to make me feel alive, but I'm not sure he changed how I see the universe. More than anything, I learned empathy – at long last – for those people whose lives are blighted by drug addiction.

There are others I love dearly, but while they've helped me become who I am, they haven't changed how I see the rest of the world. Other Irishmen such as the Dubliners. George Harrison, Dean Martin, the other usual suspects. Bill Hicks didn't change me so much as he provided universal tools (i.e. Hicks Quotes) for me to articulate how I already felt. He did, however, finally help me find empathy for smokers.

But Rory... Going back on LJArchive, there are posts I made back in September and October 2008 that basically went along the lines of 'listening to Rory Gallagher a lot. Can't afford to get obsessed again'. Well, we know how that turned out.

The thing is, to describe him as the defining influence on me doesn't just ignore other important influences (see all above), it understates his power over me (currently). I can't be objective at the moment, try though I might. I'm still in the grip of that initial, all-consuming obsession and therefore prone to hyperbole and unable to place Rory in the wider context of the continuum of my life. It may not be that he is the greatest, or defining influence, merely the most recent.

However, Rory has been a catalyst for my own musical work. He fills this role in a way even Philip Lynott and Jim Morrison have not. It's not a competition – they're crucial to me in other ways. Rory, though, more than any other single human being (dead or alive and including even myself), is the one to make me feel that my place is up on a stage. No, that's not quite right... I already knew where I felt I belonged. Rory merely pointed the way and seemed to say 'Of course you can do it. Get up there. You belong there too. What are you waiting for?'

That's not to say that I compare myself to him, which would be ludicrous, pointless and an unnecessary kicking to my fragile little ego. It's more that he cleared a path that I would wish to follow, while still remaining utterly and absolutely myself. There's no sense of copy-catting, more the knowledge that a great hero passed this way before me and since he dropped the flag, I want to pick it up for him and carry on down the road. I'd rather he was there on the road ahead of me, but we can't have everything we want, can we?

The fact of Rory's death, fifteen years ago on 14th June, leaves me in deepest sorrow. I have felt this way about others (travellers to my strange world know their names already, everyone else; see above) and so it's not a new feeling... but it's fifteen years since he stepped two rooms away and I feel that he is so far away that it might as well have been fifty or one hundred years. As with the others (a cavalcade of others fit for a Berkeley musical) my sorrow is rooted in the loss of new music, the loss of potential. It is also, for Rory, rooted in a feeling that had he lived, he might have at last felt the warmth of increased attention to his music, something of a new renaissance. Or at the very least, I could have looked him in the eye and thanked him for his music. It's always selfish at the core you see, like most (not all) fan actions.

I recall writing on the 19th anniversary of Philip Lynott's death:

Losing one person is too many and nineteen years too long to be without them.”

I repeat the same now, with small amendments: losing another person is too many – far too many – and fifteen years much too long to be without them.

I was furious back in January 2005, five and a half years ago, now. I was furious with the prankster some of us called God, and even with Philip himself. I'm not so angry these days. I don't really believe that, even if I were to be sent back in time by said prankster (as I so often joke about), I could change a single fucking thing. This isn't Goodnight Sweetheart. I'm not so angry these day, and I'm not angry with or at Rory. I understand it better now, this weakness that lurks in the hearts of humans. Five and a half years ago, I was still clinging to the notion that trying can make a difference. Sometimes it just can't, and that's the great tragedy of humanity, which may be the truest reason for the deep well of sorrow I live with every day.

There's a funny thing about Rory that I've noticed: I don't think you can be a casual fan of someone like him. It's an all or nothing scenario, without compromise. It's about dedication as well: exactly like his attitude towards the music. Fitting and appropriate, you might say.

I used to wonder why Rory was so against releasing singles. I even questioned the wisdom of the policy. I'm sure it's at the root of why he isn't better known. Well, I think I understand better now. It would've been a slippery slope... first a single... then two... then the record company start really marketing you and packaging you... until the next thing you know, you're stood in a room full of strangers and the most unrecognisable person is yourself. The music (and therefore, oneself) becomes defined by what's chosen as a single, regardless of what else you has to offer... and the next thing you know, you're Donny Fucking Osmond, or Vanilla Ice, or you end up in the same self-congratulatory, legend-building but creatively bereft rut the Rolling Stones have been in since 1971.

While many people can, have and will make that choice, if Rory had done I'm not sure he could've looked himself in the eye again. How ludicrous is it to suggest he mightn't have really been able to live with it? I'm not sure it's so ludicrous... and I see that he made exactly the choice he needed to. Were other choices as wise? Maybe, maybe not. We'll never know.


I observe now that I haven't really spoken much about the music itself yet. There are a few reasons for this, chief amongst which is my belief that there is nothing I can say that the music doesn't demonstrate much better. Also, it's not for me to tell you how to listen or what to take from the music. That's between you and Rory, just as it's between Rory and Me.

I will say one thing: sometimes, it's very easy to tell that something (doesn't even have to be music) is one of the best examples by one of the best practitioners. It's why I find the paintings of Raphael, Michaelangelo and Botticelli so moving and also why I love the Aston Martin DB9. These are creations of brilliance by brilliant creators, and they validate human existence. I get that feeling listening to the Beatles, reading the poetry of WB Yeats and watching Singin' In The Rain. Of course, I also get that feeling from Rory's music. There has been a debate about The World's Greatest Guitarist for decades... but listening to Rory renders it unimportant. He is simply stupendous, truly, shockingly talented. The question of 'who's best' doesn't matter, because what do rankings matter when the music is so accomplished, so life-alteringly excellent? If the Usual Suspects who generally make up the short-list for World's Best Guitarist were lesser musicians, maybe it would matter more. Great music, and I'm not just talking about Rory, is so extraordinary that the notion of ranking is laughable – unless you'd also rank the Pyramids, Macchu Picchu and Petra in order of 'best'?

The best stuff changes your life. The best people change the way you view that life. I was left changed the first time I saw Raphael's 'Madonna of the Chair', and I was changed when I first properly heard Buddy Holly (I was three or four). Rory is part of a very, very exclusive group of people who have changed both me and the way I see the rest of the world.

It is fifteen years. It feels like nothing and forever. It might as well be forever, for all the good it does. In death, Rory as a real human being has become as distant as Valentino or Flynn, Morrison or Lennon... but like them, he was generous enough to leave behind a body of work so great that the inescapable fact of mortality has been cut down. In the music he is forever, and so long as the music plays... he lives.

Clare, 14 June 2010.

Some youtube clips to illuminate/demonstrate the whole damned point:










apolla: (Rory)
It's two days late because I'm still having various computer issues. Late, but no less sincere in its feeling...

