Rory Gallagher and his band Taste almost played Woodstock
Film of Taste at Isle of Wight a year later to screen at Cork Film Festival next week
Irish blues and rock guitarist Rory Gallagher almost played the legendary Woodstock Festival alongside the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, his brother and former manager Donal Gallagher has revealed.
Donal explained that Rory and his band, Taste, with Richard McCracken on bass and John Wilson on drums, were on tour in the US at the time, playing support to Eric Clapton’s supergroup, Blind Faith and Delaney and Bonnie and Friends when an invite came in to play Woodstock.
“We were on tour with Blind Faith at the time in 1969 and I remember the agent coming on board the bus in New York and asking if the package, which was Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends and Taste, would be interested in going up to Woodstock.
“Clapton was at the top of the bus and he turned around and asked for a show of hands and it got voted down and voted down by quite a bit - it was predominantly the guys in Delaney and Bonnie, which would expand and contract between an eight piece and a 12 piece, who voted it down.
“The guys in Taste, Rory included, kept their hands down - they felt they weren’t important enough to be given a shout. Eric wanted to do it and I remember whispering to him that, with all due respect to democracy, it was his shout basically but it went to a vote and Woodstock went on without us.”
Although Rory and Taste missed out on the chance to play to 400,000 fans at Woodstock, just a year later, the band performed before an even bigger audience when an estimated at 600,000 turned up at the Isle of Wight concert with the band’s performance captured on film and now released on DVD.
Donal recalled how there was a frantic rush to catch the ferry to the island in time so the band could set up their gear for their Friday slot on the festival bill which featured Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Free Leonard Cohen, Donovan, The Doors, Procol Harum, Joni Mitchell and Miles Davis among others.
“On Friday people were still arriving but it had already swollen to over half a million people - I think a large majority of people were coming from the continent and there was a huge Irish contingent because even back then, you could see the Tricolour flying in the footage.”
Although it was the largest audience that Taste had ever played to, Rory and the band were unfazed and played what is generally regarded as one of the highlights of the 1970 event, kicking off with What’s Going on and blasting through Sinnerboy, Gambling Blues and Morning Sun among others.
“I think Taste ended up playing the better part of 90 minutes which was kind of unexpected by everybody - the other acts that were on hadn’t really ignited so when Taste hit the stage, the whole thing slowly took off and exploded and they came back and did three encores,” recalled Donal.
According to Donal, film maker, Murray Lerner had given instructions to his crew to shoot just two numbers from the new bands and to save the main film stock for Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Leonard Cohen and the other headliners but Taste’s performance prompted him to change his instructions.
“Murray didn’t know who Taste were but when he saw the spontaneity of the band and the audience and their interaction, he just told his guys keep filming and they just kept going and captured over an hour of the performance which was quite incredible.
“Footage wise, it’s head and shoulders above everything else at the festival - it was filmed in the late afternoon so you had the light which you didn’t have late at night with some of the headline acts plus you get to see the whole audience which is part of the whole vibe of the Isle of Wight.”
“I got a call about the footage in 1995 and Rory was in hospital at the time and I remember thinking “I will be able show him some of the footage when he comes out and he will be thrilled to bits but sadly it never happened - it’s great though that 20 years on from his death, it’s finally out there.”