Winding Your Way Down On Baker Street

January 4, 2011 was a sad day in music history. I found out about the passing of Gerry Rafferty from Twitter, which is probably not the place you want to find out such a thing. Those of you who are younger than I will no doubt be saying “Gerry who?” so let me take a moment to enlighten you. If you haven’t heard of Gerry, maybe you’ve heard of Stealer’s Wheel? If this still doesn’t ring any bells, maybe if I started singing the chorus of “Stuck In The Middle With You”? No? Well, how about “Baker Street”? AHA! Now you know who I’m talking about. It seems that Gerry will always be remembered as “the guy who wrote Baker Street.” Funny how, among such an extensive body of work, that one song sticks out. What made it so memorable? Was it the understated lyrics? The bluesy, yet hopeful tempo? Or the soaring saxophone of Raphael Ravenscroft? As a songwriter myself, I know how hard it is to find that elusive “hit” and I’m not sure it can be defined. One thing is for sure: “Baker Street” has the same haunting quality as “Hotel California”, “Nights in White Satin” and “Let It Be” - seminal works from great bands that stand the test of time and span the generational divide with ease.

Thinking of Gerry spurred me to sit down that night with my beloved vinyl collection and see what else I had in there (apart from Gerry’s solo album “City to City” (1978) of course). Vinyl has become a kind of fad with today’s teens; the number of original LPs you own seems to be a measure of how cool you are. Mine, of course, are all originals, bought at the time they hit the record store. Here’s a random selection:

Lionel Richie: Lionel Richie (1982)
Madonna: Madonna (1983)
Queen: A Night At The Opera (1975)
Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
Eagles: One Of These Nights (1975)
Kate Bush: The Kick Inside (1978)
Michael Jackson: Thriller (1982)
Suzanne Vega: Solitude Standing (1987)
Phil Collins: Face Value (1981)
Genesis: Duke (1980)
Billy Joel: 52nd Street (1978)
Diana Ross: All The Great Hits (1981)

Now, from the above list (which is by no means inclusive!) you can probably figure out my age – with the exception of the Simon & Garfunkel album which I inherited from my older sister. Naturally I also have many cds and iPod tunes, but for some reason it’s my vinyl collection that remains closest to my heart. I wasn’t entirely sure why that was until I cranked up the old turntable, selected 33 RPM, cued it up and lowered the needle into the groove. I sat cross-legged on the floor and closed my eyes as the first notes of “Baker Street” filled the air, caressed by the intimate crackle and spacious hum of L.P. album sound. It was like I was there with him, in the studio. And as the tears began to run down my face, I finally understood why vinyl will never die.

Winding 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 taken you so long to find out you were wrong
When you thought it held 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’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re cryin’, you’re cryin’ now.

Way down the street there’s a light 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, in some quiet little town
And forget about everything.

But you know he’ll always keep movin’
You know he’s never gonna stop movin’
Cause he’s rollin’, he’s the rollin’ stone.

And when you wake up it’s a new morning
The sun is shining, it’s a new morning
But you’re going, you’re going home.

R.I.P. Gerry Rafferty: April 16, 1947 - January 4, 2011


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