Gerry Rafferty's 10 greatest songs, ranked

14 March 2024, 12:00

Gerry Rafferty is one of Scotland's most beloved songwriters. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)
Gerry Rafferty is one of Scotland's most beloved songwriters. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns). Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

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He's one of Scotland's most beloved songwriters.

Even more so, Gerry Rafferty became one of the '70s most revered musicians due to a slew of timeless songs he released throughout that decade.

This is solely as a solo artist too, not to mention Stealers Wheel's enduring 1973 hit 'Stuck In The Middle With You', or The Humblebums before that alongside none other than comedian extraordinaire Billy Connolly.

Though his career was on a steady incline, it wasn't until the tail end of the seventies that Rafferty truly made his name, with a handful of songs that helped define the era.

During the days when disco dominated the charts, few artists can claim to have out-sold the Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, yet Rafferty can claim such an accolade with his 1978 sophomore album City To City selling over 5.5 million copies at the height of his mainstream appeal.

A heavy drinker from an early age, Gerry Rafferty's relationship with alcohol would ultimately end his life, eventually dying of liver failure on 4th January 2011 after various physical and mental health issues which saw him disappear from public life, having reportedly gone missing entirely at one point.

But his reputation as one of Scotland's finest artists remains, and we've ranked his ten very best songs to prove it:

  1. 'Home And Dry'

    Gerry Rafferty - Home and Dry (Official Audio)

    The life of a touring musician is lonelier and never as glamorous as people would presume. On 'Home And Dry', the bassline pounds like Rafferty's heart after thinking about his home.

    Inspired by a long-distance trip after slogging away on tour, 'Home And Dry' soared into the US charts peaking at No. 26.

    Given he left his home turf in search of fame fairly early on in his career, Rafferty seemingly never lost the urge to return to Bonnie Scotland.

  2. 'Bring It All Home'

    Gerry Rafferty - Bring It All Home (Official Video)

    The first single from Rafferty's 1980 album, Snakes And Ladders, 'Bring It All Home' became a staple of early MTV rotation.

    The accompanying animated music video showed the fogginess of lonely London living, and was one of the first fully animated music videos to feature on the iconic television station.

    Despite it being the least commercial-sounding song on the album, Gerry released it first, which was likely why it sadly didn't connect with mainstream audiences on first listen.

  3. 'The Ark'

    Gerry Rafferty - The Ark (Official Audio)

    The opener from Gerry Rafferty's biggest-selling album, City To City, 'The Ark' suggested that he hadn't left his Scottish musical roots behind entirely.

    With Celtic-infused instrumentation, it's a bold opening salvo to an album which primarily consists of Rafferty's bluesy brand of breezy soft rock.

    In the years since, the wide-eyed and wistful 'The Ark' has become a cult favourite of Rafferty's with new generations, likely because of its sweeping chorus.

  4. 'City To City'

    Gerry Rafferty - City To City • TopPop

    'City To City', the title track to Rafferty's lauded 1978 album, details his frantic lifestyle in transit and has the locomotive tempo to match.

    Gerry released 'City To City' as the first single from the album - which was his first solo single in six years - though it didn't make a dent in the charts.

    Still, it's a trademark hopping and skipping radio rock number, the kind that Gerry could write in his sleep.

    Fun fact: the song featured former Manfred Mann frontman Paul Jones on harmonica.

  5. 'Get It Right Next Time'

    Gerry Rafferty - Get It Right Next Time (Official Video)

    Top 30 UK hit single 'Get It Right Next Time' is a meta song about Rafferty repeating the success of his previous album with 1979's Night Owl.

    Offering words of wisdom about trudging through difficult periods of life, you can see the sun through the rain by learning from mistakes that you've made.

    Rafferty himself had a difficult relationship with fame, later revealing: "Once you enter into the world of celebrity you can no longer be an observer in life, and I’ve always valued that highly."

    'Get It Right Next Time' got it right, with its bright, finger-clicking soulful appeal.

  6. 'Whatever's Written In Your Heart'

    Gerry Rafferty - Whatever's Written In Your Heart (Official Video)

    'Whatever's Written In Your Heart' proved that Gerry Rafferty wasn't a saxophonic one trick pony, with a gospel-indebted piano ballad that details the breakdown of a relationship.