Sometimes – but rarely – music comes along that changes your life. Sometimes – even more rarely – a musician comes along who changes the whole way you look at life, the world and everything. Even I, who can lay claim to several phases of serious musical obsession, must admit that the latter of these two is as rare as a shooting star who turns out to be Claire Danes.

The first for me was probably John Lennon, as I expect he was for many people. While I had loved and adored Elvis and Buddy Holly from the youngest days of my consciousness, they touched my soul but they didn't change it. John turned a few things upside down, whether I wanted him to or not. I suppose Jim 'him again' Morrison did the same, given that he helped change my attitude towards myself in particular. It wasn't solely the music, but their attitudes (in public, at least) and their thoughts and opinions as presented to the world.

Now, I love Thin Lizzy, I truly do. Philip gave me back Ireland and gave me music to make me feel alive, but I'm not sure he changed how I see the universe. More than anything, I learned empathy – at long last – for those people whose lives are blighted by drug addiction.

There are others I love dearly, but while they've helped me become who I am, they haven't changed how I see the rest of the world. Other Irishmen such as the Dubliners. George Harrison, Dean Martin, the other usual suspects. Bill Hicks didn't change me so much as he provided universal tools (i.e. Hicks Quotes) for me to articulate how I already felt. He did, however, finally help me find empathy for smokers.

But Rory... Going back on LJArchive, there are posts I made back in September and October 2008 that basically went along the lines of 'listening to Rory Gallagher a lot. Can't afford to get obsessed again'. Well, we know how that turned out.

The thing is, to describe him as the defining influence on me doesn't just ignore other important influences (see all above), it understates his power over me (currently). I can't be objective at the moment, try though I might. I'm still in the grip of that initial, all-consuming obsession and therefore prone to hyperbole and unable to place Rory in the wider context of the continuum of my life. It may not be that he is the greatest, or defining influence, merely the most recent.

However, Rory has been a catalyst for my own musical work. He fills this role in a way even Philip Lynott and Jim Morrison have not. It's not a competition – they're crucial to me in other ways. Rory, though, more than any other single human being (dead or alive and including even myself), is the one to make me feel that my place is up on a stage. No, that's not quite right... I already knew where I felt I belonged. Rory merely pointed the way and seemed to say 'Of course you can do it. Get up there. You belong there too. What are you waiting for?'

That's not to say that I compare myself to him, which would be ludicrous, pointless and an unnecessary kicking to my fragile little ego. It's more that he cleared a path that I would wish to follow, while still remaining utterly and absolutely myself. There's no sense of copy-catting, more the knowledge that a great hero passed this way before me and since he dropped the flag, I want to pick it up for him and carry on down the road. I'd rather he was there on the road ahead of me, but we can't have everything we want, can we?

The fact of Rory's death, fifteen years ago on 14th June, leaves me in deepest sorrow. I have felt this way about others (travellers to my strange world know their names already, everyone else; see above) and so it's not a new feeling... but it's fifteen years since he stepped two rooms away and I feel that he is so far away that it might as well have been fifty or one hundred years. As with the others (a cavalcade of others fit for a Berkeley musical) my sorrow is rooted in the loss of new music, the loss of potential. It is also, for Rory, rooted in a feeling that had he lived, he might have at last felt the warmth of increased attention to his music, something of a new renaissance. Or at the very least, I could have looked him in the eye and thanked him for his music. It's always selfish at the core you see, like most (not all) fan actions.

I recall writing on the 19th anniversary of Philip Lynott's death:

Losing one person is too many and nineteen years too long to be without them.”

I repeat the same now, with small amendments: losing another person is too many – far too many – and fifteen years much too long to be without them.

I was furious back in January 2005, five and a half years ago, now. I was furious with the prankster some of us called God, and even with Philip himself. I'm not so angry these days. I don't really believe that, even if I were to be sent back in time by said prankster (as I so often joke about), I could change a single fucking thing. This isn't Goodnight Sweetheart. I'm not so angry these day, and I'm not angry with or at Rory. I understand it better now, this weakness that lurks in the hearts of humans. Five and a half years ago, I was still clinging to the notion that trying can make a difference. Sometimes it just can't, and that's the great tragedy of humanity, which may be the truest reason for the deep well of sorrow I live with every day.

There's a funny thing about Rory that I've noticed: I don't think you can be a casual fan of someone like him. It's an all or nothing scenario, without compromise. It's about dedication as well: exactly like his attitude towards the music. Fitting and appropriate, you might say.

I used to wonder why Rory was so against releasing singles. I even questioned the wisdom of the policy. I'm sure it's at the root of why he isn't better known. Well, I think I understand better now. It would've been a slippery slope... first a single... then two... then the record company start really marketing you and packaging you... until the next thing you know, you're stood in a room full of strangers and the most unrecognisable person is yourself. The music (and therefore, oneself) becomes defined by what's chosen as a single, regardless of what else you has to offer... and the next thing you know, you're Donny Fucking Osmond, or Vanilla Ice, or you end up in the same self-congratulatory, legend-building but creatively bereft rut the Rolling Stones have been in since 1971.

While many people can, have and will make that choice, if Rory had done I'm not sure he could've looked himself in the eye again. How ludicrous is it to suggest he mightn't have really been able to live with it? I'm not sure it's so ludicrous... and I see that he made exactly the choice he needed to. Were other choices as wise? Maybe, maybe not. We'll never know.


I observe now that I haven't really spoken much about the music itself yet. There are a few reasons for this, chief amongst which is my belief that there is nothing I can say that the music doesn't demonstrate much better. Also, it's not for me to tell you how to listen or what to take from the music. That's between you and Rory, just as it's between Rory and Me.

I will say one thing: sometimes, it's very easy to tell that something (doesn't even have to be music) is one of the best examples by one of the best practitioners. It's why I find the paintings of Raphael, Michaelangelo and Botticelli so moving and also why I love the Aston Martin DB9. These are creations of brilliance by brilliant creators, and they validate human existence. I get that feeling listening to the Beatles, reading the poetry of WB Yeats and watching Singin' In The Rain. Of course, I also get that feeling from Rory's music. There has been a debate about The World's Greatest Guitarist for decades... but listening to Rory renders it unimportant. He is simply stupendous, truly, shockingly talented. The question of 'who's best' doesn't matter, because what do rankings matter when the music is so accomplished, so life-alteringly excellent? If the Usual Suspects who generally make up the short-list for World's Best Guitarist were lesser musicians, maybe it would matter more. Great music, and I'm not just talking about Rory, is so extraordinary that the notion of ranking is laughable – unless you'd also rank the Pyramids, Macchu Picchu and Petra in order of 'best'?

The best stuff changes your life. The best people change the way you view that life. I was left changed the first time I saw Raphael's 'Madonna of the Chair', and I was changed when I first properly heard Buddy Holly (I was three or four). Rory is part of a very, very exclusive group of people who have changed both me and the way I see the rest of the world.

