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Best Gerry Rafferty Songs: 10 Greats From Scotland’s Beloved Songwriter
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Best Gerry Rafferty Songs: 10 Greats From Scotland’s Beloved Songwriter

From Scottish folk ballads to smooth-voiced soft-rock classics, the best Gerry Rafferty songs brought him success on his own terms.

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Best known for his 1978 smash-hit single, Baker Street, Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty left behind a huge cache of inspirational, heart-searching songs. Despite a notoriously prickly relationship with the music industry, Rafferty, born on 16 April 1947, forged his reputation writing laidback and melodic tunes of longing and self-reflection, all while fighting a lifelong struggle with alcoholism. Forging a solo career following the disbandment of the folk-rock group Stealers Wheel, Rafferty soon found himself a reluctant voice of a generation, inspiring fans across the world with his mellow and sophisticated songcraft. To prove why there’s more to the Paisley-born singer than a stroll down Baker Street, here are our ten best Gerry Rafferty songs.

Listen to the best of Gerry Rafferty here, and check out our ten best Gerry Rafferty songs, below.

10: Sleepwalking (from ‘Sleepwalking’, 1982)

Driven by a Celtic-tinged groove, the 1982 single Sleepwalking saw Gerry Rafferty at his most perky and spry, but failed to find commercial success. Making use of programmed drum beats and 80s synths, it was recorded at Strawberry Studio – the same studio used by the band 10cc – with the help of Sheena Easton producer Christopher Neil. Both Rafferty and Neil performed backing vocals on the song, which the producer later recalled with much fondness and good humour. “I remember him wetting himself laughing,” Neil later said, recounting how he tried to imitate Gerry’s nasal intonation. “It was hysterical, bless him. But it was a big thrill to sing backing vocals with him.”

9: The Royal Mile (Sweet Darlin’) (from ‘Snakes And Ladders’, 1980)

Marching to the beat of his own drum as a roving minstrel, The Royal Mile (Sweet Darlin’) paid tribute to Gerry Rafferty’s Scottish background by referencing the Edinburgh streets he used to roam. Reaching No.67 in the UK in 1980, the single’s repetitive whistling motif and accordion-backed instrumentation harkened back to Rafferty’s folk roots. By bidding farewell to a lover in the pouring rain, Rafferty’s lyrics are (as always) typically poignant and thought-provoking (“Now it’s a dream, it’s a memory/But I’ll never forget what you gave to me”). As a lesser-known single, The Royal Mile (Sweet Darlin’) deserves its place among the best Gerry Rafferty songs, if only to show how his style owed as much to roots music as it did to rock’n’roll.

8: Home And Dry (from ‘City To City’, 1978)

Like any travelling musician, Gerry Rafferty saw more than his fair share of arduous touring schedules and the monotony of life on the road, which no doubt inspired him to write his No.28 US hit single, Home And Dry. It paints a picture of Rafferty as a homesick troubadour, with lyrics suggestive of a man flying home on a plane to reunite with a long-distance lover (“This silver bird takes me ’cross the sky/Just one more hour and I’ll be home and dry”). As proud a Scotsman as Rafferty was, it’s hardly a stretch to suspect that he may well have been missing his home country, particularly as he left Scotland in order to find success.

7: Days Gone Down (Still Got That Light In Your Eyes) (from ‘Night Owl’, 1979)

Trying his hand at crafting an optimistic, life-affirming pop-rock number, the 1979 single Days Gone Down (Still Got That Light In Your Eyes) swept in at No.17 in the US, giving Gerry Rafferty his fourth stateside hit. Blessed by a pitch-perfect vocal performance and a soothing melody, the song is a joyous expression of living life to the fullest. Though on the surface it could be interpreted as a straightforward number celebrating good old-fashioned fun, it also can’t help but give a not-so-wholesome nod to Rafferty’s love of booze (“One more bottle dead and a new day just begun”). Inebriated or not, the uplifting chorus is matched only by Hugh Burns’ euphoric guitar solo, which elevates Days Gone Down to one of the best Gerry Rafferty songs.

