Who is Gerry Rafferty? Didn't he only write one song?
Here's some assorted biographical information about the Scottish pop genius.

Bruce Eder
All Music Guide

Gerry Rafferty was a popular music giant at the end of the 1970's, thanks to the song "Baker Street" and the album City To City. His career long predated that fixture of top 40 radio, however - indeed, by the time he cut "Baker Street", Rafferty had already been a member of two successful groups, the Humblebums and Stealers Wheel.

Gerry Rafferty was born in Paisley, Scotland in 1947, the son of a Scottish mother and an Irish father. His father was deaf but still enjoyed singing, mostly Irish rebel songs, and his early experience of music was a combination of Catholic hymns, traditional folk music, and 50's pop music.

By 1968, at age 21, Rafferty was a singer-guitarist and had started trying to write songs professionally, and was looking for a gig of his own. Enter Billy Connolly, late of Scottish bands like the Skillet-Lickers and the Acme Brush Company. Connelly was a musician and comedian, who'd found that telling jokes from the stage was as appealing an activity to him-and the audience-as making music. He'd passed through several groups looking for a niche before finally forming a duo called the Humblebums with Tam Harvey, a rock guitarist. They'd established themselves in Glasgow, and were then approached by Transatlantic, one of the more successful independent record labels in England at the time, and signed to a recording contract. After playing a show in Paisley, Rafferty approached Connelly about auditioning some of the songs he'd written. Billy Connelly was impressed not only with the songs but with their author, and suddenly the Humblebums were a trio.

The Humblebums trio was a major success in England, both on stage and on record, but not without some strain. Connelly was the dominant personality, his jokes between the songs entertaining audiences as much as the songs themselves. Additionally, Rafferty began develop a distinctive style as a singer-guitarist and songwriter, and this eventually led to tension between him and Harvey-the latter exited in 1970, and Rafferty and Connelly continued together for two more albums, their line-up expanding to a sextet, but their relationship began to break down. The records were selling well, and the gigs were growing in prominence, including a Royal Command Performance. Connelly, however, worked himself to the point of exhaustion amid all of this activity, and when he did recover, he and Rafferty ultimately split up over the differing directions in which each was going. Rafferty had noticed that Connelly's jokes were taking up more time in their concerts than the music he was writing. They parted company in 1971.

Transatlantic didn't want to give up one of its top money-makers, however, especially if there was a new career to be started. Rafferty cut his first solo album for the label that year. Can I Have My Money Back? was a melodious folk-pop album, on which Rafferty employed the vocal talents of an old school friend, Joe Egan. The LP garnered good reviews but failed to sell.

Out of those sessions, however, Rafferty and Egan put together the original line-up of Stealers Wheel, which was one of the most promising (and rewarding) pop-rock outfits of the mid-1970's. Unfortunately, Stealers Wheel's line-up and legal history were complicated enough to keep various lawyers well paid for much of the middle of the decade. Rafferty was in the group, then out, then in again as the line-up kept shifting-their first album was a success, the single "Stuck In The Middle With You" a huge hit, but nothing after that clicked commercially, and by 1975 the group was history. Three years of legal battles followed, sorting out problems between Rafferty and his management.

Finally, in 1978, Rafferty was free to record again, and he signed to United Artists Records. That year, he cut City To City, a melodic yet strangely enigmatic album that topped the charts in America, put there by the success of the song "Baker Street." The song itself was a masterpiece of pop production, Rafferty's Paul McCartney-like vocals carrying a haunting central melody with a mysterious and yearning lyric, backed by a quietly thumping bass, tinkling celeste, and understated keyboard ornamentation, and then Raphael Ravenscroft's sax, which we've had a taste of in the opening bars, rises up behind some heavily amplified electric guitars-it was sophisticated '70s pop-rock at its best [and better yet, it wasn't disco! -- author's note], and it dominated the airwaves for months in 1978, narrowly missing the No. 1 spot in England but selling millions of copies and taking up hundreds of cumulative hours of radio time. The publisher and the record company couldn't have been happier. Everyone concerned was thrilled, until it became clear that Rafferty -- who had a reclusive and iconoclastic streak -- was not going to tour America to support the album. The album, which hit No. 1, might've gone double-platinum and meant it (lots of records were shipped platinum in those days, only eventually to return 90% of those copies) had Rafferty toured.

