Baker Street (song)

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"Baker Street"
Baker Street Gerry Rafferty.jpg
Italian single picture sleeve
Single by Gerry Rafferty
from the album City to City
B-side"Big Change in the Weather"
Released3 February 1978 (1978-02-03)
Format7-inch single
StudioChipping Norton Recording Studios, Oxfordshire, UK
GenreJazz rock, pop rock, soft rock
Length6:06 (album version)
4:10 (single version)
LabelUnited Artists
Songwriter(s)Gerry Rafferty
Producer(s)Hugh Murphy, Gerry Rafferty
Gerry Rafferty singles chronology
"City to City"
"Baker Street"
"Right Down the Line"
Audio sample

"Baker Street" is a song written and recorded by Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty. Released as a single in 1978, it reached No. 1 in Cash Box and No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100,[1] where it held that position for six weeks, behind Andy Gibb's "Shadow Dancing". It spent four weeks at No. 1 in Canada,[2] No. 1 in Australia[3] and South Africa, hit No. 3 in the United Kingdom,[4] and the top 10 in the Netherlands. Rafferty received the 1978 Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.[5] The arrangement is known for its saxophone riff.[6]

In October 2010, the song was recognised by BMI for surpassing five million performances worldwide.[7] It was awarded Gold Certification on two occasions, on 1 April 1978 and 22 July 2013 by the BPI in the UK.[8]


Named after Baker Street in London, the song was included on Rafferty's second solo album, City to City (1978), which was his first release after the resolution of legal problems surrounding the 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.[9]

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 in Paisley and London, where he often stayed at a friend's flat on 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."[10] Privately, Rafferty also spent a lot of time drinking, which he noted he mentions in the lyrics, "Light in your head and dead on your feet / Well, another crazy day / You'll drink the night away / And forget about everything."

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."[11] Rafferty's daughter Martha has said that the book that inspired the song more than any other was Colin Wilson's The Outsider (1956). Rafferty was reading the book, which explores ideas of alienation and of creativity, borne out of a longing to be connected, at this time of traveling between the two cities.[12]

Saxophone riff[edit]

The album City to City (1978), including "Baker Street", was co-produced by Rafferty and Hugh Murphy.[13] 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.[6][14]

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."[15] 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,[16] that appeared on Marcus' 1968 album Tomorrow Never Knows.[17]

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.[11] 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.[14]

In January 2011, radio presenter Simon Lederman revealed that Ravenscroft thought the solo was out of tune. When asked during a live radio interview on BBC Radio London, "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.[citation needed]

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 and hung on his solicitor's wall.[15] 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.[18]

The saxophone riff was also the subject of another urban legend in the UK, created in the 1980s by British writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie.[6] 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.[6] Later, the claim was widely repeated.[19][20]


Appearances in other media[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

"Baker Street" reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 2 for six consecutive weeks in the US, kept out of the number-one spot by Andy Gibb's "Shadow Dancing".

Weekly singles charts[edit]

Undercover version[edit]

"Baker Street"
Undercover Baker Street.jpg
Single by Undercover
from the album Check Out the Groove
Released14 August 1992
Format7" single, CD maxi
Songwriter(s)Gerry Rafferty
Producer(s)Steve Mac
Undercover singles chronology
"Baker Street"
"Never Let Her Slip Away"

British dance group Undercover covered the song on their 1992 album Check Out the Groove. This version reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart and became a top-three hit in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Baker Street" (edit) – 4:04
  2. "Baker Street" (extended mix) – 5:10
  3. "Sha-Bang" (extended mix) – 5:49


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1992) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[49] 100
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[50] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[51] 2
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[52] 9
Germany (Official German Charts)[53] 3
Ireland (IRMA)[31] 2
Italy (Hit Parade Italia)[54] 7
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[55] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[56] 3
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[57] 7
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[58] 2
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[59] 2

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1992) Position
Belgium (Ultratop)[60] 24
Germany (Official German Charts)[61] 32
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[62] 33
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[63] 11


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Germany (BVMI)[64] Gold 250,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b "Billboard > Artists / Gerry Rafferty > Chart History > The Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  2. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 5 August 1978. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  3. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 245. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  4. ^ a b c d "Official Charts > Gerry Rafferty". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  5. ^ Lister, David, Pop ballads bite back in lyrical fashion, The Independent, 28 May 1994
  6. ^ a b c d e Maconie, Stuart (2004). Cider with Roadies (1st ed.). London: Random House. p. 256. ISBN 0-09-189115-9.
  7. ^ "2010 BMI London Award Winners". BMI. 5 October 2010. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  8. ^ "British certifications – Gerry Rafferty". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 30 June 2016. Type Gerry Rafferty in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  9. ^ Eder, Bruce (16 April 1946). "Bruce Eder, Stealers Wheel at". Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  10. ^ Chilton, Martin (5 January 2011). "Gerry Rafferty and his songs of alienation". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  11. ^ a b Emerson, Ken (24 August 1978). "Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" Blues". Rolling Stone.
  12. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Soul Music, Series 13, Baker Street". 18 March 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  13. ^ Gray, Michael (4 January 2011). "Gerry Rafferty obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  14. ^ a b Ingham, Richard (1998), "Rock and the Saxophone", The Cambridge Companion to the Saxophone, Cambridge Companions to Music, p. 156
  15. ^ a b "Stuck in a battle with booze". The Scotsman. 2 August 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  16. ^ Richie Unterberger. "Tomorrow Never Knows - Steve Marcus | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  17. ^ Chandler, Adam (17 December 2015). "'Baker Street': The Mystery of Rock's Greatest Sax Riff". The Atlantic. Washington, D.C.: Atlantic Media. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  18. ^ "Simon Mayo Drivetime (9 February 2012)". BBC Radio 2. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  19. ^ "HIGNFY Guest interview: Stuart Maconie". BBC. 22 May 2009.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ "Hugh Burns interview, January 2002, "An affair of the craft", for Guitarist magazine at". Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  22. ^ "Interview with Henry Spinetti at". 1 May 2011. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
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  24. ^ Staff (5 January 2011). "Baker Street blues no more... singer Gerry Rafferty passes away". Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  25. ^ Newman, AC (2 October 2012). "Shut Down The Streets". Huffington Post.
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  28. ^ " – Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
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  30. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 19 August 1978. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  31. ^ a b "Screen shot of search results for 'Baker Street'". Fireball Media. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  32. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Gerry Rafferty" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
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  42. ^ "Australian Chart Book". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-06-25.
  43. ^ "Top Selling Singles of 1978 | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". 31 December 1978. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
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  45. ^ Swiss Year-End Charts, 1978
  46. ^ Scaping, Peter, ed. (1979). "Top 200 Singles in 1978". BPI Year Book 1979 (4th ed.). London, England: The British Phonographic Industry Ltd. pp. 186–89. ISBN 0-906154-02-2.
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External links[edit]