Music Flashback: “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel

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By Randal C. Hill 

Even before he became a successful and respected musician, Gerry Rafferty had developed a loathing for the often-underhanded machinations of the pop-music industry. 

Born in 1947 in Paisley, Scotland (near Glasgow), Rafferty came from a working-class family, where his mother taught him Scottish and Irish folk songs. As he grew into his teens, he was influenced by the Beatles and Bob Dylan. 

At 16, young Rafferty left school to work in a butcher shop and a shoe store, although deep down he wanted only to earn a living by making music. On weekends, he and best pal Joe Egan played in a local rock band called the Maverix covering Beatles and Stones hits. Later, he joined folk-pop group the Humblebums, which included future comic Billy Connolly. The Humblebums cut a pair of albums for Transatlantic Records which received critical appreciation but sold poorly.  

The Humblebums disbanded in 1971, but Rafferty continued with Transatlantic as a solo performer. His first album, “Can I Have My Money Back?” received enthusiastic praise but was ignored by the record-buying public.  

In 1972, he and Egan reunited, this time to form a soft-rock outfit called Stealers Wheel. They promptly struck gold with “Stuck in the Middle with You,” which became a Top 10 single in America, the UK and Canada. That hit 45 gave Rafferty a chance to vent his spleen against the negative forces that controlled the music business. Rafferty just wanted to make music, revel in the satisfaction of its creation, and ignore that part of the picture that included insensitive bean-counters and “friends” supposedly furthering his career: 

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right 

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you 

 
He found his frustrations maddening: 

Trying to make some sense of it all 

But I can see that it makes no sense at all 

Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor? 

‘Cause I don’t think that I can take anymore 

 
Stealers Wheel cut a trio of albums, but by the time the first one was issued, Rafferty had already left. Stealers Wheel officially disbanded in 1975, and for three years Gerry’s creative hands were tied by legal hassles that prevented him from releasing new material.  

In 1978, his 6-million-selling LP “City to City” featured his signature song, the worldwide hit “Baker Street.” As a result, his success brought Rafferty financial independence—thanks, ironically, to the industry that he despised. 

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