It’s funny how hearing a song can instantly transport you to another place and time. Just the other day I heard Gerry Rafferty’s songs Baker Street and Home and Dry. Whenever I hear Baker Street, I am instantly catapulted into the summer of 1978 in Mountain Home, AR visiting my grandma and grandpa.
I was not only shocked, but saddened to hear about the death of the 70s iconic musician Gerry Rafferty yesterday. I was on Twitter and saw his name trending, which usually means something crazy has happened to that person, or they have died. It was odd because I had just hear those Rafferty songs a couple days before.
Anyway, what didn’t surprise me too much was that a lot of the younger people were posting comments like, “Who is Gerry Rafferty?”
Gerry Rafferty is probably best known for two huge Rock music hits he wrote and performed in the 70s. The first was Stuck in the Middle, which was performed with Stealers Wheel in 1972. That song reminds me of my childhood so much. I grew up around Rock music, thanks to my much older brother and sisters who were in their teens when that song was popular the first time. The song became a hit again after Quentin Tarantino used it in the 1992 movie Reservoir Dogs.
The second song Rafferty was so popular for was Baker Street, which was from his solo career and was released in 1978. The song always makes me think of my early teens and being at my grandma and grandpa’s home for vacation during the summer after the song was released. It was so popular that the song was played time after time after time. That’s how AM Radio was in 70s — only the hot hits were played.
Just off the main square in Mountain Home there is a S. Baker St. One day we were driving along S. Baker St. and Rafferty’s song came on the radio. I also heard the song countless times afterward during our visit. Ever since, whenever I hear that song, I go back in my mind to being at my grandma and grandpa’s small town in Arkansas during that hot summer.
My other connection to Baker Street is as a guitar player.
Most people think of the big saxaphone riff and solo in the song Baker Street. That is what the song is famous for. Most people don’t really remember the guitar solo, which is toward the end of the song.
But I do. I remember the solo so well because it was the first guitar solo I had ever figured out on my own and taught myself how to play. After my trip to grandma and grandpa’s, I got my first electric guitar for my birthday. It was a cheap, Japanese made Les Paul copy. I loved that guitar, though. I had just purchased the Baker Street album with my paper route money and I took that album into my bedroom and sat down and listened to that guitar solo on my stereo and played my guitar along with that solo until I figured out which notes to play. I literally played that over and over until my fingers were torn up.
I was so proud of myself, though, teaching myself how to play that solo. It was a big deal for me because after that – well, that was how I learned how to play guitar solos. I’d slow the record down, figure out the notes, and then play it over and over and over again at regular speed until I had the solo down pat.
Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street was an inspiration to me and helped prod me into playing solos and got me into the “I can do it myself” frame of mind. It help me set the formula for how I would figure out the guitar solos I wanted to learn. I didn’t know any scales, or notes. I played by ear.
I was saddened to hear the Rafferty died at such an early age of 63. Apparently he had an alcohol drinking problem, which led to other health complications. Rafferty was definitely an under-rated and overlooked musician. When he recorded the demo tapes for the album City to City, which included Baker Street, he played every instrument on the demo and recorded it with a 4-track recorder in his mother and father-inlaw’s home. After it was produced and released, City to City became a mega-selling album in 1978 and sold 5 million copies.
According to Michael Gray, Rafferty’s manager in the late 70s and the man who wrote Rafferty’s obituary for London newspapers, Rafferty was still earning a six-figure income annually from the royalties of that album at the time of his death.
Many may not know who Gerry Rafferty was by hearing his name, but if they hear one line from that infamous sax solo, almost everyone knows the song.
His music was an inspiration to me and it will always have a special meaning in my life. Thanks for the music, Gerry, RIP.