Song of the Day, October 19: Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty

RaffertyBakerStToday’s song is one of the biggest hits of the 70s. Singer and guitarist Gerry Rafferty spent nearly four years in professional limbo, unable to release new music while he unravelled the legal difficulties that split his former band, Stealers Wheel. Regularly shuttling between London and his home in Scotland, he wrote a wonderful set of songs about travel, separation, alienation, and relationships. City to City benefited from its long gestation, and its standout track became Rafferty’s signature song.

The singer spent many days on Baker Street in London and chose it for his most direct reflection on the difficult years. He took his time building the beautiful track, not realizing one of its most critical elements until the end. He had a musical figure for which he initially intended to write bridge lyrics; then he pondered a guitar solo. Instead, he gave the line to sax player Raphael Ravenscroft, who turned in a passionate performance that perfectly anchors the tone of the song.

A beautiful, bittersweet meditation, it’s a wonderful track and one of Rafferty’s finest moments. It was also his first US single, turning out to be a smash hit. Spending five months on the charts in 1978, it logged a frustrating six weeks at #2, trapped behind the Gibb monolith with Andy’s Shadow Dancing holding down the top spot. The track has become a classic, however, with its smart structure and lovely vocal making it timeless. Ironically, Rafferty’s label initially balked at releasing the song; according to producer Hugh Murphy, they actually told him it was “too good” for radio.

Enjoy this fantastic song today.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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