Music

Baker Street – who wrote the sax riff?

Gerry Rafferty

I hear oPhoto of Gerry Raffertyn the radio that Raphael Ravenscroft,  the session musician who played the famous saxophone solo on the 70s hit Baker Street has died.

Baker Street always reminds me of art lessons with Mr Chedgey at my secondary school. He used to have the radio on while we were dabbing away pointlessly with the paint and Baker Street must have been in the charts at the time. I never really liked it much then, but compared to much of the dross that was around it certainly had a deep, melancholy quality. And it actually told a story.

In interviews, according to Wikipedia, Ravenscroft strongly hinted that he was the creative genius behind the riff, not Gerry Rafferty who wrote the song.  But Ravenscroft was just a session musician hired to do the recording. Ravenscroft claims that he was never given a fully written piece to play and he had to fill in the gaps. Rafferty said that he actually sung the riff to Ravenscroft so that he could play it. After Rafferty’s death it came out that Rafferty had been telling the truth because the original demo recording was released with Rafferty playing it on electric guitar.

Rafferty, obviously unlike Ravenscroft, did not care for the braggadacio of the music industry and became a bit of a recluse in the mid 1980s. He effectively killed himself with drink, and died in 2011 in his mid 50s.

The song Baker Street, I recently found out, was about  him staying with a friend who had a flat in Baker Street, London, close to Euston so that he could take the train back to Glasgow where he lived. He was travelling a lot because he had to see solicitors about a legal dispute with his former band. He said he used to stay up with his friend late, talking and playing the guitar – and no doubt drinking.

The line “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.” reflects his euphoria about resolving the legal battle. But the rest of it is about alienation and drinking and never being content with life.

The song earned him £80,000 a year in royalties right up to his death and he once said that he could live off that song alone. It’s long success must be down to the fact that so many people idenfity with the feelings it expresses – in words and music.

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