Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty – 1978

Baker Street CoverThe bluesy saxophone intro. makes Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street one of the most instantly recognisable of all 70s songs.

something amazing, and horn awareness

One of the things about music that never ceases to amaze me is that, after the multitude of songs and tunes penned through the ages, it’s still possible to create something that’s totally unique and instantly recognisable.

Another personal thing about music, I’ve always loved songs with a strong horn backing.  It’s that soul feel.  Songs like Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4, or Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke, or Steely Dan’s My Old School, or any number of other great songs.

Put those two together and you get instantly recognisable horn-based songs – no prizes for working that out!

disclaimer

Yes, I know!  A saxophone is not really a horn!!  I know it is a reed instrument.  But every decent horn section has a sax.  (doesn’t it?).

winding my way down to baker street

So, it’s university exam time again.  These days, I see my children’s university calendar and study time seems to fill so little of it.  Most the year is packed full of free time and opportunities to chill out and relax.  It didn’t seem that way when I was in the midst of it.

I’m at home.  Studying… well… the fact that I’ve got the radio going shows that I was, most likely, taking a break from studying.  And on comes this haunting saxophone.  I’m captivated.  So much so that I’m thinking of ditching the guitar and purchasing a sax.  I never bought the horn (oops, reed instrument) but plenty of people did.  In fact, that solo led to what became known as “The Baker Street phenomenon.”  That is, there followed a huge resurgence in the sales of saxophones and their use in mainstream pop music and television advertising.  That popularity remains to this day.

gerry rafferty

Gerry was a Scotsman who began his musical career as the third member of a duet(!) called The Humblebums.  One of the other members was comedian Billy Connolly.  Gerrywent on to perform as a solo act and as a member of the band Stealer’s Wheel who had a massive hit with Stuck in the Middle with You (which was featured in the soundtrack of the Quentin Tarantino movie, Reservoir Dogs).

Gerry died on 4th January 2011 of liver failure.  He had a history of chronic alcoholism.

baker street fax

  • Baker Street is a real street in London.  It was made famous as the home of Sherlock Holmes.
  • After his band Stealers Wheel broke up there were various contractual disputes and Gerry was unable to release any material for three years.  During that time he would often travel on the overnight train from Glasgow to London where he would meet with his lawyers and stay with a friend who lived in Baker Street.
  • The famous saxophone solo was originally played on guitar but didn’t sound quite right.  Someone suggested a sax and the rest is history.
  • There is no chorus to the song Baker Street.  The sax solo is played instead.
  • In October 2010 the song was recognised by Broadcast Music Inc (BMI) for surpassing 5 million performances worldwide.
  • Baker Street was ‘performed’ by Lisa Simpson at the end of The Simpsons episode “Lisa’s Sax,” where she receives a new saxophone after her old one was destroyed.
  • The Foo Fighters released a cover version of Baker Street using a guitar to play the solo.
  • Baker Street Lyrics.

leave a comment

Tell everyone what your favourite instantly recognisable song is.  Hit the comment link below and write away!

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3 Responses to Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty – 1978

  1. Angela Pearce says:

    SUCH a beautiful song. Yes, the sax is what really makes the difference.

  2. wozza says:

    I’m a big fan of that fat sax sound too. Yes – Raf Ravenscroft’s sound on Baker St is great. A couple of my favourite reed men – Dick Parry on Pink Floyd songs like Money (Us and Them is particularly awesome); the Big Man on Jungleland and loads of Scooter’s other songs; Mel Collins on King Crimson songs like 21st Century Schizoid Man, and Cold Chisel’s sometime guest Joe Camilleri. Can’t forget the NZ legend Jimmy Sloggett either. I have a few early singles with him on them and he sounds as good as King Curtis to me.

  3. Greg.K. says:

    Whoa! I’d forgotten King Curtis (not to be confused with the crazy Hawaiian wrestler from the old WWF days). Did he do the original Yakety Yak? I think so.
    You are right there are a heap of wonderful Sax players, but there are an even greater number of wonderful Sax solos;
    Several Steely Dan (Deacon Blues), Supertramp, Bowie and Stones songs.
    What about Gutter Black!?
    And, sax solo that suffers from being enveloped by a simply terrible song – Careless Whisper?!
    And, finally, as you so rightly say, the big man… Jungleland is my fav. all time Boss song, but, so long as Clarence is blowin’ they’re all just great!

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