Baker Street (song)

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"Baker Street"
Single by Gerry Rafferty
from the album City to City
B-side "Big Change in the Weather"
(1978 release)
"Night Owl", "Bring It All Home"
(1990 re-release)
Released 3 February 1978
Format 7"
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)
Label United Artists
Writer(s) Gerry Rafferty
Producer(s) Hugh Murphy
Certification BPI: Gold (400,000 sales)
Gerry Rafferty singles chronology
"Baker Street"
(1978)
"Night Owl"
(1979)
1990 remix release

"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.[1] Rafferty received the 1978 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.[2]

In October 2010 the song was recognised by BMI for surpassing 5 million performances worldwide.[3]

Origins[edit]

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.[4]

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."[5]

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."[6] 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.[7]

Arrangement[edit]

The album City to City, including "Baker Street", was co-produced by Rafferty and Hugh Murphy.[8] 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.[1][9]

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."[10] 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,[11] that appeared on Marcus' 1968 album Tomorrow Never Knows.[citation needed]

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.[6] 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.[9]

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.

Urban myths[edit]

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.[10] 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.[12]

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.[1] 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.[1] Later, the claim was widely repeated.[13][14]

Personnel[edit]

Appearances in other media[edit]

The song was cited by guitarist Slash as an influence on his guitar solo in "Sweet Child o' Mine".[17]

The Dave Ramsey Show (radio program) uses "Baker Street" for its opening theme.

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.[18]

Canadian rock musician AC Newman cited the song as an inspiration for his 2012 album, Shut Down the Streets.[19]

The song is also featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto V, as part of the Los Santos Rock Radio tracklist.[20]

The Adult Swim show Rick and Morty used the song in season 1 episode 4.

The song is played in the film Good Will Hunting during the early fight scene.

Cover versions[edit]

Dance group Undercover covered the song on their 1992 album Check Out the Groove. This version reached #2 on the UK singles chart.[21] The song has also been performed by several other bands and artists including Ali Campbell,[22] Waylon Jennings, and the London Symphony Orchestra.[23] Irish group The Buachaills reached 95 in the Irish Charts with their version which replaced the sax solo with uilleann pipes.

Foo Fighters recorded a cover of "Baker Street" and released it in the United States as a B-side on the single "My Hero" in 1998 from the album The Colour and the Shape.[23]

Chart positions[edit]

Gerry Rafferty version[edit]

"Baker Street" reached #3 in the UK and #2 for six consecutive weeks in the US, kept out of the #1 spot by Andy Gibb's "Shadow Dancing".

Year Chart Position
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[24] 69
2011 Dutch Singles Chart 27
2011 Swiss Singles Chart 53

Undercover version[edit]

Dance group Undercover covered the song on their 1992 album Check Out the Groove.

Year Chart Position
1992 Belgian Singles Chart 2
1992 Irish Singles Chart 2
1992 Swiss Singles Chart 2
1992 UK Singles Chart 2
1992 Austrian Singles Chart 3
1992 Dutch Singles Chart 3
1992 German Singles Chart 3
1992 Italian Singles Chart 7
1992 Swedish Singles Chart 7

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Maconie, Stuart (2004). Cider With Roadies (1st ed.). London: Random House. p. 256. ISBN 0-09-189115-9. 
  2. ^ Lister, David, Pop ballads bite back in lyrical fashion, The Independent, 28 May 1994
  3. ^ "2010 BMI London Award Winners". BMI. 5 October 2010. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Eder, Bruce (16 April 1946). "Bruce Eder, Stealers Wheel at". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "Gerry Rafferty and His Songs of Alienation," Daily Telegraph 2011-01-05,
  6. ^ a b Emerson, Ken (August 24, 1978). "Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" Blues". Rolling Stone. 
  7. ^ Soul Music, BBC Radio Four, 31 January 2011
  8. ^ Michael Gray (4 January 2011). "Michael Gray, Gerry Rafferty obituary, The Guardian, 4 January 2011". London: Guardian. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  9. ^ a b Richard Ingham (1998), "Rock and the Saxophone", The Cambridge Companion to the Saxophone, p. 156 
  10. ^ a b "Stuck in a Battle with Booze," www.scotsman.com 2 Aug 2008
  11. ^ Richie Unterberger, album Review: Tomorrow Never Knows, AllMusic
  12. ^ "Simon Mayo Drivetime (9 February 2012)". BBC Radio 2. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "HIGNFY Guest interview: Stuart Maconie". BBC. 22 May 2009. 
  14. ^ "Why do we think Bob Holness was the Baker Street saxophonist?". BBC. 5 January 2011. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  15. ^ "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. 
  16. ^ "Interview with Henry Spinetti at". Mikedolbear.com. 1 May 2011. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  17. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 17 March 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  18. ^ Staff (5 January 2011). "Baker Street blues no more... singer Gerry Rafferty passes away". News.AU.com. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  19. ^ Newman, AC (2 October 2012). "Shut Down The Streets". Huffington Post. 
  20. ^ Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack
  21. ^ "Chart Stats – Undercover – Baker Street". Chartstats.com. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  22. ^ "– Review: Ali Campbell – Great British Songs". Express.co.uk. 15 October 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  23. ^ a b (In Spanish) El solo de saxo más famoso de la historia del pop | RPP Noticias
  24. ^ "Adele feiert höchsten Neueinstieg in den Charts - media control". Media-control.de. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 

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