Baker Street (song)
|Single by Gerry Rafferty|
|from the album City to City|
|B-side||"Big Change in the Weather"
"Night Owl", "Bring It All Home"
|Released||3 February 1978|
|Recorded||1977, Chipping Norton Recording Studios, Oxfordshire, UK|
|Genre||Rock, soft rock, jazz|
|Length||4:10 (single edit)
6:11 (album version)
6:23 (full remix)
|Certification||BPI: Gold (400,000 sales)|
|Gerry Rafferty singles chronology|
"Baker Street" is a song written and first recorded by Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty. Released as a single in 1978, it reached #1 in Cash Box and #2 in Billboard - where it held for six weeks. Additionally, it hit #1 in Canada, #3 in the United Kingdom, #1 in Australia and top 10 in the Netherlands. The arrangement is known for its haunting saxophone solo. Rafferty received the 1978 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.
Named after the London street of the same name, the song was included on Rafferty's second solo album, City to City, which was Rafferty's first release after the resolution of legal problems surrounding the formal break-up of his old band, Stealers Wheel, in 1975. In the intervening three years, Rafferty had been unable to release any material because of disputes about the band's remaining contractual recording obligations.
Rafferty wrote the song during a period when he was trying to extricate himself from his Stealers Wheel contracts; he was regularly travelling between his family home near Glasgow and London, where he often stayed at a friend's flat in Baker Street. As Rafferty put it, "everybody was suing each other, so I spent a lot of time on the overnight train from Glasgow to London for meetings with lawyers. I knew a guy who lived in a little flat off Baker Street. We'd sit and chat or play guitar there through the night."
The resolution of Rafferty's legal and financial frustrations accounted for the exhilaration of the song's last verse: "When you wake up it's a new morning/ The sun is shining, it's a new morning/ You're going, you're going home." Rafferty's daughter Martha has said that the book that inspired the song more than any other was Colin Wilson's The Outsider. Rafferty was reading the book, which explores ideas of alienation and of creativity, born out of a longing to be connected, at this time of travelling between Glasgow and London.
The album City to City, including "Baker Street", was co-produced by Rafferty and Hugh Murphy. In addition to a guitar solo, played by Hugh Burns, the song featured a prominent eight-bar saxophone riff played as a break between verses, by Raphael Ravenscroft.
Rafferty claimed that he wrote the hook with the original intention that it be sung. Ravenscroft remembered things differently, saying that he was presented with a song that contained "several gaps". "In fact, most of what I played was an old blues riff," stated Ravenscroft. "If you're asking me: 'Did Gerry hand me a piece of music to play?' then no, he didn't." However, the 2011 reissue of City To City included the demo of Baker Street which included the saxophone part played on electric guitar by Rafferty. A very similar sax line, however, was originally played by saxophonist Steve Marcus for a song called "Half A Heart", credited to vibraphonist Gary Burton, that appeared on Marcus' 1968 album Tomorrow Never Knows.
Ravenscroft, a session musician, was in the studio to record a brief soprano saxophone part and suggested that he record the break using the alto saxophone he had in his car. The part led to what became known as "the 'Baker Street' phenomenon", a resurgence in the sales of saxophones and their use in mainstream pop music and television advertising.
In January 2011, radio presenter Simon Lederman revealed that Ravenscroft himself thought the solo was out of tune. When asked during a live radio interview on BBC London 94.9, "What do you think when you hear [the sax solo] now?" Ravenscroft replied, "I'm irritated because it's out of tune; yeah it's flat; by enough of a degree that it irritates me at best" and admitted he was "gutted" when he heard it played back. He added that he had not been able to re-record the take as he was not involved when the song was mixed.
The single version was produced using the tape of the album version sped up slightly, so as to raise the tempo and thus be more radio-friendly. This also had the result of raising the key by a half tone.
According to one story, Ravenscroft received no payment for a song that earned Rafferty an income of £80,000 per annum; a cheque for £27 given to Ravenscroft bounced and was framed on the wall of his solicitor. However the bouncing cheque story was denied by Ravenscroft during an interview on BBC Radio 2's Simon Mayo Drivetime show on 9 February 2012.
The saxophone riff was also the subject of another urban myth in the UK, created in the 1980s by British writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie. As one of the spoof facts invented for the regular "Would You Believe It?" section in the NME, Maconie falsely claimed that British radio and television presenter Bob Holness had played the saxophone part on the recording. Later, the claim was widely repeated.
- Vocals – Gerry Rafferty
- Saxophone – Raphael Ravenscroft
- Lead guitar – Hugh Burns
- Drums – Henry Spinetti
- Bass guitar – Gary Taylor
- Keyboards – Tommy Eyre
- Percussion – Glen Le Fleur
- Rhythm guitar – Nigel Jenkins
- String arrangement – Graham Preskett
Appearances in other media
The song is also heard in the closing scene of "Lisa's Sax," the episode of The Simpsons which recounts how Lisa Simpson received her first saxophone. Lisa performs a brief, cruder rendition of the hook before the music segues into Rafferty's recording.
Dance group Undercover covered the song on their 1992 album Check Out the Groove. This version reached #2 on the UK singles chart. The song has also been performed by several other bands and artists including Ali Campbell, Waylon Jennings, and the London Symphony Orchestra.Irish group The Buachaills reached 95 in the Irish Charts with their version which replaced the sax solo with uilleann pipes.
Gerry Rafferty version
|1978||UK Singles Chart||#3|
|1978||US Billboard Hot 100||#2|
|1978||Australian ARIA Charts||#1|
|1978||German Singles Chart||#3|
|1990||UK Singles Chart (re-mix)||#53|
|2011||UK Singles Chart||#55|
|2011||German Singles Chart||#69|
|2011||Dutch Singles Chart||#27|
|2011||Swiss Singles Chart||#53|
|1992||UK Singles Chart||#2|
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- "Hugh Burns interview, January 2002, "An affair of the craft", for Guitarist magazine at". Andrewbrel.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
- "Interview with Henry Spinetti at". Mikedolbear.com. 1 May 2011. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
- "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 17 March 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
- Staff (5 January 2011). "Baker Street blues no more... singer Gerry Rafferty passes away". News.AU.com. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
- Newman, AC (2 October 2012). "Shut Down The Streets". Huffington Post.
- Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack
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- "– Review: Ali Campbell – Great British Songs". Express.co.uk. 15 October 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
- (In Spanish) El solo de saxo más famoso de la historia del pop | RPP Noticias
- "Adele feiert höchsten Neueinstieg in den Charts - media control". Media-control.de. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
- "Baker Street" at Discogs (list of releases)
- "Baker Street (Remix)" at Discogs
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics