One of the most distinctive rock voices is dissolved in silence for ever: Dan McCafferty, a founding member of NAZARETH and a longtime friend of mine, has passed away on November 8th at the age of 76. He may have left the ensemble and retired almost a decade ago, but it’s with his raspy vocals that the premier Scottish quartet will be associated for years, since it was Dan who in the ’70s and ’80s recorded a string of classic songs, including such originals as “Hair Of The Dog” which GUNS N’ ROSES covered and such covers as “This Flight Tonight” which Joni Mitchell, the rambunctious number’s writer, used to ascribe to the Dunfermline foursome.
“Our prerogative has always been to do music we like and hope the fans like it too,” McCafferty said to me once, and the band’s followers all around the world adored them not only thanks to what they did but how they did it – with a lot of gusto and with a lot of love. That’s why the group delivered the ultimate version of “Love Hurts” which still stands above other attempts to appropriate this ballad, and that’s why their heavier cuts like “Expect No Mercy” had the belligerent edge no other collectives have been able to bare – and it was Dan’s pipes that perfectly balanced, even married, those extremes. McCafferty lived for the team, having stricken on his own only thrice – on his self-titled solo debut in 1975, on proggier “Into The Ring” in 1987 and on the sentimental “Last Testament” in 2019 – and never really eager to take to the stage without Pete Agnew, his partner in rhyme since late ’60s, and for his family, sometimes roping in his scion Colin to tour with the quarter as guitar technician. And Dan had an immense affinity for his friends.
I spent many hours in his company, drinking beer and sipping tea, listening to the veteran’s yarns and telling stories of my own, commiserating with the lads when they imbibed quite a bit before getting to the venue and had to climb many flights of stairs as the hotel’s elevators were off due to fire alarm and going with them for a walk on the Mediterranean shore. The newspaper with my interview with McCafferty made it onto the cover of “The Newz”; and Dan and Pete was more than happy to joke about the photo of the guys and myself making it onto the concert posters in Moscow. We used to have fun, and I will miss Dan McCafferty sorely.