You can take the
boy out of Paisley... but you can't take Paisley out the
boy! (Part 1 of 2)
Reclusive rock star
Gerry Rafferty tells all about life growing up in his
GERRY Rafferty's remembering his
Saturday mornings spent at the ABC Minors, in The Regal
cinema. We're walking down the stairs in Paisley Museum
and suddenly the reclusive singer-songwriter - who's sold
millions of albums in his time - gives an a cappella
rendition of the ABC Minors song.
Gerry, now 53, remembers it well.
It goes like this: `We are the boys and girls well known
as, Minors of the ABC, And every Saturday all line up, to
see the films we like and shout aloud with glee, We love
to laugh and have a sing-song, just a happy crowd are we,
We're all pals together, we're Minors of the ABC' Aye,
you can take the boy out of Paisley but you can't take
Paisley out the boy.
Gerry Rafferty is back in his home
town for the opening of the exhibition of the work of his
long-time friend, artist and playwright John `Patrick'
Byrne. The two of them go back a long way. John Byrne -
who signs his paintings `Patrick' - was a school mate of
Gerry's older brother. The pair soon became soul mates as
each of them pursued their own artistic endeavours. Gerry
as one of the best songwriters the country's ever
produced and Patrick as a renowned playwright and artist.
Patrick has painted the covers for
several Stealers Wheel and Gerry Rafferty solo albums. He
even decorated one of Gerry's expensive Martin acoustic
guitars with a painting.
To most people these days, Gerry
Rafferty is the man who brought us the chart-topping
song, Baker Street and probably the most famous sax intro
in the history of pop music.
Then there's Stuck in the Middle
With You - a hit when Gerry and another Buddie, Joe Egan
formed Stealers Wheel. The song was given a further lease
of life when it appeared on the soundtrack of Quentin
Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs movie.
However, to those who have enjoyed
a generation of his music - from his partnership with
Billy Connolly, in The Humblebums, to Stealers Wheel and
his later, hugely successful, solo career - there's more
to Gerry Rafferty than a couple of big-time hits. But
back to Gerry's meandering down Memory Lane. He has a
quiet smile to himself as memories of his childhood in
Paisley come flooding back.
"We used to go to the ABC
Minors every Saturday morning at the Regal cinema - the
films they put on for us were great then. "I also
remember coming here to the Museum and touching the big
stuffed elephant and the lion." The elephant's long
gone but the lion still stands proud inside the
Greek-styled building on the High Street.
Gerry Rafferty was born on April
16, 1947 to a Scottish mother and an Irish father. Gerry
- who now lives in London - recalls: "I was born and
brought up at 13 Underwood Lane, The tenement's no longer
there, they've built new flats where it stood. "My
mum is 93 this year and she still lives in Paisley. When
I come up to see her I sometimes take a look down that
way. "I've been back to Underwood Lane and it felt
very nostalgic seeing it again. I have very happy
memories as a kid.
"I remember we used to go up
to Oakshaw where all the rich people stayed stealing
apples off their trees. "I loved going to the baths
in Storie Street and then getting a bag of chips on the
way home. "My favourite chip shop was Cardosi's at
the top of Well Street. That was before they moved to the
big fancy cafe in Causeyside Street." When Gerry was
ten years of age the family moved to Garry Drive, in
Foxbar. "A great thing was going up the Braes and
passing the Bonnie Wee Well - I just loved that," he
Gerry went to St Mary's Primary and
later St Mirin's Academy and openly admits his early
years in Paisley influenced his songwriting and
particularly his early lyrics. Gerry says: "Where
you come from and where you spent your formative years
has an effect and influence on you." Evidence of
this can be seen in many of his songs - particularly on
his pre-Stealers Wheel solo album, Can I Have My Money
Back and later albums with his Stealers Wheel
partner-in-song Joe Egan.
The idea for the title track, Can I
Have My Money Back, came from an incident involving Gerry
as a youngster. He explains: "I used to go the the
cinema in a place we called The Bug Hut. It was The Alex
Cinema, in Neilston Road opposite the former Royal
Alexandra Infirmary. "It cost either two or three
old pennies to get in and the film would sometimes break
down or the picture would be jumping about the screen.
"When this happened everybody would be shouting and
we would stamp our feet. That's where the idea for Can I
Have My Money Back came from and the song was written 12
years after the event."
Another song on that album was
written about his mother. It's called Mary Skeffington -
his mum's maiden name. He even used the melody of her
favourite hymn, Sweet Sacrament Divine, as the intro
Gerry's flirting with religious
music didn't just end there. He recalls: "When Billy
Connolly and I were playing together and we were coming
home in the back of a taxi after having a few pints, we
used to sing hymns. "I had some wonderful times with
A Stealers Wheel song, Steamboat
Row was about his father. Explains Gerry: "When I
was a kid and my dad had a few pints he would reminisce
about when he lived in a row of miners' cottages down by
Inkerman, in Paisley. They were known as Steamboat
Another song born from his memories
as a youngster, in Paisley is Syncopatin' Sandy. "I
was about 13 or 14 and we used to pass the old Paisley
Theatre in Smithhills Street on our way back from school.
"I saw this big poster advertising a pianist called
Syncopatin' Sandy. He was one of these guys from the
music hall and Vaudeville tradition. "He must have
been in his early 70s and was a marathon pianist who
would play non-stop for hours and hours and people would
come in and watch him. "I went in to see him and it
was one of the most surreal things I have ever seen in my
life. "He played for about one-and-a-half days
non-stop and people would feed him whisky. He would be
playing the piano with one hand and drinking the whisky
out of a paper cup in the other hand. "That was a
big memory for me."
Later in life Gerry lived in a
tenement flat in New Street. Another of his songs
chronicled this period of his life. It was called New
Street Blues. Like most musicians before signing their
first record deal Gerry, had a variety of jobs and they
surface in some form or other in the lyrics of his songs.
Says Gerry: "I left school when I was 15 and worked
in a social security office, in Partick.
"Then I worked in Timpson's shoe shop, in Paisley
High Street. "But there was never anything else for
me but music. I never intended making a career out of any
of the jobs I did. I wasn't much of a shoe salesman,
The second Stealers Wheel album is
called Ferguslie Park - named after the sprawling Paisley
housing scheme which had a terrible reputation in the
70s. Gerry explains: "We called the album Ferguslie
Park to get as far away as possible from all the bullshit
of the music industry in London.
"It reminded us of our roots. We were clinging
ferociously to our roots. Our identity and our songs were
formed in this town."
But when it comes to nostalgia,
Gerry's definitely on a roll. The topic this time is,
what were his favourite pubs in Paisley? He reveals:
"I loved the Bull Inn with all its wee rooms and the
wicker chairs. I used to take Billy Connolly in there.
"These were the days when Jean Stevenson owned The
Bull with the cat sitting on the shelf above the till.
"We also drank in Lang's, in Moss Street and the
lounge of the Club Bar, just across the road." Big
grin on his face, Gerry says: "Here's a good one.
The day Joe Egan got himself locked in the toilet of the
Club Bar and they had to get a joiner in to let him
out." He explains: "We were drinking Blue
Lagoons at lunchtime in the lounge bar and Joe wandered
off. "He was away a hell of a long time and I
wondered where he was. "When I went into the toilet
I could hear him shouting for help. He couldn't open the
door and they had to get a joiner in to get him
out." This episode is probably best summed up in the
Rafferty song title - All the Best People Do It.
Tomorrow; How a meeting with Billy Connolly in the
Orange Halls Paisley changed Gerry Rafferty's life!