Queen guitarist Brian May has named the one guitarist “who gave him his sound” during an exclusive interview with Far Out.
May has been in the headlines of late as he promotes the remastered version of his much-celebrated solo album, Back To The Light. With the guitarist pondering back to the time he created the record, his interview with Far Out captures him in a reflective mood. The feature sees May reveal the stories behind his songs, discuss his influences, and open up about the battle scars he’s gained from a life in the music industry.
At a notable moment in the piece, May spoke passionately about his love for the late Irish guitarist, Rory Gallagher, who had a grand impact on him stylistically as a musician, but his love for Gallagher goes way beyond just his musicianship. “Let’s talk about Rory Gallagher,” May says. “He’s in my life always. He also gave me my sound. We used to see Rory Gallagher in Taste at The Marquee every Thursday; I used to go a lot. And the sound that he made, and the contact that he made with the audience. Everything about Rory was just incredible. And I wanted to know how he did it. Do you want to know how I did it?”
“We were boys,” May continues as he discusses their brotherhood, “And there were times that they would close up The Marquee after the show and chuck everybody out. So, we hid in the toilets until everyone had gone – and then came out, and accosted Rory, who was packing up his own gear. He used to carry his own gear at the time; his own amp. And I went up to him and said, ‘Mr. Gallagher, how do you get your sound?’ He said, [imitates Irish accent] ‘Yeah, course you can.’ I said, ‘How do you get your sound, what is it that you do – how do you make it sing like that?’ He said it was very simple; ‘I have this AC30 amplifier, it’s very different to other amplifiers.
“It’s a vox amplifier, it makes a very sweet sound.’ And he had his guitar – you’ll remember his guitar, it was battered and worn and fits him like a glove. His guitar was a part of him. And then he said, ‘There’s one more thing: there’s this little box that goes between the guitar and the amp.’ That was the Rangemaster treble booster, and that kicks up the signal and makes the amp sing. It makes it sustain.
“So, the next day, I went down Wardour Street and bought myself two AC30’s for £30 each, which was a lot of money for me in those days! And I found a little Rangemaster treble booster, plugged it up with the guitar that I made with my dad, and that was the sound! Really, that hasn’t changed in the forty, fifty years that I have been playing, and that became my voice!”
That crafty little trick that he learnt from Gallagher helped forge the familiar tones forever ingrained into our communal consciousness, but that’s not all he learned from the Irishman. May was equally motivated by how the guitarist carried himself as a human being and has tried to emulate a bit of Rory into his own life.
May adds: “I find myself talking more about Rory, especially these days. Again, he was an inspirational musician, but he was an inspiration as a person. He was a gentleman. He was kind, he was considerate. He always had time for people. I mean, I was a kid coming up and bother him while he was trying to pack up his gear after a long hard gig. He could have gone, ‘Ah, come on: I’m busy!’
“He just had an endless amount of time, and I got to know him after that. I count that as a great privilege: We did a couple of things together. And he was always the same: he never changed. I said to him once, ‘You treat me just the same as when you first met me.’ And he went, ‘You treat everybody the way you feel.’ Completely modest, decent, and a true gentleman. What a lovely guy!”