You know those songs that give you goosebumps? For me, Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty is one of those. I can’t remember when I first heard it. It seems as though I’ve been hearing it forever, which is actually kind of true, as it was released when I was 7 years old. I think it made a proper impression on me when I heard it used in a play on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, when I was 18. The melancholy melody and that soaring saxophone still send shivers down my spine every time I hear it.
So why did I pick this song for Music Monday this week? Because I was thinking about Glasgow, and musicians. (Gerry Rafferty was born in Paisley, on the outskirts of Glasgow). I was going to write about my Alter Bridge gig in that city. However, I’m trying to put together a special video to go with that post, but my video-making skills aren’t quite there yet. By that, I mean I have no video-making skills so long-suffering hubby is having to do it. 😉 My mind then wandered off thinking about bands and musicians from Glasgow – and this guy and this song popped into my head.
Gerry Rafferty was born into a working-class family in Paisley in 1947. He joined the folk-pop group The Humblebums in 1969, along with another of Glasgow’s famous sons, Billy Connolly. That group disbanded in 1971, after which Gerry recorded his first solo album. He then formed the group Stealers Wheel with Joe Egan in 1972, producing several hits, most notably ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’. In 1978, Gerry recorded his second solo album, City to City, which included ‘Baker Street’, his most popular song.
According to his daughter Martha, the whole album was influenced by the book ‘The Outsider’ by Colin Wilson. Wilson, only 24 at the time, wrote the book in The British Library whilst sleeping rough on Hampstead Heath. Its themes are alienation, creativity and the banality of the modern mind-set. Martha says: ‘It was exactly these themes which my Father experienced during frequent trips down to London to deal with the machinations of the music business and it was ‘The Outsider’ which introduced him to the possibility that there was a way out, the means to transcend the ordinary. Hope. ‘Baker Street’ was born directly from these experiences and in that saxophone solo one can hear the soaring, transcendent optimism of the promise of a new life, a new way of living, the discovery that life could, indeed, be ultimately meaningful’. Indeed.
Gerry continued to make music until 2009, but he suffered from alcoholism all his life, and died of liver failure in 2011, aged 63. He left a legacy of great songs, and I think through this one he’ll live forever. So let that sax solo chase the Monday blues away. Enjoy!