Rory Gallagher was the greatest all round hitter I ever saw - or heard. Sure he knocked many over the fences but it was the sheer consistency that astounded. I've no idea how many times I saw him, it's all a blur of blue denim, booze and a hyper-energized Irish Blues.
He always seemed melded to that battered Strat and the sweat flew off him as he coaxed notes out of it that we couldn't even imagine. Sure, he played the Blues, but in a way that I've never heard before or since. I guess it was because he was connected to the Delta by way of Ballyshannon, Cork, Belfast and London; and much of the grit of those towns infected his fluidity.
Do yourselves a favor - pick up Live in Europe! To me it ranks alongside Bob Marley and The Wailers Live as one of the great concert albums. That's exactly how Rory sounded and I treasure my copy because it brings back cider nights when Dublin would throb with electricity because the kid was back in town.
Rory was more than just music to us. What did we have back then - showbands aping any tune that made it to the Top Twenty? Of course, there was Van up North, and we treasured him, although his people had our own well and truly under the heel of the Unionist jackboot. We didn't care; to us Van was Irish and made even grim, repressed Sandy Row seem glamorous.
But Rory was our own. He had taken the boat to London with Taste and conquered it. Sure, Clapton, Beck and Page had greater star power but they didn't have Rory's consistency and that longing to live every moment through his music. I won't mention Hendrix, for how can you compete with a wraith who had the fire of angels coursing through his fingers.
I watched Clapton and Beck recently on stage in New York. Eric, as ever, had that wonderful fluidity but he seemed to be on remote control much of the show. He only came to life when Jeff threatened to blow him out of the water. And Beck was great - never under-rated but now unknown to many, he was all harmonics and whammy bar, and as innovative as he's ever been.
I couldn't help think of Rory. Put him out there and he would have upped the ante in his sweat-soaked denims and forced those two masters out of their contented cruise control. That was our kid, night after night, he took us way beyond ourselves to a place where we could see that teenage dreams could become even more than reality.
And when he'd left the stage after many hoarse and blistering encores, and the lights were bright and the bouncers were trying to get us to go home, we'd still chant
"Nice one, Rory, nice one, son
Nice one, Rory, let's have another one..."