Saturday, February 03, 2018

Songs from '78: "Baker Street"

Forty years ago today, the first single from Gerry Rafferty brilliant--and criminally forgotten among even many serious pop listeners--album City to City began to make its way up the charts. That single, which for nearly every casual pop listener in America who happens to know Gerry Rafferty's name (and for a long time, I wasn't one of them) pretty much defines the man is, of course, "Baker Street." He cranked out multiple great pop songs in the late 70s and early 80s, songs marked by lyrical wit, a wonderful balance of jazz, blues, and folk instrumentation and straight-ahead guitar-based rock, and a subtle tone that fit his retiring, introspective, distrustful approach to the pop world as a whole--"Night Owl," "Right Down the Line," "Get it Right Next Time," etc. But "Baker Street" is the song that took root in my skull and never left. I'd forget the tune or lyrics months or years at a time, and then I'd catch a moment of it on the radio, and it would all come back. Apparently, for Rafferty the song is an expression of finding new hope in the midst of the frustrating urban banality of the lawyers and studios of the music business, but to me it's always been a song of the summertime and outdoors. Not the hopeful beginning of summer, but late summer, when the vacations are over and everyone is tired of swimming and school is about to start and it's time to get back to work...and yet, maybe, just maybe, the good times aren't quite over yet. And out into the late, hot (but finally cooling down!) sunset-colored world you go.



2 comments:

brandt said...

I really really like "Baker Street." There's something about that saxaphone that gives it this very ... I don't know how to describe it ... "gritty" feel, especially when he begins talking about the types of people you find on Baker Street.

I'd be intrigued with your thoughts on the Foo Fighters cover of Rafferty's song?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO1qcWa6blQ

Russell Arben Fox said...

I confess I'm not a fan of the Foo Fighter's cover, but I also recognize since my own somewhat tired, ruefully hopeful ("let's give this one more try; maybe it'll work out this time") impression of the song probably controls my reaction to it. Hearing the sax solo as a guitar solo lends the song an urgency and energy that I can't see really fitting with the lyrics.