Q&A with veteran British musician Mick Gallagher - keeps the flame of the Animals and the Blockheads alive

"Music emphatically affects people whether I want it to or not. It’s a language that speaks through mood and emotion across all borders and even species. It stimulates, heals and informs. Music is an incomparable communicator. An expression of being human."

Mick Gallagher: Spiritual Rock n' Roll

Mickey Gallagher born 29 October 1945 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England and best known as a member of Ian Dury and the Blockheads and for his contributions to albums by the Clash. He has also written music for films such as Extremes (1971) and After Midnight (1990), also the Broadway play Serious Money (1988). Mick started his musical career with The Unknowns. He played with the Animals during 1965, replacing founding member Alan Price. He moved on to form The Chosen Few, where he played alongside Alan Hull, who later formed Lindisfarne. Other associations include Skip Bifferty, Peter Frampton’s Camel and Cochise. His Hammond sound was a major contribution to Ian Dury and The Blockheads. He played on two of the most influential Clash albums, London Calling (1979) and Sandinista! (1980), and made live appearances with the band, also playing on their last album Cut the Crap (1985), for which he never received a credit. Mickey worked with Clash drummer Topper Headon again when they recorded Headon’s Waking Up (1986), appearing with Bobby Tench and Jimmy Helms.

He has also performed and recorded with Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox. Over fifty years later John Steel and Mickey Gallagher are still touring together. The Animals can boast some of the greatest songs in popular music history. Animals & Friends remain a seminal rhythm & blues band who still command great respect internationally amongst their peers as well as from fans of all ages who instinctively respond so enthusiastically to such pivotal songs and music from The Animals catalog such as 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place', 'Boom Boom', 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood', 'Baby, Let Me Take You Home', 'I Put A Spell On You' and the bands' multi-million selling anthem and Number One hit across the world - 'House of The Rising Sun'.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Rock n' Roll Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Born in 1945 I was in my teens when ‘the sixties ‘arrived and was swept up in the culture revolution of the day. Music was thrust into the forefront of a movement for change and the industry and media followed… great days. My view of the world suddenly went into technicolor… I moved to London from Newcastle and followed my dream… still following it.

How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? What touched (emotionally) you from the Hammond organ?

I have always found that playing music in an ensemble promotes a deep empathy within and between players and audience, a sort of unspoken exchange which, when resonating in combinations of rhythms and harmonies, can be profound and spiritual. I have always loved the sound of the Hammond organ, my mum got me playing organ in our local church when I was 10, but then, a couple of years later, I heard Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff and was blown away with the versatility and excitement of the instrument in the hands of masters. The Hammond organ in combination with a Leslie cabinet is, in my opinion, the ultimate mood setter.   

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

A school friend of mine called Terry Morgan, who played bass guitar in a local band, asked me to join them and so provided me with the first step into the magical world of Rock & Roll. A very auspicious meeting. He also gave me the best advice I ever had… Always be on time and don’t forget your rehearsal money.   

"Born in 1945 I was in my teens when ‘the sixties ‘arrived and was swept up in the culture revolution of the day. Music was thrust into the forefront of a movement for change and the industry and media followed…great days. My view of the world suddenly went into technicolor… I moved to London from Newcastle and followed my dream…still following it." (Photo: Ian Dury and the Blockheads)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Too many to relate ...  but an incident comes to mind. While touring USA with Ian Dury & The Blockheads in 1979 as the opening act for Lou Reed, gigging around the States, relations were not good in that Lou and his band had ignored us completely from the ‘get go’... After opening a show, about a week into the tour, we were visited backstage by fellow Brits Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood. They asked how the tour was going and Ian described the scenario. After leaving our dressing room they passed through the technical area where all Lou’s band’s guitars were waiting to be collected and taken on stage. They proceeded to detune them all and then went out to the front of house to witness the ensuing mayhem. We got the blame of course and it didn’t help relationships for the rest of the tour... but there is no excuse for a lack of jolly good manners is there?

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the old analogue approach to recording and the warmth of the resulting sound... Although digital technology is amazing it does not touch me in the same way. I hope music continues to be an advocate of peace and harmony in the world and that young people are inspired and encouraged to play at least one real instrument. My fear is that we have lost at least one generation to soulless Artificial Intelligence.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

The one thing! … I would change…. The Music Industry, which has everything to do with crass marketing and nothing to do with music.

"I have always found that playing music in an ensemble promotes a deep empathy within and between players and audience, a sort of unspoken exchange which, when resonating in combinations of rhythms and harmonies, can be profound and spiritual. I have always loved the sound of the Hammond organ, my mum got me playing organ in our local church when I was 10, but then, a couple of years later, I heard Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff and was blown away with the versatility and excitement of the instrument in the hands of masters." (Photo: Mick Gallagher)

What were the reasons that made the UK in 1960s to be the center of R n' B researches and experiments?

15 years after the war, the end of rationing and austerity, a generation coming of age and embracing world culture, especially in music and art. A time when diversity was positive and all-encompassing, leading to an appetite for experimentation and the free interpretation of ethnic Folk, Blues, Jazz, Rock and Roll, Reggae, etc. From this cultural explosion R&B became the popular musical voice of change and London became the fashionable face of the age. Turned out the Brits had more appreciation of black American music than the Americans in the 1960s.  We imported the Blues, repackaged it with young white boys singing, and sold it back to them.  Then, of course, there was The Beatles.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the local music circuits?

The Two Hats’ …hilarious! …a sad emotion, watching more and more local music venues closing due to 'sustainable development' policies and not being replaced.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?

Everyone has a story to tell, and you never stop learning.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Music emphatically affects people whether I want it to or not. It’s a language that speaks through mood and emotion across all borders and even species. It stimulates, heals and informs. Music is an incomparable communicator. An expression of being human.

"I miss the old analogue approach to recording and the warmth of the resulting sound... Although digital technology is amazing it does not touch me in the same way. I hope music continues to be an advocate of peace and harmony in the world and that young people are inspired and encouraged to play at least one real instrument. My fear is that we have lost at least one generation to soulless Artificial Intelligence." (Photo: Animals & Friends)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

1967, I’d like to be a ‘fly on the wall’ at the Abbey Road ‘Sgt. Pepper’ sessions... analogue creativity at its peak.

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