#4: Right Down The Line by Gerry Rafferty
Gerry Rafferty was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1947. From the age of 17 he got work variously in a butcher’s shop, as a civil service clerk, and in a shoe shop. Once Beatlemania took hold, he formed a band called the Maverixs, who were a cover band singing songs by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In the mid 1960s Rafferty earned money as a busker on the London Underground. In 1966, Rafferty joined the band The Fifth Column. The group released the single “Benjamin Day”/”There’s Nobody Here”. However it was a commercial flop. In 1969 he joined the folk group the Humblebums, and remained with them, performing at numbers of folk festivals into 1971.
In 1971 Rafferty released his first solo album, Can I Have My Money Back? The recording received critical praise from the press. However, it sold poorly. In 1972 Rafferty formed Steelers’ Wheel. The following year, the band had an international Top Ten hit titled “Stuck In The Middle With You”. The band was described in Sound magazine as “a sort of cross between white label Beatles and punk Dylan yet with a unique Celtic flavour that has marked all their work.” “Stuck In The Middle With You” was part of the 1992 soundtrack for the Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs.
In 1975 Steeler’s Wheel split up. Legal disputes prevented Gerry Rafferty from being able to release any new material until 1978. This was featured on his second album, City to City. The debut single, “Baker Street”, spent six weeks in the number-two spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It was blocked from the number-one spot by Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing”. In Canada, Australia and South Africa, it was a #1 hit single. It was also a Top Ten hit in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK and West Germany. The album sold over five and a half million copies.
A second track from City to City was “Right Down The Line”.
Gerry Rafferty wrote “Right Down The Line”. The song concerns the transformative difference it makes when the person you’re in relationship with has your back. In this case, the narrator of the song remarks “you’ve been as constant as the Northern Star, the brightest light that shines.” The catalyst for sensing this woman was the one for him: “Cause you believed in me through my darkest night. Put something better inside of me. You brought me into the light.” He has some “crazy dreams,” it seems ungrounded. Now he’s put that behind him and is focused on this sustaining love. He already knows what it’s like to be in relationship with former lovers who let him down, who it seems are impatient with him when he doubts himself and isn’t at his best. Each verse ends with the refrain “And it was you, woman, right down the line.”
The phrase “right down the line,” or “all down the line,” means that something happens in every case. And if someone is behind you right down the line, it means they are there for you wholeheartedly, unreservedly, completely.
“Right Down The Line” peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single peaked at #1 in Vancouver, Canada, spending 22 weeks on the CFUN chart.
“Right Down The Line” peaked at #1 in Vancouver (BC), Fredericton (NB), Dayton (OH), Richmond (VA), Easton (PA), San Diego, and Portland (OR), #2 in Tucson (AZ), Tacoma (WA), #3 in Sarasota (FL), Salt Lake City, #4 in Hamilton (ON), Minneapolis/St. Paul, Saskatoon (SK), Seattle, Bangor (ME), and Laconia (NH), #5 in Toronto, Burbank (CA), Boston, Springfield (MA), #6 in Los Angeles, Hartford (CT), Oklahoma City, New York City, and Baltimore, #7 in San Francisco, New Haven (CT), Mobile (AL), and Columbia (SC), #8 in Phoenix, Buffalo, Akron (OH), #9 in Ottawa (ON), Allentown (PA), #10 in Atlanta, Youngstown (OH), and Tampa (FL).
Internationally, the single peaked at #5 in Canada, #12 in the USA, #17 in South Africa and made the Top 40 in New Zealand.
In 1979 Rafferty released his Night Owl album. The title track “Night Owl”, was a Top Ten hit in the UK. However, it failed to chart in North America. A second track, “Days Gone Down”, climbed to #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #11 in Vancouver. A third single from the album was “Get It Right Next Time”.
In the following two decades Gerry Rafferty released Snakes and Ladders, Sleepwalking, North & South, On a Wing and a Prayer and Over My Head. However, these albums were not commercially successful. Rafferty also preferred not to tour much, and so he declined the lucrative catalyst of live concerts to drive album sales. A final album, Another World, was an esoteric effort with limited appeal.
In his personal life, Rafferty’s marriage fell apart in 1990 due to his alcoholism. Gerry Rafferty was reported to have disappeared in 2008. He died in 2011 of liver failure. After his death, Gerry Rafferty was honored in his home town of Paisley by naming a street: Gerry Rafferty Drive.
July 14, 2023
Ken Emerson, “Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’ Blues: Rolling Stone’s 1978 Feature: Singer, who would pass away in 2011, is sitting on top of the world as he gives this interview in New York City’s Plaza Hotel,” Rolling Stone, January 4, 2011.
Michael Gray, “Gerry Rafferty Obituary: Singer and songwriter known for Stuck in the Middle With You and Baker Street,” Guardian, January 4, 2011.
“Star tribute as Gerry Rafferty Drive opens,” The Herald, November 22, 2012.
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