It is fifteen years. It feels like nothing and forever. It might as well be forever, for all the good it does. In death, Rory as a real human being has become as distant as Valentino or Flynn, Morrison or Lennon... but like them, he was generous enough to leave behind a body of work so great that the inescapable fact of mortality has been cut down. In the music he is forever, and so long as the music plays... he lives.

Clare, 14 June 2010.

Some youtube clips to illuminate/demonstrate the whole damned point:










apolla: (Rory)
Dear Rory,

You're dead. Anything I have to say you either won't read or won't care about. I'm going to say it anyway.

I'm really, really sorry.

I read Gerry McAvoy's book this week just past. It didn't take long. And I'm Really Sorry.

I've got used to rock stars and their ways. I've become immune to it all, become desensitised to all the awful stuff they do. I'm a Doors fan and a Led Zeppelin fan: it's pretty hard to shock me with any stories of excess or naughtiness. To you though, I extend a deep and sincere apology. I didn't really realise how much I was holding all musicians to a particular standard: down to the standard.

I have come to expect certain things from rock and roll stars. Drugs, drink, girls, excess of most kinds. Not just not surprised at it, but expect. I hold all rock and roll musicians down to the same low standard and so it's hard to surprise, shock or disappoint me.

You, man... people had said to me, people who know things, that you were a good guy. I read the old MOJO article about your last months, and how nobody had a bad word to say about you. I assumed that you were a 'good guy' when placed next to the likes of Jimmy 'whips and fourteen year olds' Page or  Jim 'distillery' Morrison. I assumed that nobody had a bad word to say about you but that you'd just been good at keeping it all quiet.

Once I read Robert Plant claim in Q that he'd never cheated on his wife, I pretty much assumed that all rock musicians are liars. After reading John Lennon himself say that "You have to be a bastard to make it. That’s a fact. And the Beatles were the biggest bastards on Earth."  I assumed that you all really were total bastards.

So I'm really sorry, Rory. I held you down to that low, low standard and it would appear that you didn't deserve it. Sure, you were a bit tight with money, but you're not the worst (allegedly Rod *tight as two coats of paint* Stewart. Paul *homemade dye job* McCartney). Sure, you were a control freak when it came to The Music, but I agree with you on that score.

I'm really sorry, Rory. When I read in places that you died without a wife or children or apparently without a long-term girlfriend or anything, I assumed you were either gay or good at keeping it all on the down-low. I assumed...

I assumed you were stoned just like everyone else. I'm really sorry.

I assumed you were like the rest of them but just better at being discreet. I suppose I still don't really have any proof of it being otherwise... but reading Gerry's book... man, I'm sorry. I thought you were like all the others.

So you kept away from women, so you were shy and self-contained. So you were anti-drugs. So you were uncompromising in terms of business and music and what you would and wouldn't do. You didn't even like swearing.

Man, I'm sorry. I assumed you were one thing, just like everyone else. I didn't dream that you were actually the rock star I would be if given half a chance. You're the person I always hoped I'd be in that situation, and I didn't know it.

Of course, it breaks my heart that little bit more. Actually, it breaks my heart, rips it out of my chest and stomps on it before running over it with a Mercedes 600 Grosse... because it makes your death even more ridiculous and pointless and just sad. I can blame Jim and Philo and the rest for their weaknesses but you... how did you go from advising Gerry to go easy on the whiskey to dying post-liver transplant sad and practically alone?

What am I supposed to learn from you, Rory? That the life I've chosen for myself will end as yours did? Not to go to Harley Street? Not to take too much paracetamol? I'm not a top-class guitarist like you, dear friend... what am I supposed to take from this? That Life is a bitch, and so am I? That good men die just like the bad ones?

I know people who know stuff about this stuff and they have nothing but the highest praise for you. These are people who saw you at the fag-end of your career and were still blown away. One guy got offended at the idea that anyone could say anything bad about you - and he's not a wailing sentimentalist like I am. Rory, Rory, fucking why?

I'm really sorry, I really am.  I assumed you were like everyone else when it seems like if anything, you're like me. And that fucking terrifies me.

Sorry for swearing.

apolla: (Default)
I have a habit. An irritating habit. I like to share YouTube videos on Facebook on even the smallest pretext. This leads to me basically spamming my own FB profile with videos each time I stop there. So far, I've managed to refrain from sharing The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson every time I burst out laughing.

Lately, I've been profile-spamming with Rory Gallagher videos every so often. Or rather, every time I go to YouTube in search of a Rory video. I'm in the mid-period stage of New Obsession, and it's just as well that YouTube wasn't around when I went through the same with The Beatles, or with Led Zeppelin or with Thin Lizzy or with The Doors, or with Dean Martin.

Amongst the videos I posted the other day was this:


I added the note"I wasn't going to clutter FB with any more tonight but the end of this is astonishing in its grand fabulousness." If you want to accuse me of being over the top, hyperbolic or just plain nuts, that's cool. I happen to think it's a very cool live exploration of the song that reaches a thoroughly satisfactory climax (oh, matron, etc etc) but part of my excitement was bound up in the newness: it was the first time I'd heard it in such an arrangement.

Now one of my friends on Facebook, the Fabulous Marie, clicked 'Like' on a few of the videos and I was glad that someone - anyone - had seen then. I get quite preachy when I fall down the rabbit hole for a musician, I know this. "OMG YOU MUST LISTEN! NO REALLY!". I know, and I'm at least less awful than I used to be (just ask anyone who was around when I fell down the Doors rabbit hole).

I posted a bunch of videos, and also, while I'm at it, the profound FB status message "RANDOM SCOTT GORHAM ON TV!" so it's fair to say I was in a particular frame of mind: the oh my god, rock music is all I care about and all I can think about frame of mind. Haven't been there for a while, and it was fun. So imagine the mixture of emotions the next day when I read an email alert that someone had replied to my posting of the above video.

"It's not as if he's the best or anything - do you just fancy him?"

On the face of it... it's just a slightly stupid, shallow remark. There's more to this than meets the eye, to borrow a phrase from the movie Help! (more on that later).

Let us examine this, because I'm still angry two days later. Leaving aside the quality judgement, because that's not the issue and is always going to be contentious in rock geek circles, the question.... do you just fancy him?

Exsqueeze me, baking powder? (another quote from another rock music movie). What did you just say? It was a boy who said it, for the record, called Adam. I have had several online discussions with him about music, the blues, Clapton and Gallagher. I know he falls on the side of Clapton. I do not. I only know him via my brother, so I can't claim to know him at all well. I can't speak to his motives or meanings behind the remark. I can only speak to how it feels to read such a remark. And I'm fucking well going to speak to it.

How dare you.

