Thursday, August 23, 2012

Taste - "Catfish" From the CD Taste

Interesting, this internet thing. We all know about those NSFW photos and just the other day I found out that they're now calling the two girls one cup stuff NSFL, or Not Safe For Life, but is the internet Not Safe For Truth?

Check out our man William Rory Gallagher as a case in point where it may not be. Awesome guitarist, and seemingly an awesome guy, at least when he wasn't engaged in drinking himself to death. Stories about how he avoided the limelight and detested the starmaking machine abound. Rory just wanted to play his music, and who can argue with that?

No-one, of course.

But in casting our 'net for information on Gallagher, I kept coming up with this supposed quote about the man, goes something like this:

Interviewer: So what's it like to be the greatest guitarist in the world?
Jimi Hendrix: I dunno, go ask Rory Gallagher

A quick Google search for the phrase 'go ask Rory Gallagher' right now yields a supposed 88,100 matches, and while the murkiness of the deep web allows us to discount such a high number of results, clearly, this is a quote that's been repeated often on the various music pages of the internet.

And it's not there right now, but historical versions of Gallagher's Wikipedia page repeat the quote as well.

It's a quote that you want to believe: it casts a good light on both the quoted and the quotee. Hendrix, sometimes seen as arrogant while he was alive, seems humble, and Gallagher, always respected but never venerated when he was around, is recast as a Titan.

But almost immediately, the purported quote begins to tug at those strings which control your credulity. To me, at any rate, the question seems a little stilted. Would any interviewer, especially before Hendrix' death, actually ask the man "what's it like to be the greatest in the world?" It seems unprofessional, and anyway, I think that at the time, the common wisdom was that the greatest guitarist was in fact Eric Clapton. The graffito on the streets of London, after all, was never "Hendrix is God."

Rory GallagherAnd while Hendrix would often enthusiastically drop the names of guitarists he admired, the printed record shows that most often the guys whose names he'd drop were called Buddy Guy or Albert King. It is true that Hendrix mentioned Billy Gibbons to Johnny Carson one night . . . but even there it's interesting that we can find actual citations from the pre-internet era to back this up. My Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock from 1977, for example, includes in its ZZ Top article a reference to Hendrix' statement about Gibbons, yet says nothing about anything Jimi may have said about Gallagher.

Does anyone know to whom Hendrix might have been speaking when he said this thing about Gallagher? Well, looking further, someone over on Amazon actually specified Rolling Stone and said that the interview was held in the wake of Woodstock . . . which is what you'd kind of expect to read, no?

But at any rate, I took the bait. I went ahead and bought Rolling Stone Cover to Cover, and once I got the thing, it was very quick: there are no instances within the pages of Rolling Stone between the magazine's birth in 1967 and Hendrix' death in 1971 where the name "Hendrix" and "Gallagher" cohabit the same article.

And there are only four if you expand the dates to the complete 40 years. I read each and every article. None mention the quote we're looking for.

Consider also that a site known for doing such things has deconstructed a suspiciously similar claim made about Hendrix and what he never said about another somewhat obscure guitarist, Phil Keaggy. Urban legends mutate, while the truth has a tendency not to.

This may or may not be Mythbusters. I guess it's entirely possible Hendrix said the thing to a reporter for Creem or to some college kid scribing for his newspaper. And I guess I should mention here that at least one person on the Rory Gallagher Forums believes Hendrix may have said such a thing at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970. But there are no pre-internet references that I can find, and I fucking looked. I have questions about what kind of professional journalist would ask such a leading question, and really, considering how so much of what came out of Hendrix' mouth was spacily disconnected, I kinda doubt the succinct answer as well.

So for me, the truth of this quote is convincingly busted, regardless of the 88,100 php or cfm pages that might pop up saying otherwise. And regardless of the next version of Mr. Gallagher's Wikipedia page, that no-one reading this can tell me won't say the very same thing, with citations to the same incorrect pages I've just (more or less) busted. The internet is nothing if not incestuous, and v 2.0 is itching to cite . . . as long as you're not too worried about rigor.

All such despairing for the shaky status of truth on the nets doesn't mean, of course, that we still can't enjoy Gallagher's music. And I wholeheartedly suggest that we do. I've linked for you here the song "Catfish," from the first Taste album. It's a blues standard that Hendrix also covered, and while I love both versions, I think I like Rory's version--sludgy, bloozy, powerful-- better.

File under: The Muck of the Irish