    Leaning into Elton John territory with as much sincere feeling Rafferty's ever put into song, the song itself had a special place in the singer's heart.

    It's an underrated Gerry Rafferty gem, given it didn't even chart upon its 1978 release.

    After his death, Rafferty's family would sing 'Whatever' Written In Your Heart' at his memorial in a touching tribute to shared loving moments that won't ever fade from memory.

  7. 'Days Gone Down (Still Got That Light In Your Eyes)'

    Gerry Rafferty - Days Gone Down (Official Video)

    Gerry Rafferty changed his tune for an optimistic slice of sumptuous soft rock on 'Days Gone Down (Still Got That Light In Your Eyes)'.

    Few artists could write melodies as soothing as Gerry, and his audience Stateside lapped up the song, becoming his fourth hit across the Atlantic.

    Though Rafferty was clearly on a good ebb when writing the bubblegum rock song, the lyrics do hint at his difficult relationship with alcohol: "One more bottle dead and a new day just begun".

    Nevertheless, the pitch-perfect vocal performance on one of his finest choruses makes 'Days Gone Down (Still Got That Light In Your Eyes)' a sure-fire Rafferty favourite.

  8. 'Night Owl'

    Gerry Rafferty - Night Owl (Official Video)

    The title track and lead single from Gerry Rafferty's third solo album, 'Night Owl', is a candid unravelling of his life and loneliness away from the stage.

    When the lights go down, the drinks come out, with Gerry singing about his growing dependence on alcohol: "One more drink, you’re sailing away."

    Whilst the lyrics might detail his ennui, the instrumentation was radio-ready Rafferty at his best, featuring a Lyricon solo, the first ever breath-controlled electronic wind instrument.

    His UK fanbase lapped up 'Night Owl' propelling it to number five in the charts after its 1979 release.

  9. 'Right Down The Line'

    Right Down the Line (2011 Remaster)

    Rafferty paid tribute to his beloved wife, Carla Ventilla, in the best way possible: by writing one of his greatest songs about her in 'Right Down The Line'.

    Having married hairdresser Ventilla in 1970 before his fame, she stuck beside him through thick and thin, expressing how his love for her grows by the day via song as he doesn't express his feelings on a daily basis.

    Without a doubt, one of Rafferty's smoothest and sauntering compositions, 'Right Down The Line' reached number one in the US Adult Contemporary chart in 1978, and was on the end of a resurgence decades later after featuring in edgy teen drama Euphoria.

    Sadly, the song was not enough to keep Rafferty and Ventilla together. They divorced in 1990 due to his ongoing issues with alcohol, though remained close friends until his death.

  10. 'Baker Street'

    Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street (Official Video)

    For Gerry Rafferty's greatest ever song, you can't look beyond the imperious 'Baker Street', a song which undoubtedly possesses the most iconic saxophone solo in popular music.

    Due to legal issues amid Stealers Wheel's break up, Rafferty wasn't able to release music for three years, so bided his time composing this timeless song ahead of its 1978 release which featured on the album City To City.

    One of Rafferty's most reflective songs, 'Baker Street' is about someone who dreams of owning a home with a family and having direction in his life. But he's a drunk who can't seem to achieve what he's looking for, drinking to forget his failures.

    There's possibly an autobiographical slant to the song, given Rafferty's creative and financial troubles after the split of Stealers Wheel, though 'Baker Street' would change everything.

    He told the Daily Telegraph: "Everybody was suing each other, so I spent a lot of time on the overnight train from Glasgow to London for meetings with lawyers. I knew a guy who lived in a little flat off Baker Street. We'd sit and chat or play guitar there through the night."

    What springs to mind after the track's two iconic instrumental moments: firstly, Raphael Ravenscroft's saxophone solo also played on records by Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, ABBA, and secondly Hugh Burns' guitar solo, a guitarist who later went on to play on various George Michael tracks like 'Careless Whisper' and 'Faith'.

    It was a perfect storm of melodic prowess and ingenious instrumentation that blasted 'Baker Street' into the upper echelons of charts around the globe, peaking at number three in the UK, number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number one in Australia.