Gerry McAvoy of The Rory Gallagher Band: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Gerry McAvoy

Feature Photo courtesy of Gerry McAvoy

Born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1951, Gerry McAvoy, then 19, joined iconic guitarist Rory Gallagher’s band and went on to record a series of sizzling albums until leaving Gallagher’s band in 1991.

Sure, Gallagher’s classic cuts, like “Do You Read Me,” “Moonchild,” “Shin Kicker,” “Shadow Play,” and “Bad Penny,” feature some of the more iconic guitar work you’ll ever hear. But if not for McAvoy, who capably held down the low end—and is one of the more underrated bassists of all time—Gallagher’s music would lack a certain je ne sais quoi.

After leaving Gallagher’s band in ’91, McAvoy kept at it, holding down the low end for Nine Below Zero until 2011. Gerry McAvoy is lying low these days, but today, he’s looking back with ClassicRockHistory.com on the cache of ten classic rock and blues records that changed his life.

Runaway with Del Shannon by Del Shannon (1961)

Even though the album was released in 1961, I never heard it until around 1965. This was thanks to my older sister’s boyfriend, now my brother-in-law. He brought it to the house we lived in just outside Belfast; it was a gift for my sister. When they put the record onto the turntable of our gramophone player.

I heard something that stirred something inside. The first track, “Misery,” with its rasping saxophone, tinkling piano in the background, and this amazing voice, went from rough rock ‘n’ roll to this beautiful falsetto. Onwards to “His Latest Flame,” and then, the classic “Runaway.”  At 15 years old, this was my introduction to rock ‘n’ roll.

Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan (1966)

This was probably the first record I purchased. Once again, thanks to a school friend who was a massive Dylan fan. This was probably a major turning point for Bob Dylan. Going from straight-ahead folk to a mixture of electric folk bordering on rock ‘n’ roll. He was criticized by many die-hard folkies, who regarded this as the ultimate sell-out. They didn’t know what they were missing.

Dylan surrounded himself with some of the top players at that time. He had Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson from the Band, previously The Hawks, a rock ‘n’ roll band. Kenny Buttrey and Charlie McCoy from Area Code 615, pure country. Al Kooper has worked with everyone from Blood Sweat & Tears to The Who to The Rolling Stones.

I became acquainted with Al quite a few years ago. There was talk of him producing Rory, which would have been great. I remember Rory asking him how he got the unique sound from the Hammond. His answer: “Pure fluke.” This album made me realize how important songwriting is.

Beatles for Sale by The Beatles (1964)

Probably the second album I bought. I became a Beatles fan very early on, probably after seeing the movie A Hard Day’s Night. My sister, a massive fan, took me to see the movie. From then on, I was hooked. In my estimation, this was the first album where I think John Lennon and Paul McCartney were becoming serious songwriters.

Of course, they had written tracks for previous albums, but I think this album took them to a higher level. It was a precursor for the next albums, Help!, Rubber Soul, and Revolver, which saw them experimenting with tape loops, sitar, and harmonium. And then, of course, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Read More: Beatles Albums In Order Of Original UK And US Studio Issues

Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, aka The Beano Album by John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers (1966)

Belfast in the ’60s, for some reason, was a mecca for blues and R&B. Van Morrison was becoming a solo star in his own right after leaving Them. Van got into the blues because of his father’s record collection, mainly blues. Some say the reason for this was because of WW2. Before the D-Day landing, many black G.I.s were stationed in Derry and Belfast.

The story goes that a lot of these guys would carry their favorite 78s with them. When they needed some extra cash, they would hock these records at the city markets. One of these markets was in Belfast’s Smithfield Market. It’s a nice story, even if it’s not true. Yet again, my old school friend steered me in the right direction again.

I was aware of The Yardbirds and their songs, and of course, Eric Clapton was the guitarist. My friend told me Eric had left the Yardbirds and joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. I thought to myself, “Who is John Mayall?” Off I went to Smithfield and bought the album. I took it home, put it on the turntable, and cranked up the volume.

