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Stealers Wheel are a perfect example of a group who threw it all away - their history is one of turmoil and internal dissension, when it could so easily have been one of considerable success.

The story begins with Gerry Rafferty, who joined Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey in The Humblebums, who were re-billed as The New Humblebums, and cut one album of that title.

can i have my money backWhen they disbanded, Rafferty made one solo album, Can I Have My Money Back?, for the same label, Transatlantic, before forming Stealers Wheel with Joe Egan. The other original members were Rab Noakes and Roger Brown, so that originally the line-up comprised four singer/songwriters. However, before they made any recordings Noakes and Brown both left, as did Ian Campbell, a bass-player they had brought in.

Stealers Wheel album

Rafferty and Egan recruited Paul Pilnick (an original member of the semi-legendary Liverpool group, The Big Three) on guitar, Rod Coombes on drums and Tony Williams on bass; A&M meanwhile paid Transatlantic for Rafferty's contract, so the band started recording in December 1972, and released Stealers Wheel the following year. The album which had been produced by Leiber & Stoller was thought to be remarkably good, and contained three songs that were later lifted as singles - Stuck In The Middle With You, You Put Something Better Inside Me and Late Again, all joint Rafferty/Egan compositions.

However, before the album had an opportunity to make a commercial impact, Rafferty left the band, and Williams was ousted. The others brought in Delisle Harper to take the place of Williams, and Luther Grosvenor (later to surface as Ariel Bender in Mott The Hoople) was recruited to fill Rafferty's place.

At this point, in May of 1973, Stuck In The Middle With You began to happen. It was in fact a superlative folk-rock single, for all that the vocals were deliberately pitched somewhere between John Lennon and Bob Dylan. Ultimately, the single reached No. 6 in the U.K. and No. 2 in the U.S. Hence, the group's manager suggested to Rafferty that it was only logical that he should return - which he did, though as a result all the rest were dismissed with the exception of Egan. 

Ferguslie Park by Stealers WheelRafferty and Egan completed some gigs on the strength of their success, and then went into the studios to make Ferguslie Park (1973), another Leiber-Stoller production which was again critically acclaimed, although this time it didn't produce a major hit - though Star went Top 50 in the U.S. Dispirited, Rafferty and Egan nevertheless started to put together their third album, they fell out with Leiber and Stoller and started recording Right or Wrong with Mentor Williams as producer.

right or wrongAt this point, the sessions were held up due to managerial hassles and the album was finally issued in March 1975, 18 months after Ferguslie Park, by which time the public had lost interest, and in any case Rafferty and Egan were at that point reportedly again no longer on speaking terms.