I was immediately put in mind of a fascinating feminist post over at Shakesville: The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck. If you, men and women, read nothing else about this post, click the link and read. I was put in mind because the question that came to me as I read the comment from Adam was: Swallow shit, or ruin the afternoon? As the article suggests, moments that wear/cut away at a woman's sense of self, worth, importance have already ruined the proverbial afternoon for them. So fuck it kids, I'm going to ruin the afternoon.

I am sick and tired - oh so weary - of being treated in a particular way for being a rock fan with a cunt. The number of times I've had men (and some women) patronise me, scorn me, outright mock or attack me for it... I took a Pop Music Culture class nearly a decade ago in which I had to stand up for myself - and all the other female rock fans - for wanting to love the music.

So let me ask a question. If a man posted four or five videos of a musician they liked a great deal, would 'do you fancy him' be a question that even occurred to anyone? Rock music is still so skewed towards men. That's fine, as long as they're good at it. I mean come on! My absolute favourite musicians are all men! This may be due to a conspicuous lack of choice in the female rock department.

Who is there? In mainstream rock music, I mean. There are the Bikini Kill and Riot Grrrl types who are to be respected and commended, but you can't call it mainstream... Who is there who ROCKS THE FUCK OUT while in possession of a vagina?

You're having trouble, aren't you? Don't worry, you're not the only ones: Rolling Stone's Immortals list has only four women in the top fifty, and Aretha (number nine) is a soul singer, Madonna's (36) a clotheshorse bandwagoner. Only the other two, Janis Joplin and Patti Smith, can even reasonably be considered to share the same space as the guys. I don't say this to deride the Queen or Madge, just to point out that they're not rockers. Janis and Patti are at places 46 and 47 respectively. The bottom fifty has six females/girl groups.

It's not because girls don't like rock music. It's not because they can't play it. It's because they're told they can't, or just plain told not to. I remember why I asked to learn the guitar when I was seven years old. I was watching Top of the Pops (a very long time ago, when I could still find something on there to like). I made the connection between rock music, guitars and cool pretty easily. I was a kid who had her own record player at the age of six and listened to Buddy Holly records. It was 1989. I wanted to play the guitar. The electric guitar like all those cool-as-fuck musicians. Can you imagine the disappointment I had to hide when my mummy took me to the music school and introduced me to my classical guitar teacher? I wanted to ROCK OUT but it had been assumed (I assume in turn) that it would be classical. I turned out to love my lessons and stuck with them from the age of ten to nineteen, and I only stopped them to go to university. (Sidenote: Mr Burden, you're a fucking legend.) But the assumption hurt.

For the record, I'm sitting within two feet of two guitars: a Fender California series electro-acoustic slice of gorgeousness and a gold copy-Strat. There's a bass (Fender jazz copy.) (rarely played) sitting in my spare room.

So anyway, I've been dealing with this shit for twenty years and it still stings. I wouldn't be writing this if Adam's remark didn't hurt a little. How can I explain without seeming like An Irrational Female or A Bitch? I can practically hear the TVTropes names forming. How can I adequately explain the shredding of my heart every time some ignorant tossmonkey suggests that the only reason I could ever love music is because I fancy the musician? My God, it still hurts, every single time, and partly on behalf of the musicians in question. What an insult it is to them to suggest that I could only love them for their face and body? (There is an argument to be made that Robert Plant asked for it).

I suppose it couldn't possibly be because of the music, could it? Or them as humans for being charismatic or intelligent, or funny? It couldn't be because of a MONSTER RIFF or a STONKING BASSLINE or a PROFOUND LYRIC? God, the mere idea of loving the Beatles for the music! Why didn't I think of that before? Whyever would I like Led Zeppelin for Jimmy's fourteen track guitar solos or for Bonzo's extended Moby Dick drum solo? (for the record: I actually love the version of Moby Dick that's in The Song Remains The Same).

I couldn't possibly like Rory Gallagher for his mad guitar skills, could I? Or his often excellent songwriting? There are a couple of his songs that are such excellent examples of their type that I assumed they were covers. 'Goin' To My Hometown' is a particularly excellent example. It couldn't possibly be because he brought an Irish lyricality to the blues and a deep authentic feeling that I have never once believed from Eric Clapton, could it? It couldn't be his dedication to the music, or the simple-but-effective live shows? No, I must fancy him.

A far more stinging and accurate mockery would've been to suggest I only like him for being Irish. It'd be more accurate than 'oooooh, you lurrrrrrve him!' but it'd still be wrong.

Why are women still barred from being considered 'proper' fans of anything? Why are we still having our motives questioned? Are we still tagged as groupies, no matter what we do? Are we all supposed to be crazy fangirls, as if my love of rock music is the same as a tinhat Supernatural fan's love of J2? Even if it is, what would be wrong with that? A guy can own thousands of records and be a fan, a girl could own the same and be tagged as a crazy fangirl.

I appreciate that the screaming girls since the Bobbysoxers have not helped the cause. However, you don't know what it was they loved, and not all fangirls are the same. Twihards right now are not helping, but it's possible - just possible - that they love the books above loving Robert Pattinson. Have you even asked?

Oh hey, Fact Fans! For all the crazy fangirls that clutter the internet and the world, it was a white man who killed John Lennon. To extend this further, a white man killed Jim Morrison, when you think about it.

I sit opposite a rock fan called Phil at work. We routinely drive everyone else mad by bickering, for one thing, and for droning about rock music for another. We also quote A Hard Day's Night and Help! at each other for a good portion of any given day. Swine flu has been particularly good for this: He's a swiiiiiiine. Phil can speak at length about the differences between the stereo and mono mixes of the Beatles records and on Friday spent some time waxing truly lyrical about the new remaster of Abbey Road. He is almost as much of a fan of several other bands. He dislikes my ironic love of Xanadu because that's when he finally gave up on ELO. He's seen Clapton tons of times. I don't believe he's ever been accused of being in love with any of the bands he likes.

Go over to YouTube and read the comments on Rory Gallagher videos:

Do please pardon my language.But Goddamn fuckin amazing ... 5:49 ... with the bass ... and the ... the ... oh god i love it .....  by someone called Brianlovesiobhan on the video above.

ah for feck sake!!!!!!! that was just unreal. Vids of Rory blow me away everytime! thanks a million for sharing! from someone called MonkeyMan198599, video and comment linked in quote.

Now, I can't be sure that these people (there are hundreds of similarly adoring comments on most of RG's videos, but I'm not going to spam you with them now) are men... but I can surmise it. I suppose that they too must fancy Rory? Or am I to understand that only men can be obsessive about music and that women must only be obsessive about musicians?

