Writer(s): Gerry Rafferty (see lyrics here)
Released: February 3, 1978
First Charted: February 18, 1978
Peak: 2 US, 12 CB, 2 HR, 14 RR, 4 AC, 1 CL, 3 UK, 14 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.2 UK, 2.45 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 5.0 radio, 58.9 video, 165.27 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Prior to “Baker Street,” Gerry Rafferty was best known for the 1973 Stealers Wheel song “Stuck in the Middle with You.” It was notable for its “absolutely uncanny imitation of Bob Dylan,” TB although it has since gained attention in a particularly gruesome scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. When Stealers Wheel broke up, Rafferty couldn’t release any new material while battling with his record company over contractual obligations. Rafferty “spent a lot of time on the overnight train from Glasgow to London for meetings with lawyers” SF and often stayed with a friend in London – on Baker Street. SF
When he surfaced again, it was with this “exquisite song about self-delusion and loneliness in the big city.” TB The narrator dreams of moving to the country, but his reliance on the bottle gets in his way. “He drinks to forget what doesn’t have, and never realizes he’s a rolling stone with no direction.” SF
“With its rippling celeste and yearning, understated, vocal both Rafferty and his label felt it was too enigmatic and reticent to be a single. But a groundswell of radio play, producing a huge surge of public interest, changed their minds. The reason? That saxophone riff.” BBC
Rafferty had an instrumental break in mind for the song, but no specific instrument. SF Hugh Murphy, the producer, suggested saxophone SF and they brought in session musician Raphel “Raff” Ravenscroft, TB who’s played with Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, and Abba. SF He “gave the song one of the most recognisable intros of all time,” BBC “the cherry on the cake, perfectly complementing the air of aching melancholy.” TB “By its final return at the coda, underpinned by a swooping guitar, you knew you’d listened to one of the greatest arrangements of all time.” BBC
First posted 4/29/2020; last updated 10/9/2022.