Baker Street Gerry Rafferty.jpg

"Baker Street" is a song written and 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. Rafferty received the 1978 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. The arrangement is known for its haunting saxophone riff.

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

Origins[edit | edit source]

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.

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."[8]

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."[9] 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 the two cities.[10]

Arrangement[edit | edit source]

The album City to City, including "Baker Street", was co-produced by Rafferty and Hugh Murphy.[11] 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.[5][12]

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."[13] 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,[14] that appeared on Marcus' 1968 album Tomorrow Never Knows.[15]

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.[9] 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.[12]

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]

The single version was produced using the tape of the song's 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 semitone.[citation needed]

Urban myths

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.[13] 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.[16]

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.[5] 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.[5] Later, the claim was widely repeated.[17][18]

Personnel[edit | edit source]

Gerry Rafferty – lead vocals Raphael Ravenscroft – saxophone[5] Hugh Burns – lead guitar[19] Nigel Jenkins – rhythm guitar Tommy Eyre – keyboards Gary Taylor - bass[20] Henry Spinetti – drums Glen Le Fleur – percussion Graham Preskett – string arrangements

Appearances in other media[edit | edit source]

The song was cited by guitarist Slash as an influence on his guitar solo in "Sweet Child o' Mine".[21]

The saxophone solo has been cited as one of Susan Boyle's influences on her version of the Rolling Stone track "Wild Horses".[citation needed]

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.[22]

Canadian rock musician AC Newman cited the song as an inspiration for his 2012 album, Shut Down the Streets.[23]

The song is featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto V, as part of the Los Santos Rock Radio tracklist.[24]

The song's saxophone line is featured numerous times in the Rick and Morty episode "M. Night Shaym-Aliens!". (Season 1, Episode 4)[25]

The opening bars of the song serve as the opening theme to the syndicated US radio program of financial author and motivational speaker Dave Ramsey.

Chart performance[edit | edit source]

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

Weekly singles charts

Chart (1978)



Australia (Kent Music Report)[3] 1 Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[26] 4 Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[27] 9 Canada Top Singles (RPM) 1 Germany (Official German Charts)[28] 3 Ireland (IRMA)[29] 3 Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[30] 9 New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[31] 4 Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[32] 2 UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[2] 3 US Billboard Hot 100[1] 2 US Cash Box Top 100[33] 1

Chart (1990)



UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) (re-mix)[2] 53

Chart (2011)



Germany (Official German Charts)[28] 69 Netherlands (Single Top 100)[34] 27 Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[32] 53 UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[2] 55

Year-end charts

Chart (1978)


Canada [35] 8 New Zealand [36] 21 UK [37] 17 U.S. Billboard Hot 100 [38] 26 U.S. Cash Box [39] 12

Cover versions[edit | edit source]


British dance group Undercover covered the song on their 1992 album Check Out the Groove. This version reached #2 on the UK singles chart.[40]

Track listing 1."Baker Street" (Edit) – 4:04 2."Baker Street" (Extended Mix) – 5:10 3."Sha-Bang" (Extended Mix) – 5:49


Chart (1992)



Australia (ARIA Singles Chart)[41] 100 Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[42] 3 Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[43] 2 Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[44] 9 Germany (Official German Charts)[45] 3 Ireland (IRMA)[29] 2 Italy (FIMI)[46] 7 Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[47] 2 Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[48] 7 Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[49] 2 UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[40] 2

Foo Fighters

The Foo Fighters covered the song on the extended version of their 1997 album The Colour and the Shape.[50] In the United States, this track was released as the B-side of the single "My Hero". They replace the word 'booze' for 'crack'.

Other versions

The song has also been performed by several other bands and artists including Ali Campbell,[51] Waylon Jennings, Maynard Ferguson, Game Theory (band), and the London Symphony Orchestra.[52] It was also covered by a saxophonist/composer/ Robert Chojnacki on his 2006 album Saxhophonic,[53] with vocals by Andrzej Lampert, a pop vocalist (of a 'soft rock' band PIN), as well as operatic singer (tenor, academically trained in both music genres).

