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Update 1/4/11: Gerry Rafferty died today at the age of 63. He passed on peacefully at home with family. Thanks for the music, Gerry.

If you’re not familiar with Gerry Rafferty or with his song “Baker Street” you should first take a look-see at this video.

Please, allow your saxophone-induced erection to subside before reading the remainder of this post.

While researching this album I came across a couple of interesting pieces of information about Gerry Rafferty. First, Rafferty just recently suffered liver failure due to acute alcoholism and is in critical condition. Amazingly this isn’t the first time he’s suffered liver failure from overindulgence. Additionally, alcoholism has driven Rafferty to a life of seclusion; and perhaps made him a fan of George Thorogood. There have even been reports of him completely disappearing from time to time. All of this leads one to believe that, despite becoming a popular musician and selling over 5.5 million copies of City To City, Rafferty’s a lonely, depressed soul. Evidence of this is found in the lyrics of “Baker Street”.

Winding your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head, and dead on your feet
Well another crazy day
You drink the night away
And forget about everything
This city desert makes you feel so cold,
Its got so many people but its got no soul
And it’s taken you so long to find out you were wrong
When you thought it held everything

Baker Street, London, England

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

Second, some people credit the sexophone solo in “Baker Street” with inciting the stampede of screaming reeds that ran rampant throughout 80′s pop. Music critic and historian Richard Ingham termed Rafferty’s sax influence the “Baker Street Phenomenon” in The Cambridge Companion To The Saxophone. Below is an excerpt from the book:

The year 1978 saw the appearance of what can only be described as the Baker Street phenomenon. An attractive but seemingly innocuous rock ballad, a hit for singer/composer Gerry Rafferty, was decorated by a handful of notes turned into an eight-bar phrase at the beginning and between verses.

No one really knows why, but following the success (and consequent air-play) of this number, it seemed that every self-respecting band had to include a saxophone.

Soon after that an enormous percentage of TV advertisements had a sultry tenor or wailing alto taking prominence, and in the mid 1980s the saxophone became the most popular instrument for youngsters starting out. Rafael Ravenscroft, the player in question, can thus be said to have initiated the biggest boom in saxophone sales since the craze of the 1920s.

This [testifies] to the power of the mass media, as well as the music itself, and follows in a direct line Acker Bilk, whose Stranger on the Shore was responsible for a generation of clarinet players, and later James Galway with Annie’s Song, similarly providing flute players.

It seemed that Baker Street legitimised (sic) the saxophone in mainstream pop, instead of being an extra instrument on loan from jazz. Almost the best part of this whole story is the fact, like many inventions, it appeared quite by chance.

The band were recording the number, and Rafael Ravenscroft was booked to do a session on soprano (heard briefly in the introduction). Having completed this, they were still waiting for the guitarist to arrive, who was due to record the now famous opening phrases. Time passed and Ravenscroft mentioned that he had an alto in the car if that would do as a substitute for the guitar. It was found to be satisfactory.

It’s hard to imagine the 80s without all the gratuitous sax. Hard, but somewhat cathartic. Here’s a good list of the best of the worst saxual songs from the cocaine decade.

Finally, Gerry Rafferty is a total hipster.

Beard…check. Big glasses…check. Forlorn stare into nothingness…check. Systems check complete: Hipster is a go.

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>>>Click here to download City To City at 320 KBPS

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Tracklist

1 The Ark 5:40
Electric Guitar – Jerry Donahue
Fiddle, Mandolin – Graham*
Vocals [Intro] – Bashwhackers, The
2 Baker Street 6:08
Lead Guitar [Lead Electric] – Hugh*
Rhythm Guitar [Rhythm Electric] – Nigel Jenkins
Saxophone – Raphael Ravenscroft
Synthesizer [Moog] – Tommy*
3 Right Down The Line 4:28
4 City To City 5:03
Acoustic Guitar [Acoustic] – Gerry*
Backing Vocals – Gary Taylor (4) , John McBurnie , Rab Noakes , Roger Brown (3) , Vivian McAuliff*
Fiddle – Graham*
Harmonica – Paul Jones
Tambourine – Hugh Murphy
5 Stealin’ Time 5:57
Acoustic Guitar [Acoustics] – Gerry* , Micky Moody
Grand Piano, Synthesizer [Moggs] – Tommy*
Steel Guitar – Brian Cole*
Synthesizer [String Machine] – Graham*
6 Mattie’s Rag 3:29
Accordion – Woody*
Resonator Guitar [Dobro] – Brian*
Synthesizer [String Machine], Fiddle, Arranged By [Brass Section Arranged By] – Graham*
7 Whatever’s Written In Your Heart 6:36
Backing Vocals – Joanna Carlin
8 Home And Dry 4:56
Lead Guitar – Nigel*
9 Island 5:14
Accordion – Willy Ray
Drums – Glen Le Fleur*
Saxophone [Sax] – Raphael*
10 Waiting For The Day 5:45
Bass – Gary Taylor (4)
Drums – Henry Spinnetti*
Electric Guitar [Electric Rhythm] – Andy Fairweather-Low
Electric Piano, Organ, Arranged By [Bass Arrangements] – Tommy Eyre
Fiddle – Graham Preskett
Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar – Hugh Burns
Percussion – Glen Le Fleur*
Piano, Vocals – Gerry Rafferty