Monday, January 4, 2010

Worth the Wait

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Stealin' Time
ARTIST: Gerry Rafferty
SONGWRITER: Gerry Rafferty
ALBUM: City to City
YEAR/LABEL: 1978; United Artists

I thought the songs were good, but I didn't expect this.
(Gerry Rafferty)

Occasionally, after reading about the disputes that musicians find themselves in, one cannot help but think that the music business is more important to lawyers than singers and people who love music. Bands that break up can have legal arguments that make what happens on Divorce Court appear to be a romantic weekend getaway by comparison. In fact, after the lawsuit David Byrne filed to prevent three-fourths of Talking Heads from performing under that name Tina Weymouth said she was told point blank by her attorney that the band's break-up was a divorce.

Scottish singer Gerry Rafferty no doubt felt the same way when his duo, Stealers Wheel, became entangled in a messy split two years after the success of their song "Stuck in the Middle with You." Rafferty was prohibited from recording for three years under the terms of the Stealers Wheel record contract. During the interim he did tour and travel, collecting experiences and songs. When the recording ban was over Rafferty came out of the studio with a masterpiece: 1978's City to City. The haunting saxophone that opened the hit "Baker Street" flowed out of radios and took the song to the U.S. top three. "Stealin' Time," the final song on the same side of the album as the big hit, stands out as the highlight.

The song could easily have been titled "Cross That Line;" however, given the lyrical content and the tumultuous break-up of Stealers Wheel that kept Rafferty out of the studio for
three years, the irony of variations of the word steal in both the title of the song and the band that Rafferty left cannot be under-appreciated. The song speaks very candidly about what it is like to be legally forced into a hiatus. Rafferty has no regrets ("I don't feel guilty 'cause the time was mine") because he felt he "had to let it go." He says of the ability to make records again, "It felt so good to know that magic again." The song lacks the powerhouse saxophone of "Baker Street," relying instead on steel guitar and a beautiful vocal chorus at the conclusion of the song that repeats, "Roll on, cross that line, been so long stealin' time."

In 2008 rumors about Rafferty's well-being began to surface after he disappeared from a hospital that was treating him for alcoholism. It took six months before Rafferty's agent issued a statement. Hopefully Rafferty has more great music in him that he will share with the world. "Stealin' Time" is a prime example of what he is capable of providing.


The entire City to City album
-- an album filled with every aspect of life as a family man and touring musician, this is one of the greatest albums of the 1970s. If you haven't listened to this album in a while, pull it out and rediscover the magic.


Rose of My Heart
Rock of Ages, Hide Thou Me
Our Town
Old Memories Mean Nothing to Me
Not That I Care
Nobody Eats at Linebaugh's Anymore
My Book of Memories
Lost to a Stranger
A Little Bitty Heart
Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Starting Tomorrow
Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate
She's a Runaway
Painted Bells
Out to Sea
One More Song
New Delhi Freight Train
Long Way Home
Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine

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