6: City To City (from ‘City To City’, 1977)

Upon the urging of his record label, City To City was the first single released from Rafferty’s second album (despite the singer’s own preference for Baker Street), and it’s hard not to get swept away by its blend of upbeat folk-rock, exploding as it does with a merry blast of Graham Preskett’s fiddle. Commercially, however, City To City struggled in the UK, though it managed to peak at No.20 in Belgium. This led to an invitation for Rafferty to perform the song on Dutch TV, which he accepted on the condition that his City To City co-producer, Hugh Murphy, appear on stage with him and pretend to play harmonica. In reality, it was ex-Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones who played the instrument on the studio recording.

5: Night Owl (from ‘Night Owl’, 1979)

Always known for his unflinchingly honest lyricism, Rafferty gave listeners a window into his struggle with alcoholism on 1978’s semi-autobiographical Night Owl, which peaked at No.5 in the UK. Depicting a lonely soul who turns to drink when the sun gets low (“One more drink, you’re sailing away”), it was the first single to be taken from Rafferty’s third solo album, and boasts an exquisitely jangly guitar riff, understated use of keyboards and a winsome solo performed on the Lyricon, one of the first-ever breath-controlled synthesisers.

4: Whatever’s Written In Your Heart (from ‘City To City’, 1978)

If there’s one song that proves Gerry Rafferty’s peerless songwriting ability, it’s Whatever’s Written In Your Heart. A gospel-influenced love song inspired by the weary resignation of a relationship that has run its course, this moving masterpiece has all the style and panache of a lost Elton John ballad, only with a more hymnal, church-like quality. Sadly, the song failed to chart, but it seems to have held a special place in Rafferty’s heart. Following the singer’s death from liver failure, on 4 January 2011, at the age of 63, his family chose to sing Whatever’s Written in Your Heart at his memorial service. It’s no wonder why – it remains a beautiful work of heartfelt sincerity.

3: Get It Right Next Time (from ‘Night Owl’, 1979)

By the time Gerry Rafferty’s head-bopping 1979 single Get It Right Next Time hit No.30 in the UK, he was already something of a household name. Fame didn’t sit comfortably with the singer, however, as this song about uncertainty and aimlessness makes clear (“You gotta grow, you gotta learn by your mistakes/You gotta die a little every day just to try to stay awake”). Speaking about his feelings on fame, Rafferty would later say: “Once you enter into the world of celebrity you can no longer be an observer in life, and I’ve always valued that highly.” Despite his reservations, Get It Right Next Time remains one of the best Gerry Rafferty songs, thanks to his peppy vocal performance as well as its bright sax and jazzy organ solos.

2: Right Down The Line (from ‘City To City’, 1978)

Right Down The Line – the 1978 follow-up single to Baker Street – saw Gerry Rafferty capitalise on the enormous success he’d experienced stateside, peaking at No.12 in the US. Despite this, Rafferty resisted the urge to embark on a US tour, instead preferring to let his music do the talking. And talk it does… With laidback slide guitar and soothing organ chords, Right Down The Line achieves the near-impossible by evoking romance without being too cloying, with lyrics that speak of a love as undying as the night sky (“You’ve been as constant as a Northern Star/The brightest light that shines”). Right Down The Line may well be the greatest love song Rafferty ever wrote.

1: Baker Street (from ‘City To City’, 1978)

Venting his frustrations with legal troubles surrounding the dissolution of his former band Stealers Wheel, Rafferty struck gold with Baker Street, which hit the Top 5 in both the UK and the US and became his all-time biggest hit. Topping our list of the best Gerry Rafferty songs, its lyrics express the songwriter’s disillusionment with the music industry and convey his yearning to escape the stress of the big city. While Raphael Ravenscroft’s epic saxophone hook makes it instantly recognisable, the gorgeous lead guitar solo played by Hugh Burns, along with the song’s crystalline production, no doubt helped pioneer a new sound that would come to dominate the 80s: yacht rock. For this reason, Baker Street remains a seminal pop masterpiece.

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