GERRY RAFFERTY – CITY TO CITY
Released January 20 1978- 38 years ago
Rafferty’s sophomore solo release was his most successful commercially and critically, and is generally considered his best. Recalling singer-songwriters like Harry Nilsson, Jackson Browne, and soft-rock acts like Steely Dan, Rafferty’s lyrics and arrangements are slow burns that grow from 70s nostalgia into haunting profundity with multiple spins.
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4pm M-F on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4pm Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3FM and kxci.org.
Born into a blue-collar family in Paisley, Scotland, in 1947, Rafferty got his start in music with the folk-pop group, The Humblebums, in the late 1960s. After minor success, they soon disbanded and Rafferty released a solo album in 1971 with little fanfare. Rafferty and schoolmate, Joe Egan, then started the group Stealers Wheel in 1972. Stealers Wheel is best known for the single “Stuck In The Middle With You,” which was a top 10 hit in the US and UK.
Stealers Wheel only had minor successes after “Stuck In The Middle With You,” and broke up in 1975. While Rafferty and Egan remained friends, legal issues between each other’s managers and Stealers Wheel’s label (A&M) prevented either from recording for three years. Once this was cleared up, Rafferty released City To City. Egan never attained the success that Rafferty did.
City To City was a huge commercial success, selling 5.5 million copies it was certified Gold in the UK and Platinum in the US. It climbed to number 1 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart, producing three singles: “Home and Dry” and “Right Down The Line,” both top 25 hits in the US, and the 70s soft-rock anthem, “Baker Street,” which reached number 2 and 3 on the US and UK single’s chart.
City To City was produced by Hugh Murphy, who has also worked with Van Morrison, The Proclaimers, Richard and Linda Thompson, among others.
City To City was recorded in Chipping Norton Recording Studios, in 1977. A small recording studio located in Oxfordshire, England, it was also used by XTC, Jeff Beck, Marianne Faithfull, Duran Duran, and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. The Studio closed in 1999.
The single “Baker Street” has become a mainstay of classic and soft-rock radio. In a 2003 interview with a Scottish newspaper, Rafferty reveled that it still made him nearly £80,000 a year at that point. It has even been covered by Foo Fighters. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO1qcWa6blQ
According to album producer, Hugh Murphy, Rafferty had to beg the original label, United Artists, to release “Baker Street” as a single. The label apparently was arguing, “It was too good for the public.”
“Baker Street” features one of the most distinctive saxophone parts of almost any single ever. Initially, Rafferty imagined a guitar for these riffs, but he didn’t like the way it sounded and Murphy suggested saxophone.
Saxophone on “Baker Street” was played by Raphel Ravenscroft, who also played with ABBA, Marvin Gaye, America, Robert Plant, Kim Carnes and Bonnie Tyler, Red Rider, Roger Waters, and with Pink Floyd on The Final Cut.
Ravenscroft was actually Rafferty and Murphy’s second choice to play sax on “Baker Street.” Their first choice, session musician Pete Zorn, was not available and suggested Ravenscroft.
Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out The Lights wouldn’t have been made without Gerry Rafferty. In 1980 the Thompson’s had been touring as support for Rafferty and when it came time to record they found themselves without a label or with money to record. Rafferty spent £30,000 of his own money to get the album recorded.
Rafferty was a reluctant celebrity. He liked respect of his peers, but hated public scrutiny. Perhaps this contributed to his life long battle with alcohol. He died in January, 2011, of liver failure. He was only 63.
Rafferty is not in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.