Thursday, January 06, 2011

Gerry's Iconic Melody Echoes from City to City

And believe it or not, the Gerry I'm talking about is, for once, not Mulligan...

Yesterday morning, commenter sonicfrog asked the following:
Hey Sax Man - I know you're a jazz man, but any thoughts on the death of Gerry Rafferty? Baker Street had one of the great sax lines ever laid down on a rock record.
Agreed; the sax part is basically the "chorus" of the song, and, while it's not really complex, it's certainly etched in the collective memory of all kinds of music fans.

You do remember the song, right?

I was on a Gerry Rafferty kick for a while; his first solo album, City to City, which contains "Baker Street," was a pretty solid outing through and through. And although "Baker Street" (with the iconic sax line provided by the wonderfully-named Raphael Ravenscroft) has stood the test of time, it wasn't my favorite song on City to City. This was:

It's such a happy, bouncing, uplifting song. And the tag ending (starting at 2:32), with its simple arpeggiated melody and unpredictable harmonic flow, never fails to make me smile.

Like most people, I'd become acquainted with Rafferty as part of the duo Stealers Wheel, who produced a huge hit in the '70s called "Stuck in the Middle With You," which still turns up in various places today. And while I liked a few things on his second solo album, Night Owl (most notably the opener, "Days Gone Down (Still Got That Light in Your Eyes)"), he sort of faded out after that for all except the most die-hard fans.

But even if the star flickered over time, the contribution of "Baker Street" cemented Rafferty's place in popular music history. It's been covered successfully (by Foo Fighters) and less so (by Maynard Ferguson, sorry to say), and as sonicfrog noted, it certainly pushed the saxophone to the forefront of a rock song in a very memorable way.

RIP, Gerry, and thanks for the music.

1 comment:

sonicfrog said...

My band, Acoustic Highway, is going to start performing "Right Down The Line in Rafferty's honor. We might do it at the Jan 14th mini-gig.

Another good song from Rafferty was "Get It Right Next Time". I'm a lyrics guy, and that song has some nice ones.

♫ Life is a liar yeah life is a cheat
It'll lead you on and pull the ground from underneath your feet
No use complainin', don't you worry, don't you whine
Cause if you get it wrong you?ll get it right next time ♫