It's entirely possible for a woman to fall in love with a rock and roll musician. It's just as possible for her not to. It's actually a pretty complex set of emotions for me, so for someone to reduce it to do you just fancy him is infuriating. Even if I did explain, I don't think most people would be interested, which is fair enough, but don't reduce it to the lowest common denominator. I've sat for hours watching old concerts for these people, I've lost days of my life to listening to their records. I'm poor because of them. I've travelled the globe for them, I've stood at their graves. I've danced around the living room alone at 2 o'clock in the morning because of a funky song. I've read books. I've written dissertations and blog posts. I've laughed and I've cried. I've watched great documentaries and shit documentaries. I've defended and attacked them. I've fought their corners. I've sung their songs on stages. I've written songs about them. I've done all this because of the music.

To quote briefly from a long-ago post I made that was nominally about the Phantom of the Opera but was actually about Jim and Me:

It is a handy little extra that Jim Morrison is Adonis. It makes putting pictures of him up on the wall a genuine pleasure. It's always nice to have beautiful things to look at. But you don't get pictures when you're listening to a record. When it's just you and the vinyl, the only thing he has to win you over completely is his voice singing his words. No pout, no smirk or smoulder or trousers. There's none of the slumping onto microphones or falling into a heap. Only a voice.

Would I love Jim Morrison if he were ugly? I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a choice in the matter.

Note the phrase 'would I love' rather than 'would I be in love with'. To me, they're not the same thing. In fact, I believe I use the word 'love' as shorthand a lot of the time, because everyone understands love but they don't necessarily understand the rock fan - musician relationship. 'Love' is an easy way of avoiding exactly what I mean.

To quote briefly from a post I made in July 2007:

Without music I'd be dead. Or at least very, terribly hollow and dead inside. I might still live and breathe, but who would I be? I talk music most of the time, I think music even more. The only things that distract me from music are writing, movies and myself. That's it. There's nothing else.

I'm not saying you can't crush on musicians, can't be in love with them... it's just that it's not why a lot of us women love the music first and foremost and above everything else. To suggest that I could only love the music because of the man makes my stomach twist itself inside out because I love the music so much for itself. Yet, it's hard often to explain adequately how or why a piece of music is so important... but it's relatively easy to talk about people. I have talked about how I love Jim Morrison or any of the others - but it's not a crush. It's not romantic and never was. It was a depth of affection for someone who gave me that music. If Jim hadn't written those songs, I wouldn't give a flying rat's arse about him in or out of a shirt. I love the music, so I love them for the music. That doesn't give them a free pass to make shit music and it doesn't mean that I sit here daydreaming about them.

Wouldn't that be a waste of fucking time in my case, given that most of the bastards are dead?

I don't want to fuck or marry these people. I want to see them live in concert. When I hear the music I love, I feel alive. I feel like there's meaning to the world. I feel like there's wonder and brilliance in the world. I feel like I could fly. My heart soars or dips depending on the song. I get songs stuck in my head. Some songs make my blood run hot, some turn my blood cold. Some songs make me want to die. Others make me want to live. That makes you and me and all the other rock fans pretty much the same, whether we have a cock or a cunt, something else or none of the above. Amazing, right?

I'm going to leave you with a few choice quotes that, depending on your point of view, should leave you squirming and uncomfortable or punching the air triumphantly, mostly from women in music, because the only real difference between the person on stage and the person in the audience is what side of the security guard they can see.

People don't want to see women doing things they don't think women should do. Joan Jett

Girls have got balls. They're just a little higher up that's all. Joan Jett.

Aggressive, tough and defiant may describe me, but that leaves the impression I'm mean and I'm not. Joan Jett, again.

I figured out it was a social thing, what women were allowed to do. At a very young age, I decided I was not going to follow women's rules.  Joan Jett, once more. Has she had to spend her entire career explaining and defending her choice? (answer: Yes).

As far as I'm concerned, being any gender is a drag. Patti Smith.

No, my work does not reflect my sexual preferences, it reflects the fact that I feel total freedom as an artist.  Patti Smith.

On stage I make love to twenty five thousand people; and then I go home alone.  Janis Joplin

Some nights I look out and want to fuck the whole front row. Robert Plant

The so-called feminist writers were disgusted with me. I did my thing, and so I guess by feminist standards I'm a feminist. That suits me fine.  Chrissie Hynde

I dig music. The fictional musician Russell Hammond in Almost Famous, a film which didn't help the girl-fan (not fangirl) cause but was otherwise OK.

and a final word from one of our sponsors:

You know, people can't fall in love with me just because I'm good at what I do. Robert Plant, 1977 (I'd be interested in the context of this quote if anyone has it).
apolla: (Default)
I have a habit. An irritating habit. I like to share YouTube videos on Facebook on even the smallest pretext. This leads to me basically spamming my own FB profile with videos each time I stop there. So far, I've managed to refrain from sharing The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson every time I burst out laughing.

Lately, I've been profile-spamming with Rory Gallagher videos every so often. Or rather, every time I go to YouTube in search of a Rory video. I'm in the mid-period stage of New Obsession, and it's just as well that YouTube wasn't around when I went through the same with The Beatles, or with Led Zeppelin or with Thin Lizzy or with The Doors, or with Dean Martin.

Amongst the videos I posted the other day was this:


I added the note"I wasn't going to clutter FB with any more tonight but the end of this is astonishing in its grand fabulousness." If you want to accuse me of being over the top, hyperbolic or just plain nuts, that's cool. I happen to think it's a very cool live exploration of the song that reaches a thoroughly satisfactory climax (oh, matron, etc etc) but part of my excitement was bound up in the newness: it was the first time I'd heard it in such an arrangement.

Now one of my friends on Facebook, the Fabulous Marie, clicked 'Like' on a few of the videos and I was glad that someone - anyone - had seen then. I get quite preachy when I fall down the rabbit hole for a musician, I know this. "OMG YOU MUST LISTEN! NO REALLY!". I know, and I'm at least less awful than I used to be (just ask anyone who was around when I fell down the Doors rabbit hole).

I posted a bunch of videos, and also, while I'm at it, the profound FB status message "RANDOM SCOTT GORHAM ON TV!" so it's fair to say I was in a particular frame of mind: the oh my god, rock music is all I care about and all I can think about frame of mind. Haven't been there for a while, and it was fun. So imagine the mixture of emotions the next day when I read an email alert that someone had replied to my posting of the above video.

"It's not as if he's the best or anything - do you just fancy him?"

On the face of it... it's just a slightly stupid, shallow remark. There's more to this than meets the eye, to borrow a phrase from the movie Help! (more on that later).

Let us examine this, because I'm still angry two days later. Leaving aside the quality judgement, because that's not the issue and is always going to be contentious in rock geek circles, the question.... do you just fancy him?

