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Stuck in the Middle
by Clint Wayne
2007-04-16 10:48:05
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Having enjoyed writing recently about ‘The Greatest Showman of Rock ’ celebrating his 60th birthday in his natural flamboyant style, it is with vast contrast that another of my 1970’s musical favourites also reaches that same milestone today.

However, Scotsman Gerry Rafferty, born in the Glasgow suburb of Paisley, is the complete opposite having a very reclusive nature for a ‘pop star’ and with a clear dislike for performing live, but it certainly does not detract from his free-flowing folk-pop musical ability. His songs have that same sweet melodic flow of Paul McCartney but his voice has a weary haunting huskiness which gives him his distinctive style.

Having been part of the Scottish Folk Band The Humblebums in the early-70s alongside the now legendary Scottish Comedian Billy Connolly, he knew it was time to part company with Connolly when the jokes between songs soon became so long that it became Rafferty’s songs between ‘The Big Yin’s' jokes. Cutting his first solo album Can I Have My Money Back, a melodious folk-pop album on which he employed the vocals of his old school friend Joe Egan, the album got good reviews but failed to sell, but out of those sessions came the formation of Stealer's Wheel one of the most promising and rewarding bands of the mid-70s.

Soon after a pre-contract signing party with a horde of fat-cat freeloading music record executives where there was a clear culture and generation gap, Rafferty started to pen the humorous little ditty "Stuck in the Middle With You" - hence the line in the song: "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right’, which reached #8 in the UK Charts of 1973. The song was to gain further appreciation with a new generation when Quentin Tarantino used it to unlikely but shocking effect in the cult film Reservoir Dogs.

Following three years of legal battles with his management team which involved numerous trips to London taking him away from his young family in Paisley, he was finally able to write and release his solo album City to City, a melodic, but strangely enigmatic album. This was clearly his best and most successful release and also included the classic "Baker Street", which was named after the area of London where he stayed at his friend's flat during those dark days and inspired those last lines: "When you wake up it’s a new morning, the sun is shining, it’s a new morning, you’re going, you’re going home".

"Baker Street", one of the classic ‘sounds of the 70s’ with its infamous haunting saxophone intro by session musician Raphael Ravenscroft received unprecedented air-play from radio stations and dominated the air-waves for months during 1978 reaching #2 in the States but only #3 in the UK charts being kept off the top spot by Kate Bush’s "Wuthering Heights". Rafferty’s ultimate confirmation of this classic song was reached when it was featured in an episode of The Simpsons where Lisa, who is receiving Sax lessons, plays the song solo. Had Gerry Rafferty agreed to have toured the States during this Baker Street period then bigger fame and fortune would surely have come.

Although further albums Snakes and Ladders, Sleepwalking and North and South didn’t make any impact, his follow-up release Night Owl, which also sits in my dust-ridden vinyl collection, did reach #5 in the album charts and features the single "Get it Right Next Time" being the best of an album that gave more than 50 minutes of quality evening listening; a fairly rare commodity in those days.

Twenty years later I still have fond memories of those two albums played regularly during our dinner parties of the 70s, but sadly now Gerry Rafferty’s songs are limited to just the occasional airing on my favourite ‘Capital Gold’ radio station.

Happy 60th birthday, Gerry!

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Asa2007-04-16 22:23:42
Hey Clint,

The picture of Rafferty looks like your Ovi Team bio pic!

Are you related?

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