Big Danny Gallagher was a towering giant of a man who came from New Jersey and obviously with a name like that had connections that brought him to Ireland to retrace his ancestral footprints. He hooked up with a network of creative artists over the years in Galway, Arranmore and Dublin who gathered together in the Annesley House on Friday night to pay tribute to this large in life and large in death personality that left a big intense impression on those he befriended until his sudden death recently. The music was in full swing when I arrived, Business Bassman John Quearney, one of Big Danny’s closest friend’s and supporters was doing a slinky version of Willie Dixon’s Built For Comfort with his son Colm and Dave Murphy on Guitars and legendary Irish drummer Nollaig Bridgeman solid as a rock at the rear.
Immediately I was stunned by the extraordinary inventive interplay between Colm Quearney on his Telecaster and Dave Murphy on his big Gibson Lucille with the emphasis on well thought out solos that built up to breathtaking intensity repeatedly throughout the set. Maybe it was because I was sitting next to Emma at the sound desk but the sound was brilliant overall but in particular the beautiful gutsy deep toned solos on the classic Freddie King/Clapton/Green instrumental workouts. The Stumble and Hideaway were spinechilling with the rhythm section matchfit and in full stride throughout. Live music does not come much better than this, and the full house in attendance were on a roll and swaying along to the enjoyable punchy performance of these multi talented musicians who are central figures in the Dublin music scene motivating and inspiring past and future generations of musicians.
Colm Quearney does divine Bob Dylan covers turning Lay Lady Lay, Tangled Up In Blue and Like A Rolling Stone into something distinctively polished and propelled by guitar playing of the highest quality, taking his influences and melding them into a style uniquely his own. There was pictures of Big Danny on the wall’s and two large framed pictures raffled by Smiley Bolger another legendary character on the Dublin music scene over the decades. One of large framed black & white pictures immortalising a jam session with Big Danny in the company of Business men John Quearney and Pat Farrell was won by Biddi T who will no doubt have it adorning the Faith Avenue household with pride of place. Big Danny was a man of many opinions inspired by the American Beat Generation and many contributors on the night recalled stories and events that would have made Kerouac and Ginsberg put pen to paper.
On Big Danny & the Lost Leader Band CD Sign of Faith there is a message from Big Danny: “Children everywhere, being fed bad, little or no information, Be true to yourselves and treat others The way you like been treated it’s that simple.” Danny Rogers read some poetry from Lawrence Ferlinghetti who espoused a liberal spirituality with kindness and was famous to the 70’s rock generation for his recitation of the prayer in The Band’s Last Waltz concert film by Martin Scorsese. “The dog trots freely in the street and sees reality and the thing’s he sees are bigger than himself and the thing’s he sees are his reality, drunks in the doorways, moon’s in the trees. The dog trots freely through the street and the things he sees are smaller than himself, fish on newsprint, ants in holes chicken in Chinatown windows, their heads a block away The dog trots freely in the street and the things he smells smell something like himself. The dog trots freely in the street past puddles and babies, cats and cigars, poolrooms and policemen. He doesn’t hate cops he merely has no use for them. And he goes past them and past the dead cows hung up whole in front of the San Francisco Meat Market He would rather eat a tender cow than a tough policeman though either might do. And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory and past Coit’s Tower and past Congressman Doyle of the Un-American Committee He’s afraid of Coit’s Tower but he’s not afraid of Congressman Doyle although what he hears is very discouraging, very depressing, and very absurd to a sad young dog like himself, to a serious dog like himself. But he has his own free world to live in, his own fleas to eat. He will not be muzzled; Congressman Doyle is just another fire hydrant to him. The dog trots freely in the street and has his own dogs life to live and to think about and to reflect upon touching and tasting and testing everything investigating everything without benefit of perjury, a real realist with a real tale to tell and a real tail to tell it with” A quality succession of contributors joined the band on stage on vocals and blues harp adding to a very pleasing and varied set from Hoochie Coochie Man, Mystery Train and a first class a cappella version of Danny Boy bringing the tribute home.
Big Danny Gallagher’s memory associated with such a splendid, sincere, competent and finely crafted night of music and performance rock solid in all departments is the finest monument his friends could have erected to evoke the memory of their friend gone to that great gig in the sky “when you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight, death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but love leaves a memory no one can steal”.