Gerry Rafferty Biography

16 April 1947, Paisley, Scotland. The lengthy career of the reclusive Rafferty started as a member of the Humblebums with Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey in 1968. After this unit’s demise through commercial indifference, Transatlantic Records offered him a solo contract. The result was Can I Have My Money Back?, a superb blend of folk and gentle pop music, featuring one of the earliest cover paintings from the well-known Scottish artist ‘Patrick’ (playwright John Byrne). Rafferty showed great promise as a songwriter but the album was a commercial failure.

Rafferty’s next solo project came after an interruption of seven years, four as a member of the brilliant but turbulent Stealers Wheel, and three through litigation over managerial problems. Much of this is documented in his lyrics both with Stealers Wheel and as a soloist. City To City in 1978 raised his profile and gave him a hit single that created a classic song with probably the most famous saxophone introduction in pop music, performed by Raphael Ravenscroft. ‘Baker Street’ became a multi-million seller and narrowly missed the top of the UK charts. The album sold similar numbers and Rafferty became a reluctant star. He declined to perform in the USA even though his album was number 1. The follow-up Night Owl was almost as successful, containing a similar batch of strong songs with intriguing lyrics and haunting melodies. Rafferty added simple honesty to deal with the trials and tribulations of relationships in trouble. He revisited the theme a number of times and produced a number of memorable songs, including the minor hit ‘Get It Right Next Time’.

Rafferty’s output has been sparse since the 80s and none of his recent work has matched the intense power of his earlier songs. He made a single contribution to the movie Local Hero and produced the Proclaimers’ 1987 hit single, ‘Letter From America’. North And South continued the themes of his previous albums, although the lengthy introductions to each track made it unsuitable for radio play. During the early 90s Rafferty’s marriage broke up, and as is often the case, this stimulated more songwriting creativity. On A Wing And A Prayer was certainly a return to form, but although the reviews were favourable the album made little impression on the charts. Over My Head in 1995 was a lacklustre affair. The only songs offering something original were re-recorded Stealers Wheel tracks, written with his former songwriting partner Joe Egan. ‘Over My Head’ and ‘Late Again’ were the high points of an album on which Rafferty seemed bereft of ideas. One More Dream was a good selection of songs but marred by having some tracks re-recorded, actually detracting from the atmosphere and quality of the originals. Rafferty’s first recording of the new millennium, Another World, was a return to the magnificent ‘Patrick’ cover art that graced his earlier albums. Unfortunately the cover was quite superb, but the music within was again uninspired. New versions of ‘You Put Something Better Inside Of Me’ and ‘Keep It To Yourself’ added nothing to the original recordings.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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