Rory Gallagher’s Best Guitar Solos
Rory Gallagher is one of the best blues guitarists of all time. He inspired players like Slash, Brian May and The Edge, and was widely respected by Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton.
So the legend goes, when asked ‘How it felt to be the best guitarist in the World’, Jimi Hendrix replied, ‘I don’t know, go ask Rory Gallagher.’
Yet despite this, Gallagher remains a criminally underrated musician. He doesn’t get close to the top spot on any of the ‘Greatest Guitarist of All Time’ polls, and rarely appears in conversation alongside his contemporaries Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.
It is perhaps not so surprising. Rory Gallagher was not a typical rockstar. He didn’t lead a hedonistic lifestyle, nor did he look or behave the part. He was a polite, softly spoken and shy man. Away from the stage, Gallagher shunned the spotlight and resisted all attempts by his record label to broaden his appeal to a wider audience.
For Rory Gallagher, it was all about the music.
He was a highly skilled, multi-instrumentalist. In addition to the guitar, Gallagher played the harmonica, banjo, mandolin and the dulcimer. For decades, he performed over 250 times a year, usually for hours on end. He became famous for his marathon gigs and the energy of his performances, which contrasted with his reserved off stage demeanour.
Rory Gallagher’s Best Guitar Solos
Above all though, Rory Gallagher is remembered as being a phenomenal guitar player.
His playing style was explosive and frenetic, yet full of feeling. The quality of his vibrato and phrasing were exceptional and throughout his career he adopted techniques – the heavy use of pinch harmonics being just one example – that were unlike those of his contemporaries.
I thought it would be interesting to compile some of Rory Gallagher’s best guitar solos over the years, from both his live shows and the studio. His lead guitar work is some of the best in the history of the blues. So whether you are totally new to Gallagher, or a die hard fan, I hope you enjoy and are inspired by listening to one of the best guitarists in the history of the blues.
Without further ado, here are a selection of Rory Gallagher’s best guitar solos from his career:
This was one of the first hard rocking blues songs I heard as a teenager. I can still recall being blown away by the pace of the guitar solo and Gallagher’s heavy use of pinch harmonics; one of his signature techniques. Combined with the memorable riff and Gallagher’s raw vocals, the song remains one of my favourites. Skip straight to 1 minute in if you just wanted to hear the guitar solo.
The introductory guitar solo here highlights the importance of note placement and timing in the blues. Gallagher might only pay a handful of notes, but he plays these with such feeling, and his timing is perfect. He also highlights the totally different feeling you can give to a song through small alterations in technique. When the main guitar solo starts at 2.50, the long soaring notes of the introduction are long gone. Instead Gallagher plays in the short, sharp and staccato style for which he is renowned. The difference is pronounced and adds colour to the performance.
There are very few guitarists in the history of the blues who are competent at both regular and slide guitar playing. Rory Gallagher is one of them. The quality of his slide guitar playing here is exceptional. It illustrates both his virtuosity and diversity as a guitarist. This particular performance features two of Rory Gallagher’s best guitar solos using a slide (at 1.50 and then again at 6.30), as well as a bass, keyboard and drum solo.
The Beat Club was a German music programme in the late 1960s and early 1970s that featured some of the most famous musicians of the time. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, amongst countless others performed there. Rory Gallagher was one of the show’s regulars and performed 4 times there in the space of 2 years. Of all of these performances, his cover of Freddie King’s, ‘I’m Tore Down’ is one of my favourites. Jump to 1.57 and then 3.50 to hear Gallagher soloing at his best.
Rory Gallagher was known for his relentless touring schedule and marathon live performances. Although he sold over 30 millions records during his career, he was a musician who was at his best when performing. Even in his later years and in declining health, Gallagher’s performances were as powerful as ever. I Could’ve Had Religion is one of my favourites and this version features 2 of Rory Gallagher’s best guitar solos with a slide – first at 2.43 and then again at 7.28.
Perhaps more so than any of the other songs on this list, McAvoy Boogie showcases the depth of Gallagher’s skill as a guitarist. He introduces the song as nothing more than a filler to keep the crowd entertained ‘while the tape is being changed’. He then launches into a totally improvised 5 minute long slide guitar solo. It might not be one of Gallagher’s most famous songs, but it is certainly one that shows off some of his best playing.
I wanted to save the best for last. If there is a single performance that captures Rory Gallagher at his very best, it is this. The clip illustrates not only his masterful skills as a guitarist, but his sheer passion for playing and performing the blues. The solo just after 3 minutes is one of Rory Gallagher’s best guitar solos ever. The performance is timeless.
Well, there we have it – some of Rory Gallagher’s best guitar solos. I hope you’ve enjoyed listening! What are your favourite Rory Gallagher songs? Let me know in the comments!