His next record, Night Owl (1979), also charted well and got good reviews, but the momentum that had driven City to City to top-selling status wasn't there, and Snakes and Ladders (1980), his next record, didn't sell nearly as well. Ironically, around this time, Rafferty's brother Jim was signed to a recording contract by Decca-London, a label that wasn't long for this world -- something that Gerry would soon have to face about his own situation at United Artists. United Artists Records had seen some major hit records throughout the '60s and '70s, but by the end of the decade, the parent film distribution and production company was revamping all of its operations, in the wake of the mass exodus of several of its top executives. The record label was one of the first things to go -- running a record company was a luxury that the current UA management felt it could do without. Rafferty was practically the last major artist signed to the label, and if City To City had been a hit when the label was sold to EMI, he'd probably have been treated like visiting royalty. But by the time United Artists Records was sold to EMI around 1980, his figures weren't showing millions of units sold anymore. His contract was merely part of a deal, and, in fact, almost none of the UA artists picked up by EMI fared well with the new company -- as with many artists caught up in one of those sale-and-acquisition situations, even if Rafferty had been producing anything comparable to "Baker Street" in popularity, it's doubtful the record would've gotten the push it would've taken to make it a hit.

Sleepwalking (1982), issued on the Liberty label, ended that round of Rafferty's public music-making activities, and he was little heard from during the mid-1980's, apart from one song contributed to the offbeat comedy Local Hero, a producer's gig with the group the Proclaimers that yielded a top 3 single ("Letter From America") in 1987.

A year later, he released his first album in more than five years, North And South, which failed to register with the public. By that time, Transatlantic had begun exploiting his early recording activity, reissuing his early solo and Humblebums tracks on CD.

On A Wing And A Prayer (1992) was similarly ignored by the public, although the critics loved it, and Over My Head (1995) was an attempt to reconsider his own past by re-thinking some Stealers Wheel-era songs.

Gerry Rafferty is still remembered, two decades after it was a hit, primarily for "Baker Street" and City To City, which have been released as gold-plated audiophile CDs. And every so often, when some Stealers Wheel track gets picked up for some soundtrack (as "Stuck In The Middle With You" was for Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs) or commercial, his voice and guitar also get a fresh airing.


Jerry Gilbert
Liner Notes from "Right Down the Line"

The classic pop song had no greater ambassador throughout the 1970s than Gerry Rafferty.

Ironically the greatest charge to his work was when he was battling the music business -- the innate fire and passion of the Scotsman pouring forth on the cool, manipulative machinations of the record industry in London; it was a classic 'city to city' confrontation, a fact which he readily acknowledged in the title of his most successful album.

But if Gerry Rafferty was often his own worst enemy then the beneficiaries were a growing army of fans who were to push international sales of City to City above 5.5 million.

Gerry Rafferty arrived in London in 1969 having replaced Tam Harvey alongside Billy Connolly in The Humblebums. For a while their different musical backgrounds provided a fertile counterpoint and yielded two collectors albums but when, in Gerry's words "Billy's jokes were getting longer and longer, the songs shorter and shorter", it was time to go their separate ways.

The miraculous low-budget solo album Can I Have My Money Back? (another provocative title) fulfilled the contract with Trans-Atlantic and set in progress a long, fruitful relationship with producer Hugh Murphy.

It was during the second phase of his career that Gerry Rafferty was to gain his first taste of commercial success after forming Stealers Wheel with Joe Egan, whom he'd first met on the Glasgow pop scene when he was 17. The band should also have featured fife folk luminary Rab Noakes with Gerry and Roger Brown in a British answer to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but Noakes pulled out, to be followed by a series of personnel changes. True to form, Stuck in the Middle With You, which was a stateside #1 and a song which Paul Simon at the time remarked was his favourite pop song, was conceived as a tongue-in-cheek lampoon on a farcical management pre-signing party for record execs.

