Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gerry Rafferty -- "Baker Street" (1978)

Gerry Rafferty died today at the age of 63 years old after "a long illness."

While the name doesn't ring a bell with many people under the age of 40, I guarantee they've all heard his distinctive voice. I know my kids have. He sang lead on Steelers Wheel's 1972 hit "Stuck In The Middle With You," which of course later went down in cinema history in the famous ear-cutting scene in Quentin Tarantino's 1992 film "Reservoir Dogs."

It wasn't until 1978 that Rafferty achieved his biggest success, the City to City album, which contained several huge hits, but nothing compared to the impact of his "Baker Street" single.

The late 70s was a fruitful period for English singer/songwriters whose sophisticated tunes were carried away by equally imaginative hometown producers. In the hands of mega-producer/engineer Alan Parsons, folkie Al Stewart went through the roof with "Year Of The Cat," "On The Border" and "Time Passages," all elaborately orchestrated productions.

Rafferty followed the same blueprint with City to City, except with a slightly more Scottish flavor. Each song was at least five minutes long, little detailed stories of English lives, and you could best describe them as "sophisticated English folk pop." Producer Hugh Murphy supported each one with the best UK studio musicians, impeccable arrangements, and a warm, homey analog flavor.

"Baker Street" was the album signature song, with a killer saxophone hook that just echoed on and on. Trust me when I say that "Baker Street" was played on every radio station morning, noon, and night. This was another one of those songs where the lyrics were desolate while the melody was deceptively upbeat and happy.

Windin' your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head and dead on your feet
Well another crazy day
You'll drink the night away
And forget about everything
This city desert makes you feel so cold.
It's got so many people but it's got no soul
And it's taking you so long
To find out you were wrong
When you thought it had everything

You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you're tryin'
You're tryin' now
Another year and then you'll be happy
Just one more year and then you'll be happy
But you're cryin'
You're cryin' now

Way down the street there's a lad in his place
He opens the door he's got that look on his face
And he asks you where you've been
You tell him who you've seen
And you talk about anything

He's got this dream about buyin' some land
He's gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
And then he'll settle down there's a quiet little town
And forget about everything

But you know he'll always keep movin'
You know he's never gonna stop movin
Cus he's rollin'
He's the rollin' stone

And when you wake up it's a new mornin'
The sun is shinin' it's a new morning
You're goin'
You're goin' home.

While "Baker Street" cleaned up, there were two other singles from the album, "Right Down The Line" and "Home And Dry" which hit the Top 40. I was a big fan of the first song, "The Ark," probably because it was atypically slow for an album opener, as well as the title "City to City" cut because nothing beats a good train song.

Rafferty never achieved anything close to this kind of success again and eventually faded from sight. He showed up on Mark Knopfler's beautiful soundtrack score to "Local Hero." For some reason, I remember reading an interview with him sometime in 2010 -- still as crusty as ever, railing against the recording industry -- but anxious to release more music.

Below are a few videos of Rafferty's hits from City to City -- "Baker Street" in its 4-minute form (originally 6 minutes on the album), "Right Down The Line" and "Home And Dry." Enjoy them -- Rafferty's best gleaming moments in music that he gave us.


capewood said...

I loved that City to City LP. I'm sorry to hear that Rafferty died. And pretty young too. Sad.

Fred said...

Sorry for the late post... but yeah it is sad... Rock on Gerry

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