References[edit | edit source]

1.^ Jump up to: a b "Billboard > Artists / Gerry Rafferty > Chart History > The Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 2.^ Jump up to: a b c d "Official Charts > Gerry Rafferty". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 3.^ Jump up to: 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.Jump up ^ Lister, David, Pop ballads bite back in lyrical fashion, The Independent, 28 May 1994 5.^ Jump up to: a b c d e Maconie, Stuart (2004). Cider with Roadies (1st ed.). London: Random House. p. 256. ISBN 0-09-189115-9. 6.Jump up ^ "2010 BMI London Award Winners". BMI. 5 October 2010. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 7.Jump up ^ Eder, Bruce (16 April 1946). "Bruce Eder, Stealers Wheel at". Retrieved 17 August 2011. 8.Jump up ^ Chilton, Martin (5 January 2011). "Gerry Rafferty and his songs of alienation". The Daily Telegraph (London). 9.^ Jump up to: a b Emerson, Ken (24 August 1978). "Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" Blues". Rolling Stone. 10.Jump up ^ Soul Music, BBC Radio Four, 31 January 2011 11.Jump up ^ Gray, Michael (4 January 2011). "Gerry Rafferty obituary". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 17 August 2011. 12.^ Jump up to: a b Ingham, Richard (1998), "Rock and the Saxophone", The Cambridge Companion to the Saxophone, Cambridge Companions to Music, p. 156 13.^ Jump up to: a b "Stuck in a Battle with Booze," 2 Aug 2008 14.Jump up ^ Richie Unterberger, album Review: Tomorrow Never Knows, AllMusic 15.Jump up ^ Chandler, Adam (Dec 17, 2015). "‘Baker Street’: The Mystery of Rock's Greatest Sax Riff". The Atlantic (Washington, D.C.: Atlantic Media). Retrieved Dec 19, 2015. 16.Jump up ^ "Simon Mayo Drivetime (9 February 2012)". BBC Radio 2. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 17.Jump up ^ "HIGNFY Guest interview: Stuart Maconie". BBC. 22 May 2009. 18.Jump up ^ "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. 19.Jump up ^ "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. 20.Jump up ^ "Interview with Henry Spinetti at". 1 May 2011. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 21.Jump up ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 17 March 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010. 22.Jump up ^ Staff (5 January 2011). "Baker Street blues no more... singer Gerry Rafferty passes away". Retrieved 1 May 2012. 23.Jump up ^ Newman, AC (2 October 2012). "Shut Down The Streets". Huffington Post. 24.Jump up ^ Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack 25.Jump up ^ ""Rick and Morty" M. Night Shaym-Aliens! (TV Episode 2014)". IMDb. Retrieved July 20, 2015. 26.Jump up ^ " – Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. 27.Jump up ^ " – Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. 28.^ Jump up to: a b " – Gerry Rafferty Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. 29.^ Jump up to: a b "Screen shot of search results for 'Baker Street' from". Fireball Media. Retrieved 13 December 2015. External link in |title= (help) 30.Jump up ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Gerry Rafferty search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. 31.Jump up ^ " – Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street". Top 40 Singles. 32.^ Jump up to: a b " – Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street". Swiss Singles Chart. 33.Jump up ^ Cash Box Top 100 7/22/78 34.Jump up ^ " – Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. 35.Jump up ^ Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada 36.Jump up ^ 37.Jump up ^ Top 100 1978 - UK Music Charts 38.Jump up ^ Top 100 Hits of 1978/Top 100 Songs of 1978 39.Jump up ^ Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1978 40.^ Jump up to: a b "Official Charts > Undercover". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 41.Jump up ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. 42.Jump up ^ " – Undercover – Baker Street" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. 43.Jump up ^ " – Undercover – Baker Street" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. 44.Jump up ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5. 45.Jump up ^ " – Undercover Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. 46.Jump up ^ " – Undercover – Baker Street". Top Digital Download. 47.Jump up ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Undercover search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. 48.Jump up ^ " – Undercover – Baker Street". Singles Top 100. 49.Jump up ^ " – Undercover – Baker Street". Swiss Singles Chart. 50.Jump up ^ Shetty, Sharan. "Listen to the Foo Fighters' Powerful, Long-Forgotten Cover of "Baker Street"". Retrieved 22 November 2015. 51.Jump up ^ "Review: Ali Campbell – Great British Songs". Daily Express (London). 15 October 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 52.Jump up ^ (In Spanish) El solo de saxo más famoso de la historia del pop | RPP Noticias 53.Jump up ^,robert-chojnacki,2767,plyta.html

External links[edit | edit source]

"Baker Street" at Discogs (list of releases) "Baker Street (Remix)" at Discogs Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics

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