Gerry Rafferty

Gerry does his impression of a flashing garden gnome

OK, so what's pop music's most memorable sax intro of all time? No contest. "Baker Street" wins by a country mile, unless you're a Kenny G fan, in which case we won't waste time arguing with you, you're not worth the effort.

Ironically though, Gerry Rafferty's finest moment is not Rafferty's at all. The searing, soaring sax solo we all know and love was originally written as a guitar solo and was even tried as a vocal harmony before eventually falling into the hands of session musician Raf Ravenscroft who literally blew everyone away with the spine-tingling saxophone version that made it onto the final record. He is an unsung hero who, outwith the music industry at least, has never received the recognition he deserved.

Born in Paisley in 1947, Gerry Rafferty first came to prominence when he became a member of Glasgow folk band, The Humblebums, joining Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey.

As Connolly's humorous dialogues between songs began to take centre-stage in their performances, the more musically ambitious Rafferty became increasingly frustrated and the band split up in 1971 leaving Connolly to pursue his career in comedy. Wise move, Big Yin.
With Billy Connolly in The Humblebums
With Billy Connolly in The Humblebums

After recording the promising, but commercially unsuccessful solo album "Can I Have My Money Back", Rafferty joined forces with old friend Joe Egan to form Stealers Wheel in 1972. They released three albums together before disbanding in 1975. The band are probably best known for "Stuck in the Middle With You", a song which Paul Simon once described as his favourite ever pop record and one which was later used to unlikely and shocking dramatic effect by Quentin Tarantino in the film "Reservoir Dogs".

Much like the "accidental" sax riff of "Baker Street", the writing of "Stuck in the Middle With You" was the result of a happy twist of fate. The song was inspired by a pre-signing party laid on for the duo at a fashionable London Restaurant at which Rafferty and Egan were surrounded by a posse of fatcat freeloading record execs. Rafferty remembers, "We all sat at a huge long table (clowns to the left of them, jokers to the right, there they were, stuck in the middle) ,like one of those scenes from the Last Supper. A few days later, Joe and I wrote this humorous little ditty, never thinking it would go to No.1 in America."

His lyrical opinions of the "clowns and jokers" of the music industry establishment would prove to be strangely prophetic. Three years of legal battles with his management kept him quiet until the release in 1978 of "City to City".
An unfortunate lapse in judgement - being photographed with Cliff Richard
An unfortunate lapse in judgement - being photographed with Cliff Richard

The album was an enormous success, thanks largely to the almost unprecedented airplay that "Baker Street" received from radio stations everywhere. Incredibly, the song never went to No.1 and was only kept off the coveted top spot by Andy Gibb's "Shadow Dancing", proof if ever it was needed that there's no justice in this world.

The song received the ultimate "confirmation that you're a legend" accolade when it was featured on "The Simpsons", with an episode about Lisa having sax lessons and playing that solo.

Gerry Rafferty continues to record and has released several solo albums since "City to City", although none of his subsequent recordings have quite scaled the musical heights or achieved the popular success of "Baker Street" and "Stuck in the Middle".

GERRY RAFFERTY TRIVIA FOOTNOTE

Gerry Rafferty was the Producer on the 1987 hit, "Letter to America" by the Proclaimers.

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