STEALERS WHEEL “Star” b/w “What More Could You Want” (A&M Records #AM-1483-S, 1973)

Everybody knows Scottish folk/pop/rock duo Stealers Wheel’s Dylanesque 1973 Top-10 smash, “Stuck In The Middle With You,” a classic oldies-station staple even before that director included it in that movie. (Sense a theme here?  Backtrack to 45 RPM #15.  I assure ya, boys, it’s purely coincidental.)  Fewer people, however, know about “Star,” the Wheel’s follow-up single, much less their brilliant 3-LP output.  I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, a little ancient history.

Like that famous postage stamp with the upside-down airplane (though worth considerably less money), my copy of  “Star” is misprinted.  The B-side label is pressed onto both sides of the disc, giving the illusion that both sides feature the same track, “What More Could You Want.”  Double-A-side 45s were common in the early ’70’s, usually pressed in limited quantity for in-store or radio play.  If one side became worn out or scratched, you could simply flip the disc and play the clean side without having to pony up the bread for a fresh copy.  Sucker that I was, I bought this fake-double-A-side platter at my neighborhood drug store thinking it was the Stealers’ new single.  For months, I played “What More Could You Want” over and over, thinking, “This song is great!  How come it’s not on the radio?  How come it’s not a smash hit?”  Then one day I accidentally flipped it over, and the opening strums of “Star” emerged from my little stereo.  Oops.


A catchy shuffle of the Lennonesque variety, “Star” is 3 minutes of pure shimmering acoustic-guitar pop loveliness and honey-throated vocal harmonies, punctuated with spikes of harmonica, kazoo, woodblock, and bawdy barrelhouse piano.  It spent 3 weeks on the US singles charts, peaking at #29 in March of ’74.  The duo of Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan went on to produce one more brilliant (but underrated and underperforming) album for A&M before sadly parting ways in ’75.


And as for that B-side I played to death after mistaking it for an A-side?  Well suffice to say it rocks.  “What More Could You Want” is a ballsy, two-chord stomper, with tricky time-signature changes and stop-start verses, that could fit right between The Sweet and Badfinger on your next Roots Of Brit-Pop mixtape.  Hell, remove the squiggly synths and beef up the guitars a tad and it wouldn’t be out of place on an early KISS album.  And listen up all you overpaid computer geeks at Activision — break that slide rule out of your pocket-protector and put on your horn-rimmed glasses with tape in the middle now!  With lyrics like, “You got a brand new Telecaster / What more could you want,” this track is a must-have for the next edition of Guitar Hero. So get on it, you slack-ass fucks.

Both Rafferty and Egan pursued solo careers.  Stateside, Rafferty ended up back in the Top 20 in 1978 with “Right Down The Line” and the sax-fueled classic, “Baker Street” from his multi-platinum United Artists LP, City To City.  The 3-LP Stealers Wheel catalog [Stealers Wheel, Ferguslie Park and Right Or Wrong] has been reissued in the UK by Cherry Red Records, and is well worth seeking out.

NEXT WEEK: It Came (Crawling To The U.S.A.) From Liverpool!