Exsqueeze me, baking powder? (another quote from another rock music movie). What did you just say? It was a boy who said it, for the record, called Adam. I have had several online discussions with him about music, the blues, Clapton and Gallagher. I know he falls on the side of Clapton. I do not. I only know him via my brother, so I can't claim to know him at all well. I can't speak to his motives or meanings behind the remark. I can only speak to how it feels to read such a remark. And I'm fucking well going to speak to it.

How dare you.

I was immediately put in mind of a fascinating feminist post over at Shakesville: The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck. If you, men and women, read nothing else about this post, click the link and read. I was put in mind because the question that came to me as I read the comment from Adam was: Swallow shit, or ruin the afternoon? As the article suggests, moments that wear/cut away at a woman's sense of self, worth, importance have already ruined the proverbial afternoon for them. So fuck it kids, I'm going to ruin the afternoon.

I am sick and tired - oh so weary - of being treated in a particular way for being a rock fan with a cunt. The number of times I've had men (and some women) patronise me, scorn me, outright mock or attack me for it... I took a Pop Music Culture class nearly a decade ago in which I had to stand up for myself - and all the other female rock fans - for wanting to love the music.

So let me ask a question. If a man posted four or five videos of a musician they liked a great deal, would 'do you fancy him' be a question that even occurred to anyone? Rock music is still so skewed towards men. That's fine, as long as they're good at it. I mean come on! My absolute favourite musicians are all men! This may be due to a conspicuous lack of choice in the female rock department.

Who is there? In mainstream rock music, I mean. There are the Bikini Kill and Riot Grrrl types who are to be respected and commended, but you can't call it mainstream... Who is there who ROCKS THE FUCK OUT while in possession of a vagina?

You're having trouble, aren't you? Don't worry, you're not the only ones: Rolling Stone's Immortals list has only four women in the top fifty, and Aretha (number nine) is a soul singer, Madonna's (36) a clotheshorse bandwagoner. Only the other two, Janis Joplin and Patti Smith, can even reasonably be considered to share the same space as the guys. I don't say this to deride the Queen or Madge, just to point out that they're not rockers. Janis and Patti are at places 46 and 47 respectively. The bottom fifty has six females/girl groups.

It's not because girls don't like rock music. It's not because they can't play it. It's because they're told they can't, or just plain told not to. I remember why I asked to learn the guitar when I was seven years old. I was watching Top of the Pops (a very long time ago, when I could still find something on there to like). I made the connection between rock music, guitars and cool pretty easily. I was a kid who had her own record player at the age of six and listened to Buddy Holly records. It was 1989. I wanted to play the guitar. The electric guitar like all those cool-as-fuck musicians. Can you imagine the disappointment I had to hide when my mummy took me to the music school and introduced me to my classical guitar teacher? I wanted to ROCK OUT but it had been assumed (I assume in turn) that it would be classical. I turned out to love my lessons and stuck with them from the age of ten to nineteen, and I only stopped them to go to university. (Sidenote: Mr Burden, you're a fucking legend.) But the assumption hurt.

For the record, I'm sitting within two feet of two guitars: a Fender California series electro-acoustic slice of gorgeousness and a gold copy-Strat. There's a bass (Fender jazz copy.) (rarely played) sitting in my spare room.

So anyway, I've been dealing with this shit for twenty years and it still stings. I wouldn't be writing this if Adam's remark didn't hurt a little. How can I explain without seeming like An Irrational Female or A Bitch? I can practically hear the TVTropes names forming. How can I adequately explain the shredding of my heart every time some ignorant tossmonkey suggests that the only reason I could ever love music is because I fancy the musician? My God, it still hurts, every single time, and partly on behalf of the musicians in question. What an insult it is to them to suggest that I could only love them for their face and body? (There is an argument to be made that Robert Plant asked for it).

I suppose it couldn't possibly be because of the music, could it? Or them as humans for being charismatic or intelligent, or funny? It couldn't be because of a MONSTER RIFF or a STONKING BASSLINE or a PROFOUND LYRIC? God, the mere idea of loving the Beatles for the music! Why didn't I think of that before? Whyever would I like Led Zeppelin for Jimmy's fourteen track guitar solos or for Bonzo's extended Moby Dick drum solo? (for the record: I actually love the version of Moby Dick that's in The Song Remains The Same).

I couldn't possibly like Rory Gallagher for his mad guitar skills, could I? Or his often excellent songwriting? There are a couple of his songs that are such excellent examples of their type that I assumed they were covers. 'Goin' To My Hometown' is a particularly excellent example. It couldn't possibly be because he brought an Irish lyricality to the blues and a deep authentic feeling that I have never once believed from Eric Clapton, could it? It couldn't be his dedication to the music, or the simple-but-effective live shows? No, I must fancy him.

A far more stinging and accurate mockery would've been to suggest I only like him for being Irish. It'd be more accurate than 'oooooh, you lurrrrrrve him!' but it'd still be wrong.

Why are women still barred from being considered 'proper' fans of anything? Why are we still having our motives questioned? Are we still tagged as groupies, no matter what we do? Are we all supposed to be crazy fangirls, as if my love of rock music is the same as a tinhat Supernatural fan's love of J2? Even if it is, what would be wrong with that? A guy can own thousands of records and be a fan, a girl could own the same and be tagged as a crazy fangirl.

I appreciate that the screaming girls since the Bobbysoxers have not helped the cause. However, you don't know what it was they loved, and not all fangirls are the same. Twihards right now are not helping, but it's possible - just possible - that they love the books above loving Robert Pattinson. Have you even asked?

Oh hey, Fact Fans! For all the crazy fangirls that clutter the internet and the world, it was a white man who killed John Lennon. To extend this further, a white man killed Jim Morrison, when you think about it.

I sit opposite a rock fan called Phil at work. We routinely drive everyone else mad by bickering, for one thing, and for droning about rock music for another. We also quote A Hard Day's Night and Help! at each other for a good portion of any given day. Swine flu has been particularly good for this: He's a swiiiiiiine. Phil can speak at length about the differences between the stereo and mono mixes of the Beatles records and on Friday spent some time waxing truly lyrical about the new remaster of Abbey Road. He is almost as much of a fan of several other bands. He dislikes my ironic love of Xanadu because that's when he finally gave up on ELO. He's seen Clapton tons of times. I don't believe he's ever been accused of being in love with any of the bands he likes.

Go over to YouTube and read the comments on Rory Gallagher videos:

Do please pardon my language.But Goddamn fuckin amazing ... 5:49 ... with the bass ... and the ... the ... oh god i love it .....  by someone called Brianlovesiobhan on the video above.

ah for feck sake!!!!!!! that was just unreal. Vids of Rory blow me away everytime! thanks a million for sharing! from someone called MonkeyMan198599, video and comment linked in quote.

Now, I can't be sure that these people (there are hundreds of similarly adoring comments on most of RG's videos, but I'm not going to spam you with them now) are men... but I can surmise it. I suppose that they too must fancy Rory? Or am I to understand that only men can be obsessive about music and that women must only be obsessive about musicians?