From the first track, “All Your Love,” I was hooked again. The sound of Eric’s guitar was mind-blowing, and the distortion and weight of the sound were incredible. The story goes that the engineers at Decca Sound Studios, where the album was recorded, kept telling Eric to turn it down, but he refused. He turned up his Marshall 1962 combo (Bluesbreaker) and cranked up his 1960 Les Paul standard. The rest is history.

Electric Mud by Muddy Waters (1968)

After listening to the Bluesbreaker album, I checked out who had written the songs: Otis Rush, Freddie King, Robert Johnson, Memphis Slim, and Little Walter. I had to find out who these guys were. Thank you, Smithfield Market, which had a plethora of record stores. I started buying blues albums and nothing else.

By this stage, I was trying to get into a band that would play blues. Pretty hard to find in those days. Club and ballroom promoters wanted the pop songs of the day to attract an audience. So, the blues were put on the back burner. Then, in 1967, Rory brought his band Taste to Belfast.

All of a sudden, thanks to Rory, blues became hip, much to my delight. So, we got a bunch of guys together and decided to play the blues. I was checking out material for the band in my favorite record store when I came across Electric Mud by Muddy Waters. I’d heard of him but never really listened to him. I purchased the album back home, and the turntable is running.

The first track, “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” is pure sex. Then, “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and even a  Mick Jagger/Keith Richards composition, “Let’s Spend the Night Together, was the guy for the last four years. I found Muddy and never looked back.

On the Boards by Taste (1970)

Taste had come to Belfast in 1967, on Rory’s 19th Birthday. They were playing the clubs in and around Belfast. My buddies and I would go and see him as often as we could. The band made their debut album Taste in 1969. But it was in 1970 that they recorded the follow up album On the Boards. All the guys in the band were raving about this album.

I had to buy it, which I did. It’s a great album by a great band. All the band members were in top form. Rory, of course, wrote the songs, but what a dynamic rhythm section John Wilson and Richie McCracken were. At the time, not realizing I would be a part of Rory’s rhythm section in about a year’s time.

Moondance by Van Morrison (1970)

Van is as much a Belfast musician as I am. I grew up with his music, from his time with Them to his solo career. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Van on a few occasions. He always seems more comfortable conversing about his early days in Belfast. Most people cite Astral Weeks as Van’s best album. I have to differ, picking Moondance as my favorite.

In 1970, my band and I relocated to London. We played the regular run of clubs: The Speakeasy, The Revolution, and Blazes. All these clubs had fantastic sound systems, and most nights, before we played, they would blast out the favorite albums of that period. Nine times out of ten, I would be listening to Moondance on these amazing systems. I think that could be a good reason for me to pick Moondance as my favorite Van album.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (1975)

I became a fan of Bruce after our then-roadie Tom Driscoll turned me on to his second album, The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle. When Born to Run was released, there was a lot of hype surrounding the album cover picture on both Time and Newsweek. So, I shied away from purchasing the album.

But trusty Tom told me, “You need to get this album.” I’m glad I took his advice. It is a great album—pure Americana—from the opening track, “Thunder Road,” to the title track, which is fifth on the tracklist. I’ve remained a fan of Bruce since those early days. In fact, I went to see him in Belfast just a few weeks ago; it was a great show from a great performer.

Read More: Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Songs Of The 1970s

London Calling by The Clash (1979)

Now to the other extreme. I wasn’t convinced when punk came into vogue. The Sex Pistols weren’t really my cup of tea. But in retrospect, when I listen to them now, there is an edge to the music. A danger that a lot of rock bands through the seventies lost.

In fact, Rory went to see the Sex Pistols’ last gig in San Francisco. He was so knocked by the raw energy, that he decided to change his band at the time from a four-piece to a three-piece. It was Rory who played The Clash for me for the first time, “London’s Burning” was the track—again, hooked.

Highway to Hell by AC/DC (1979)

You don’t get punk without the mediocrity that was happening with some ’70s rock bands. There had to be a revolution of some sort, but with AC/DC, to me, they were as punk as you could get. The opening track says it all: Bon Scott’s vocals are as punk as you get, and Angus is stripping everything from that Gibson SG. No comment.

Gerry McAvoy of The Rory Gallagher Band: 10 Albums That Changed My Life article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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