"The party was held in a fashionable restaurant in London. We all sat at a huge long table, like one of those scenes from the Last Supper. A few days later Joe Egan and I wrote this humerous little ditty about everyone getting out of it, never thinking it would go to number one in America", Rafferty recalls, "But in some ways it was our downfall because it put a lot of pressure on us."

Refusing to tour the States and generally "play the industry game", he left the band and returned to Scotland as the collapse of their management company eventually brought the curtain down -- some would say prematurely, some would say for the best -- on Stealers Wheel's chequered four-year run.

Unfettered by managment or musician problems, Gerry Rafferty was now to embark on the most consistently productive period of his career. He had left London disillusioned and licking his wounds, but back in the bosom of his family he was soon ready to demo five or six songs in Edinburgh and set off in search of the recording deal that was to lead him to United Artists.

"I knew I'd written a good bunch of songs so I called Hugh Murphy and we recorded at Chipping Norton. I remember thinking I'd be pleased if City to City solf 50,000 copies" he recalls. It sold five and a half million, delivered arguably the best pop song of the year in Baker Street and certainly the most memorable sax intro of all time, although Raphael Ravenscroft's line had actually been written and performed by Rafferty on the original demo of the song."

Both he and Murphy knew they had an outstanding track but felt it too esoteric to foist on a record company and indeed United artist pre-empted its release with the album's title track before a groundswell from among the ranks at UA demanded its inevitable single status.

The shadow of melancholy now seemed to rise like a weight from Gerry Rafferty's shoulders. Baker Street was an instant smash and he went on tour with the core of top session team that had made City to City -- men like Tommy Eyres, Gary Taylor, Hi=ugh Burns, Jerry Donahue, and Henry Spinetti.

The album was slow to move but by the time they reached Belgium they learnt that it had finally gone top ten in America. Still Gerry refused tpo tour the States but conceded to make a single appearance on the David Frost Show -- which catapulted City to City straight to the top spot. The album's success was duly reinforced by sales of the next single Right Down the Line, which was another Transatlantic hit.

Gerry now decided to leave home base in Scotland once again and return to the south-east of England. Through 1979 he was writing and recording Night Owl in a period of frenzied output. His creative juices turning out songs like the title track and the unforgettable Get It Right Next Time, which both chalked up bigger successes the other side of the Atlantic where his FM/AOR formula was perfectly suited to American audio ears. With very little promotional back up, Night Ol reached a sales aggregate of 2.5 million units.

Inevitably this album was to be the turning point. Financially secure on the one hand and the "production line" pressure to turn out hits on the other, Gerry Rafferty was feeling creatively spent by the time he sat down to produce Snakes and Ladders. Having lost the desire to manufacture chart hits he went to George Martin's studio in Montserrat and delivered one of his best socio-political polemics in The Garden of Englad (on the CD version of this compilation), as well as Look at the Moon (on the vinyl version) and a beautifully remixed Bring It All Home.

But if The Garden of England best summed up Gerry Rafferty's Snakes and Ladders mood, a song called The Right Moment fulfilled that position on the subsequent Sleepwalking album -- a song considered by the artist to be among the best he'd ever written.

Finding himself at the crossroads and looking to replace the treadmill with a new dimension in his life he built a recording studio at his Kent farm and by the time Sleepwalking was released by EMI in 1983, following their takeover of UA, he and his family were off on the road -- living for a year in Italy, then driving across America. "I enjoyed travelling outside the confines of the music business. But eventually my puritanical streak emerged once again so I settled down, set up a home studio and started to write and record.

Working once again with co-producer Hugh Murphy, the resulting North and South album showed the song writer to be back to his hungriest and most creative.

The autobiographical title again dwelling on the dichotomy between the years living in and around London and his genuine need to stay in touch with his Celtic roots.

So enjoy this superb compilation of Gerry Rafferty's compilation of Gerry Rafferty's best songs, inparticular the remixes of Baker Street, Whatever's Written in Your Heart, and Bring It All Home.



View a collection of Gerry photos

Stealers Wheel biography