It's entirely possible for a woman to fall in love with a rock and roll musician. It's just as possible for her not to. It's actually a pretty complex set of emotions for me, so for someone to reduce it to do you just fancy him is infuriating. Even if I did explain, I don't think most people would be interested, which is fair enough, but don't reduce it to the lowest common denominator. I've sat for hours watching old concerts for these people, I've lost days of my life to listening to their records. I'm poor because of them. I've travelled the globe for them, I've stood at their graves. I've danced around the living room alone at 2 o'clock in the morning because of a funky song. I've read books. I've written dissertations and blog posts. I've laughed and I've cried. I've watched great documentaries and shit documentaries. I've defended and attacked them. I've fought their corners. I've sung their songs on stages. I've written songs about them. I've done all this because of the music.

To quote briefly from a long-ago post I made that was nominally about the Phantom of the Opera but was actually about Jim and Me:

It is a handy little extra that Jim Morrison is Adonis. It makes putting pictures of him up on the wall a genuine pleasure. It's always nice to have beautiful things to look at. But you don't get pictures when you're listening to a record. When it's just you and the vinyl, the only thing he has to win you over completely is his voice singing his words. No pout, no smirk or smoulder or trousers. There's none of the slumping onto microphones or falling into a heap. Only a voice.

Would I love Jim Morrison if he were ugly? I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a choice in the matter.

Note the phrase 'would I love' rather than 'would I be in love with'. To me, they're not the same thing. In fact, I believe I use the word 'love' as shorthand a lot of the time, because everyone understands love but they don't necessarily understand the rock fan - musician relationship. 'Love' is an easy way of avoiding exactly what I mean.

To quote briefly from a post I made in July 2007:

Without music I'd be dead. Or at least very, terribly hollow and dead inside. I might still live and breathe, but who would I be? I talk music most of the time, I think music even more. The only things that distract me from music are writing, movies and myself. That's it. There's nothing else.

I'm not saying you can't crush on musicians, can't be in love with them... it's just that it's not why a lot of us women love the music first and foremost and above everything else. To suggest that I could only love the music because of the man makes my stomach twist itself inside out because I love the music so much for itself. Yet, it's hard often to explain adequately how or why a piece of music is so important... but it's relatively easy to talk about people. I have talked about how I love Jim Morrison or any of the others - but it's not a crush. It's not romantic and never was. It was a depth of affection for someone who gave me that music. If Jim hadn't written those songs, I wouldn't give a flying rat's arse about him in or out of a shirt. I love the music, so I love them for the music. That doesn't give them a free pass to make shit music and it doesn't mean that I sit here daydreaming about them.

Wouldn't that be a waste of fucking time in my case, given that most of the bastards are dead?

I don't want to fuck or marry these people. I want to see them live in concert. When I hear the music I love, I feel alive. I feel like there's meaning to the world. I feel like there's wonder and brilliance in the world. I feel like I could fly. My heart soars or dips depending on the song. I get songs stuck in my head. Some songs make my blood run hot, some turn my blood cold. Some songs make me want to die. Others make me want to live. That makes you and me and all the other rock fans pretty much the same, whether we have a cock or a cunt, something else or none of the above. Amazing, right?

I'm going to leave you with a few choice quotes that, depending on your point of view, should leave you squirming and uncomfortable or punching the air triumphantly, mostly from women in music, because the only real difference between the person on stage and the person in the audience is what side of the security guard they can see.

People don't want to see women doing things they don't think women should do. Joan Jett

Girls have got balls. They're just a little higher up that's all. Joan Jett.

Aggressive, tough and defiant may describe me, but that leaves the impression I'm mean and I'm not. Joan Jett, again.

I figured out it was a social thing, what women were allowed to do. At a very young age, I decided I was not going to follow women's rules.  Joan Jett, once more. Has she had to spend her entire career explaining and defending her choice? (answer: Yes).

As far as I'm concerned, being any gender is a drag. Patti Smith.

No, my work does not reflect my sexual preferences, it reflects the fact that I feel total freedom as an artist.  Patti Smith.

On stage I make love to twenty five thousand people; and then I go home alone.  Janis Joplin

Some nights I look out and want to fuck the whole front row. Robert Plant

The so-called feminist writers were disgusted with me. I did my thing, and so I guess by feminist standards I'm a feminist. That suits me fine.  Chrissie Hynde

I dig music. The fictional musician Russell Hammond in Almost Famous, a film which didn't help the girl-fan (not fangirl) cause but was otherwise OK.

and a final word from one of our sponsors:

You know, people can't fall in love with me just because I'm good at what I do. Robert Plant, 1977 (I'd be interested in the context of this quote if anyone has it).
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Ages ago, maybe early 2007 maybe earlier, I bought a song on iTunes called 'Born on the Wrong Side of Time'. I liked it but hardly listened to it unless it came up on shuffle. You might say I appreciated the sentiments.

I'd heard of the performer along the long road they call the rock historical world; had heard his name get checked in a live version of a Thin Lizzy song called 'Sugar Blues'.

If you've been hanging out with me long enough, you can see where this is going. You might be shaking your head sadly because you know where it's going, where it will go and what'll happen to me in the meantime.

I was in Cork this summer. It was a cold, wet day that one expects from Mother Ireland. I was wandering, had wandered and would continue to wander through the Huguenot Quarter and so forth. I was soaking wet, cold, getting towards tired and hungry, was listening to my iPod. I'd probably just come back from the main city museum. My feet ached, I know that much. I was still mourning Ronnie Drew, so I was listening to the Dubliners almost incessantly. I was keeping Thin Lizzy for when I was in Dublin for Philip's birthday, like.

As I turned the corner, I think to go to Tesco's for some food and I saw that the square I was in is called Rory Gallagher Place. For some reason, cold, wet, hungry and weary though I was, I turned in the opposite direction to go to HMV. There I marched straight to the G section and within about two minutes (less if I hadn't stopped to admire the massive Ronnie Drew 'inspirations' poster they had. It's Nora by Sean O'Casey if you care) I walked out having purchased The Essential Rory Gallagher. I couldn't play it of course, until I got home. It went straight on the iPod. I figured if I was going to buy a Rory Gallagher CD anywhere, it should be in Cork.

Since August, I've been fighting a pointless and vain battle against what has come. On and off, and more on, I've been listening to my Rory playlist. Certain songs, particularly, at first. 'Moonchild' and the first song of his I truly loved, 'Barley and Grape Rag'. If I have a Christmas gig to perform at this year, I'll be singing that. Incidentally, it turns out that my own loved Dubliners have covered the song although I can't find it online.

