Not seen for over six weeks. http://news.scotsman.com/opinion/Stuck-in-a-battle-with.4352529.jp
Stuck in a battle with booze
ONCE, trashing a hotel room was expected behaviour from musicians; an
outrage as standard as donkey cruelty and bingo during a British
summer. But a new, more sober, or at least more budget-conscious breed
of star seemed to have killed off this enfant terrible behaviour.
Until last week, when hotel soft furnishing abuse made a startling
Gerry Rafferty wasn't even on tour â€" his last public performance was a
good half decade ago. Instead the 61-year-old singer-songwriter
quietly booked himself into a five-star London hotel and four days
later allegedly left a violated room soaked in blood and urine. By all
accounts a quiet guest, who kept himself to himself, his stay was
halted when cleaners finally gained access to his suite - although the
hotel manager claimed that instances of Rafferty relieving himself in
unlikely corners of the hotel were also causing distress for the other
residents. The 'Baker Street' composer was later admitted to St
Thomas's hospital to be treated for liver problems, but he
disappeared, leaving behind his clothes and luggage. On Friday, it was
reported that hospital staff had filed a missing persons report with
This is the latest in a string of health dramas for Gerry Rafferty. In
2005 he was rushed to hospital after collapsing at his home in
Hampstead, and later denied reports that he had taken an overdose of
prescription drugs. Two years ago, he flew from California to
Inverness to visit a friend, and had to be carried off his privately
charted aircraft by wheelchair after landing, reportedly because he
was so drunk. There was further indignity when the friend refused to
take delivery of Rafferty and eventually he was deposited in a drying-
out clinic run by the Church of Scotland.
Around the world the man who once worked as a clerk for the DHSS has
sold more than 10 million records, but he has never been as
comfortable with attention as his one-time music partner, Billy
Connolly. Rafferty was brought up in an "ultra-working-class home" in
Paisley, with his elder brothers, Joe and Jim. His father, a miner and
lorry driver, was a domineering character who spent his weekends in
the pub until his death when Rafferty was 16. "There were lots of
unhappy times spawned from that when I was a kid," Rafferty has said.
"My father's life was not great, his vision of the world was extremely
narrow. It was an incredibly hard life."
Music, however, played its part from an early age. His mother taught
him Irish and Scottish folk songs and then, inspired by Bob Dylan and
the Beatles, he started to write his own and launched his career in
Clydeside's folk clubs, as one half of a folk duo, and straight man,
with fellow shipyard worker Connolly. Together, they were the
Humblebums. "I'm humble..." began Connolly's introduction at their
"When we teamed up we played some pretty hairy places and it was then
that we both learned how to take care of ourselves. After the gigs,
we'd go to these crazy house parties full of heavy-duty characters
carrying blades. Billy avoided getting a sore face by virtue of being
the funnyman. I was the shy guy in the corner who kept the singsong
going," Rafferty recalled.
As Connolly's jokes became longer, the songs became shorter, and in
1971 they parted amicably, with Connolly going on to do stand-up.
Rafferty subsequently formed Stealers Wheel with Joe Egan, and his
second best-known song, 'Stuck In The Middle With You', was
universally loved â€" unless you were Mr Blond's torture victim in
Reservoir Dogs. The band, however, quickly lapsed into morning-after
At his best, Rafferty's songs have the sweet melodiousness of Paul
McCartney, John Lennon's weary huskiness and a smooth synthesis of
country music, folk and transatlantic rock. But in 1983, Rafferty quit
writing and recording songs to "watch my family grow". He said: "It
dawned on me that I had been touring the world, travelling everywhere
and seeing nowhere. It wasn't difficult for me to walk away from the
business. Whatever I do in the future, it's at my own pace, on my own
For the next three years, with his then wife Carla and their daughter
Martha, Rafferty travelled the world, but after the couple split up in
the early Nineties, Rafferty became increasingly reclusive. At one
point he seemed set on returning to Scotland, and bought a property in
Strathpeffer but sold it two years later without moving in. He
retreated to Los Angeles, and the death of his brother Joe in 1995
devastated him. Later he became embroiled in an extraordinary feud
with his elder brother, Jim, who set up a website called Effing
Peasants, after the insult he alleges Gerry hurled at Jim and his
friends. On the internet, Jim Rafferty taunts his brother as "the
Great Gutsby" and "the Human Bottlebank", claiming that Rafferty had
become overweight, drink-addled and paranoid. Oddly, the site is also
a gathering point for Rafferty's fans, who lament that his last album,
Another World, sold exclusively on his now-defunct website eight years
ago, may be the last they will hear from the Paisley musician as far
as tours and recording are concerned.
Rafferty's perfect pop moment came in 1978 with 'Baker Street', a song
of hoarse sincerity about giving up the booze and the one-night stands
and settling down. It is now a staple of soft rock stations, where it
has the sturdy inevitability of Christmas or death. Movie director Gus
Van Sant used it for a key scene in Good Will Hunting and the song was
a hit once again in the Nineties when covered by Undercover. It even
featured in an episode of The Simpsons, with Lisa playing it on her
saxophone. Yet until Raphael Ravenscroft overlaid a glistening
saxophone solo, it was destined to be just another folky tune.
Ravenscroft's name doesn't appear on the writing credits â€" allowing
the NME to start up an urban myth that bespectacled former
Blockbusters presenter Bob Holness had performed the sax solo.
Rafferty maintains that he wrote the hook, and claims he intended to
sing the refrain at first. Ravenscroft disagrees, saying he was
presented with a song that contained "several gaps".
"In fact, most of what I played was an old blues riff," says the sax
musician. "If you're asking me: 'Did Gerry hand me a piece of music to
play?' then no, he didn't." Ravenscroft's fee was a cheque for Â£27,
which he says bounced anyway and is now framed and hangs on his
solicitor's wall. Rafferty has not attempted to make further payment,
and Ravenscroft has chosen not to pursue the matter of a song that
guarantees Rafferty a yearly income of Â£80,000. Since the song thrust
Rafferty into a spotlight that has made him deeply uncomfortable ever
since, maybe Ravenscroft is right to regard the riches of 'Baker
Street' as tainted money: "If I had received pots of money, I wouldn't
have known what to do," he remarked recently. "It might have destroyed
Original Stealers Wheel frontman Gerry Rafferty is still missing, one
month after checking out of a London hospital August first.
Rafferty, who had been experiencing liver problems, checked into St.
Thomas Hospital July 25th. He underwent a series of tests to determine
the status of his health - most likely damaged from years of heavy
drinking. Doctors have yet to release his condition to the public.
On August 1st, nurses entered Rafferty's room to find him gone, his
bed empty, but his personal belongings left behind.
London authorities have to yet to determine a suspect for the apparent
kidnapping. The 61-year old rocker remains missing one month after his
brief hospital stay.