Detoured from Baker Street

By now you know Gerry Rafferty left us last week.

The significance of his passing already has been nicely documented by Dw. Dunphy at Popdose, by Larry at Iron Leg and by George and Denny at 30 Days Out. Check them out, please.

Arriving late at the wake, I also remember hearing Gerry Rafferty on the radio.

Digging through the R’s and the S’s on the shelves behind me, I find four Rafferty or Stealers Wheel records before unearthing “City To City,” his breakthrough solo LP from 1978. You know the one. Everyone had it once. It’s been reissued on 180-gram vinyl — if you want to pay $25 — but is a fairly common sight in the used vinyl bins for $1 or $2.

But some of my best memories of Gerry Rafferty are of some of the deep cuts from the albums from a time when the spotlight had passed him by. Then I start playing those records, something I’ve not done in probably 25 years. The memories come back in a rush. The songs, the harmonies, are timeless.

Here are some of those songs, from a couple of albums that followed “City To City.” They’ve endured, at least for me. A musician can’t ask for much more.

“Welcome to Hollywood” and “Syncopatin’ Sandy,” Gerry Rafferty, from “Snakes and Ladders,” 1980. It’s out of print.

“Welcome to Hollywood” shows Rafferty’s disdain for fame. He’s confident enough to draw on his time as a star, writing “stuck in the middle with the blues again.” The intro and outro are dead-on parodies of hangers-on. In “Syncopatin’ Sandy,” ostensibly about a whiskey-fueled music hall piano player, the often alcohol-fueled Rafferty wonders “how long, how long” he can keep going.

“Sleepwalking” and “The Right Moment,” Gerry Rafferty, from “Sleepwalking,” 1982. It’s out of print.

I’ve had the infectious drumbeats of “Sleepwalking” rattling around in my head since hearing it again for the first time in many years. “The Right Moment” is a gentle counter to it, all piano and synths, something that fits nicely next to …

“The Way It Always Starts,” Gerry Rafferty, from the “Local Hero” soundtrack, 1983. Accompanied by Mark Knopfler, Alan Clark, Neil Jason and Steve Jordan. “Local Hero” remains one of my favorite films.

This song, written by Knopfler, was one of the last things Rafferty did until resurfacing five years later with the “North and South” album.

And a charming tribute.

“Baker Street,” a laid-back acoustic cover by my friend Alan Wilkis, a solo musician from Brooklyn. Alan can’t remember exactly when he did this, but he thinks it was four or five years ago.


Filed under January 2011, Sounds

5 responses to “Detoured from Baker Street

  1. jb

    Thanks for this stuff. Always interested to hear the songs that matter to somebody else from artists who matter to me.

  2. jb

    Having listened to all this stuff in the last hour now, I’d rank “The Way It Always Starts,” which I’d never heard until today, among my all-time favorite Rafferty tunes. Lovely performance.

  3. Summer 1979…my weekdays were spent working on my Dad’s farm and hauling load after load of baled hay, giving me the chance to crank the radio every time “Get It Right Next Time” was played on Madison’s 1480AM WISM. Later that summer, I began working some weekend airshifts on WXXQ in Freeport, Illinois where I got to play that song on the radio for a paycheck. A wonderful summer, indeed!

  4. RJ Diaz

    Nice tribute. Thanks.
    Alan Wilkis’ cover of “Baker Street” is a treat too.

  5. Dano

    “Get It Right Next Time” is a discovery, alright! I became more of a Stealer’s Wheel fan in later years for the way they did folk-rock and killer pop hooks (although my college GF and I considered ‘Baker Street’ to be “our song” and I certainly liked the followup singles, I never owned a Gerry album). As I get older I realize I shouldn’t be a snob about popular stuff … it was popular for a reason! There are no guilty pleasures, only pleasures. Thanks again for the links to the other blogs, lots of great pre-solo Gerry to be had.

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