Gerry Rafferty – Right Down The Line
I fall in love with a song on a fairly consistent basis. It’s a similar process to falling in love with a girl and proceeding to engage in an intimate relationship: the first few listens are stimulating, inspiring; an affectionate obsession settles in and suddenly you have developed an addictive dependency; each day starts and ends with the song and the melody never ceases to linger in the back of your head. By the next few listens the lyrics have become engrained in your head and you have grown familiar to the crevices of every note and the nuances of every hit, and by the time the record needle has been worn thin and the album sleeve has collected a thin layer of dust, you have come to the realization that you have to move on; the passion has faded, the song has become habit, and the love once felt has disappeared and become replaced with monotony.
Some songs are one-night stands; others are weeklong flings. You break off affairs with songs when you find a better one; you divorce songs when your tastes change. However, some songs turn into long-term relationships – songs that wrap themselves around your heart and stick with you through thick and thin.
“Right Down The Line” by Gerry Rafferty is the aforementioned.
If you have ever been in the lobby of a dentist office, or an elevator, or a grocery store, you have probably heard Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down The Line.” Originally released in 1978, “Right Down The Line” was Rafferty’s second single off of his solo album, “City to City.” The song made #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks charts in the U.S., making it the only Rafferty song to ever reach #1 on any chart. Over the course of the past 30 years, “Right Down The Line” has found a comfortable niche in light rock radio station’s playlist; an AM dial diamond in the rough. Despite the adult contemporary, light rock connotations that come along with “Right Down The Line’s” place in pop history, its compositional merits and overall tonality and mood transcends its genre. At least I think so.
Lyrical, “Right Down The Line” is a love letter to a long-term girlfriend, a girl that has always stuck by the narrator despite all the skeletons lurking in his closet. His troubled past has been made into an optimistic future due to her presence, and his vast gratitude for her has never been expressed before. The song is an appreciative confession – a confession of emotional debt and pensive insecurities: “I just want to say/This is my way/Of telling you everything/I could never say before/Yeah, this is my way/Of telling you everyday/I’m loving you so much more.”
The song has a simple structure and sparse arrangement that revolves around a tight groove between the drums and bass. There’s an effortless quality to the songs straightforward approach. The musicality of the song reflects the undemanding and honest thematic elements of the lyrics. Aside from a few harmonies and additional percussion additions, the production stays clear of unnecessary bells and whistles. The song is as forthright and guileless as it’s message. The verses do not explode into the choruses, and the choruses don’t settle back down into verses. The song stays at the same amiable dynamic from start to finish and weaves itself in and out of its structure with an organic sense of grace and nimble song-craft.
Perhaps what I personally find most charming about “Right Down The Line” is Rafferty’s pitch perfect vocals. There is a bittersweet eminence to his delivery that automatically evokes feelings of nostalgia; a solitude reminiscence that occurs late at night while the rest of the world sleeps until an uncertain tomorrow dawns. There is a falsetto at the end of the chorus that trails into the first vocal line of the verse, and it is one of my favorite moments in music history – definitely the smoothest structural transition I have ever heard.
Despite years and year’s worth of effort, I can never accurately articulate my feelings about music I love. The words are never eloquent enough, and my failed attempts to conceptualize rhythm and melody only results in poorly written prose and faltering extended metaphors. The beauty that I find in songs such as “Right Down The Line” is beyond words, and that’s precisely why its beauty is so lucid and fluent. It evokes emotions that cannot be described, only felt.
I can’t quite say why “Right Down The Line” reminds me of being a high school senior in 1978 on the brink of graduation, driving around a picturesque suburban hometown in October at dusk, watching children jump into piles of marigold leaves as I turn onto my high school sweethearts block, but it does.
“Right Down The Line” by Gerry Rafferty. Strongly recommended.