Haunted by His Greatest Hit; Baker Street Made Him Rich beyond His Dreams. but It Plunged Gerry Rafferty into Drunken Self-Destruction

Daily Mail (London), January 7, 2011 | Go to article overview

Haunted by His Greatest Hit; Baker Street Made Him Rich beyond His Dreams. but It Plunged Gerry Rafferty into Drunken Self-Destruction


Byline: by Jane Fryer

Not for nothing was Gerald 'Gerry' Rafferty known as the master of rock 'n' roll selfdestruction.

He did it all - wrecked five-star hotel rooms, was admitted to hospital after drinking binges on private jets, spent years locked in expensive legal disputes and bitter feuds, and saw his 20-year marriage collapse into an alcoholic mire.

He lived for years as a depressive recluse - and listened to his famous hit song Baker Street over and over again. Every so often, he lashed out at what he called the 'loathsome' music industry.

But, for all that, he was also an extraordinarily talented musician, hailed for having 'a truly beautiful voice with perfect pitch' and as the 'consummate composer' of one of the most enduring hits of all time - the multi-million-selling Baker Street, with the famous soaring saxophone solo by Raphael Ravenscroft, a musician who spent considerable time in Dublin in the Eighties.

the song has racked up more than four million radio plays and provided him with an endless supply of royalty cheques - more than [euro]100,000 a year - since its release in 1978. But depression and contradiction ran through Rafferty's life like a dark core. on the one hand, he claimed he hated public attention and the music industry.

'Bob Dylan once said that fame was a curse,' said Rafferty. 'I think that, from an early stage in my career, I was aware that there were pitfalls of so-called celebrity.

'once you have entered that world, you can no longer be the observer in life. You become the observed.' But, on the other hand, he enjoyed his wealth. He chartered jets, bought a country estate and was constantly popping up in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Rafferty was haunted by his biggest hit.

Because, for all its searing beauty, if you listen closely (which he is said to have done obsessively over recent years), Baker Street is neither a romantic nor happy song. the lyrics are about alcohol and depression, promiscuous sex and 'people with no soul' - and proved to be worryingly autobiographical. While one memorable line includes the promise to 'give up booze and one-night stands', poor Gerry never conquered his private demons.

Rafferty was born in Paisley, near Glasgow, on April 16, 1947, the unwanted third son of Joseph Rafferty, an Irish-born, alcoholic, deaf miner, and Mary Skeffington (he would later write a song with her name in the title), who did her best to protect her offspring from their father's drunken rampages. He had a miserable childhood.

JoSEPH spent every weekend in the pub and Gerry and his mother spent every Saturday night out on the streets in all weathers to ensure they wouldn't be home when Joseph arrived back drunk and spoiling for a fight.

As Gerry summed it up: 'there were lots of unhappy times spawned from when I was a kid. My father's life was not great - his vision of the world was extremely narrow. It was an incredibly hard life.' Mary once told her youngest son, 'If it wasn't for you, I would leave.' Joseph died in 1963. Gerry, then 16, left home soon after - but not before music pervaded his life.

He heard French composer Joseph-Maurice Ravel at his Catholic church, Elvis and Little Richard on Radio Luxembourg and traditional Celtic folk music and rebel songs bellowed tunelessly by his father. Rafferty had an amazing ear for music and taught himself the banjo.

He then teamed up with aspiring comedian Billy Connolly, playing in a two-piece band in the social clubs of Clyde.

'We're the Humblebums,' Connolly would announce. 'I'm Billy Connolly and I'm Humble.' the punchline spoke for itself as he introduced Rafferty.

they released two albums, but parted in 1971 when Connolly's jokes became longer and Rafferty's songs became shorter.

But they remained friends.

Next, Rafferty formed folk rock group Stealers Wheel with childhood friend Joe Egan. …

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