Great London Songs

5 Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty

Baker Street is really a song about wishing to get out of London, but it still evokes the feel of the city in the late 1970’s. The sax break gives the intro a lonely, big city vibe and then the lyrics are a longing to escape to a nostalgic countryside that only exists in songs or people’s dreams. It was apparently written when he had already moved out of London and only visited to see lawyers, while he was negotiating his way out of Stealers Wheel contract, so you can understand why he didn’t see London is the happiest of lights. However, despite this, the final verse is positive “The sun is shining, it’s a new morning” and it sounds like he makes it out.

Released in 1978, it was a huge hit around the world. No. 1 in Australia, Canada, South Africa. No. 2 for 6 weeks in the US and No. 3 here in the UK. There have been many cover versions – in fact Undercover in arguably had a bigger hit in the UK with the song, reaching No. 2 in 1992, although to be fair it not a version that you hear often now, unlike the original.

Gerry Rafferty had hits in Stealers Wheel – “Stuck in the middle with you” is a great ’70s song. He was also in a duo with Billy Connolly called The Humblebums, very folky. The Foo Fighters used to do a cover of Baker Street at their live gigs and, of course, it is the song Lisa from The Simpsons used to learn the saxophone

It is remarkable how similar the sax solo sounds on this 1968 song by Steve Marcus, I suspect it would have ended in a courtroom had we been in these more litigious days. For all that, Half a Heart is a good song in its own right, very different in tone and I would probably never have heard it, if not for Baker Street.

All in all, a worthy addition to The London Playlist, if you have any suggestions for songs that you believe should be added please let me know in the comments.


3 thoughts on “Great London Songs

  1. Stealers Wheel (and of course The Humblebums) were class acts – though not really my particular type of music. ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ had a new lease of life with the Reservoir Dogs film and I guess made it kinda ‘cool.’
    Baker Street is one that will live forever, I think. And yes, the original is WAY better than the cover version.
    (Gerry Rafferty is another we claim from around these parts … Paisley.)

    I know I’m stating the bleedin’ obvious, but you could have Ralph McTell and ‘Streets of London’ on your playlist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Stuck in the middle with you is even better than Baker Street (but I think I was about 13 when it came out!) Thank you for the brilliant suggestion, Streets of London will now be added in the next couple of tunes!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I vaguely recalled Gerry Rafferty’s name, but the sax solo instantly brought back the memories. Now I have to go listen to the whole song. Oh, our litigious society of intellectual property, especially in pop music culture where a few hits can provide financial security for your career if you manage the royalties well… and sue the pants off of anyone who comes close to your sound. Our narrowboat trip happen to be when the Glynborough (Glenbourn?) Festival was going on. I read an article about The Pet Shop Boys headlining, as aging rockers. Their comment was something like “Get 10 hits when you are young, and you have set to play for your fans for the rest of your life” (Just ask 80 year olds Paul McCartney and Dianna Ross who also headlined dates there). Anyway, I listen to much more jazz, where quoting someone’s familiar solos line or chord structure is a complement, not theft. It becomes more of a beatnik, snap your fingers and name that riff, than “I’m taking your to court of four bars of music”. – Oscar


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