I've been joking that that the last thing I need is another dead Irish musician to care about since then. Problem is, I already do. I realised when I started watching Rory videos on YouTube earlier: I already care. It's already fucking happened.

He was amazing. I mean honestly, I don't know why he's not mentioned more in the annals of Great Rock Guitarists (not even on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 best, although they're fucking idiots generally). He could play pretty much everything and anything, although it seems his heart belonged to the blues. His voice isn't anything special but it's unmistakably his. There are songs on that Essential that have moved me more than anything since... since Philip's little band tore my heart of my chest and refused to give it back when I ask. I must have looked and sounded a sight when I walked home last night, screaming along to 'I Could've Had Religion' as I walked through Holborn. I didn't care.

Not add Rory to The List? I'd have more luck trying to hold back the tide in the Severn Estuary. Not take Rory to heart? That battle was lost when I bought that CD. It was probably lost back when I heard Philip yell "the Rory Gallagher Blues!" during Sugar Blues live.

The music of Rory Gallagher makes me feel alive. That's the thing. I knew it had happened about two hours ago when I started checking out the Rory vids on YouTube and I got that feeling... that terrible, too-familiar feeling. The pull, the grip, whatever it is... that quiet melancholy of "Bloody hell, he was wonderful and he's gone and I'm too late." It's the feeling that I'd cry for the loss if I wasn't too busy smiling at the brilliance. Like when the only thing that stopped me feeling sad that George was dead back in 2001 was George himself.

You know, it's the same thing I had in 1997 for John Lennon and the Chosen Ones since. Just this Friday I told someone that it had to stop, this ridiculous clinging to people who don't and never have and never would have given a damn about me... the constant looking to them for whatever it is... the incessant reaching for a past that I can never, ever reach. A mere five days later it would appear that I've caved to another.

It was bound to happen: only last week I started reading a book about Bill Hicks to discover that he listened to Rory's album Deuce so often that his copy of it wore out. It can't be too bad to join a club Bill was signed up to... can it?

I don't think I have the energy or the strength to go through this again. I cannot become obssessed again, I cannot become consumed. Please. If you see me buying books about Rory, kick me in the shins. I'll probably buy a couple of the records at HMV, but please don't let me fall down the hole again.

Isn't it funny that I say that as if I have a choice? I didn't before, why should now be any different. I don't learn. I don't change. I'll fall down the hole, I'll drink when the label says so and the Walrus and the Carpenter will have me, just like always.

Fuck.
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Ages ago, maybe early 2007 maybe earlier, I bought a song on iTunes called 'Born on the Wrong Side of Time'. I liked it but hardly listened to it unless it came up on shuffle. You might say I appreciated the sentiments.

I'd heard of the performer along the long road they call the rock historical world; had heard his name get checked in a live version of a Thin Lizzy song called 'Sugar Blues'.

If you've been hanging out with me long enough, you can see where this is going. You might be shaking your head sadly because you know where it's going, where it will go and what'll happen to me in the meantime.

I was in Cork this summer. It was a cold, wet day that one expects from Mother Ireland. I was wandering, had wandered and would continue to wander through the Huguenot Quarter and so forth. I was soaking wet, cold, getting towards tired and hungry, was listening to my iPod. I'd probably just come back from the main city museum. My feet ached, I know that much. I was still mourning Ronnie Drew, so I was listening to the Dubliners almost incessantly. I was keeping Thin Lizzy for when I was in Dublin for Philip's birthday, like.

As I turned the corner, I think to go to Tesco's for some food and I saw that the square I was in is called Rory Gallagher Place. For some reason, cold, wet, hungry and weary though I was, I turned in the opposite direction to go to HMV. There I marched straight to the G section and within about two minutes (less if I hadn't stopped to admire the massive Ronnie Drew 'inspirations' poster they had. It's Nora by Sean O'Casey if you care) I walked out having purchased The Essential Rory Gallagher. I couldn't play it of course, until I got home. It went straight on the iPod. I figured if I was going to buy a Rory Gallagher CD anywhere, it should be in Cork.

Since August, I've been fighting a pointless and vain battle against what has come. On and off, and more on, I've been listening to my Rory playlist. Certain songs, particularly, at first. 'Moonchild' and the first song of his I truly loved, 'Barley and Grape Rag'. If I have a Christmas gig to perform at this year, I'll be singing that. Incidentally, it turns out that my own loved Dubliners have covered the song although I can't find it online.

I've been joking that that the last thing I need is another dead Irish musician to care about since then. Problem is, I already do. I realised when I started watching Rory videos on YouTube earlier: I already care. It's already fucking happened.

He was amazing. I mean honestly, I don't know why he's not mentioned more in the annals of Great Rock Guitarists (not even on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 best, although they're fucking idiots generally). He could play pretty much everything and anything, although it seems his heart belonged to the blues. His voice isn't anything special but it's unmistakably his. There are songs on that Essential that have moved me more than anything since... since Philip's little band tore my heart of my chest and refused to give it back when I ask. I must have looked and sounded a sight when I walked home last night, screaming along to 'I Could've Had Religion' as I walked through Holborn. I didn't care.

Not add Rory to The List? I'd have more luck trying to hold back the tide in the Severn Estuary. Not take Rory to heart? That battle was lost when I bought that CD. It was probably lost back when I heard Philip yell "the Rory Gallagher Blues!" during Sugar Blues live.

The music of Rory Gallagher makes me feel alive. That's the thing. I knew it had happened about two hours ago when I started checking out the Rory vids on YouTube and I got that feeling... that terrible, too-familiar feeling. The pull, the grip, whatever it is... that quiet melancholy of "Bloody hell, he was wonderful and he's gone and I'm too late." It's the feeling that I'd cry for the loss if I wasn't too busy smiling at the brilliance. Like when the only thing that stopped me feeling sad that George was dead back in 2001 was George himself.

You know, it's the same thing I had in 1997 for John Lennon and the Chosen Ones since. Just this Friday I told someone that it had to stop, this ridiculous clinging to people who don't and never have and never would have given a damn about me... the constant looking to them for whatever it is... the incessant reaching for a past that I can never, ever reach. A mere five days later it would appear that I've caved to another.

It was bound to happen: only last week I started reading a book about Bill Hicks to discover that he listened to Rory's album Deuce so often that his copy of it wore out. It can't be too bad to join a club Bill was signed up to... can it?

I don't think I have the energy or the strength to go through this again. I cannot become obssessed again, I cannot become consumed. Please. If you see me buying books about Rory, kick me in the shins. I'll probably buy a couple of the records at HMV, but please don't let me fall down the hole again.

Isn't it funny that I say that as if I have a choice? I didn't before, why should now be any different. I don't learn. I don't change. I'll fall down the hole, I'll drink when the label says so and the Walrus and the Carpenter will have me, just like always.

Fuck.

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