Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” Lyrics Meaning

Gerry Rafferty was someone who partook of alcohol from his youth, and by the time all was said and done, said substance played a major role in his life. So of course his artistry, particularly it has been said during the early goings of his career with songs like “Baker Street”, reflected that reality. 

But deducing that this piece is actually about alcoholism would be oversimplifying the matter at hand.

Rather, all surrounding facts considered, it appears to be an autobiographical piece. For instance, at the time Gerry was akin to an occupational wanderer, in that the crew he used to run with, a band known as Stealers Wheel, had dissolved acrimoniously. 

In other words, it was one of those situations whereby even though the band was no longer extant, Gerry was still forced to contend with serious related legal issues. So as explained by the singer/songwriter, at that time he was regularly on the road between Glasgow and London in the name of resolving those matters. And the titular “Baker Street” is found in the latter city.

That is to say that when he was in London, Rafferty would reside on Baker Street at the residence of one of his homeys. And seemingly, it is that particular experience these lyrics appear to center on, i.e. how Gerry felt at the time. 

Verse 1

We can see in the first verse that, most simply put, he was disillusioned. Or stated otherwise, this city that he once “thought… held everything” is now, in his mind, akin to a cold, soulless desert. It is also in the first verse that alcohol is initially referenced, as a remedy that the vocalist utilizes to “forget about everything”.

Verse 2

Meanwhile, the second verse leaves something to be desired in terms of the utilization of pronouns. But therein, when the vocalist speaks of “he”, logic would infer that he’s actually referring to himself. And in this passage alcohol takes on a different role, in that now the narrator is putting forth a desire to quit, as he perceives doing so as being a step in the right direction in terms of turning his life around. 

His main goal is to “settle down in some quiet little town and forget about” all of the depression that he’s currently experiencing.

The General Applicability of “Baker Street”

It’s safe to say that most listeners of this song don’t really know anything about Gerry Rafferty or what he was going through when he wrote it. Also, the lyrics don’t use any proper nouns except for shouting out Baker Street. 

So even though us researchers may be able to put together that it’s autobiographical, as designed it sports a general applicability in that, we can say, Rafferty never directly relates it to himself.

And in that regard what it centers on, as brought home in the chorus, is the plight of, let’s say your typical “rolling stone”. Or put otherwise, the vocalist is a drifter with dreams. But unfortunately, his modus operandi is minimizing the chances of said dreams being realized.

That is something that he’s wise enough to understand. But as inferred, ‘giving up booze and one-night stands’, all things considered, is easier said than done.

But Gerry does conclude it all on a positive note, by noticing that with “a new morning” also comes fresh hope, if you will. And it has been deduced that said closing is indicative of the fact that he was able to rectify his aforenoted legal issues, which up until that point had actually Rafferty him from releasing new music for a good three years.

Lyrics to Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" Lyrics

Gerry Rafferty

Gerry Rafferty was a singer from Scotland who enjoyed notable success during the late 1970s. His discography during his lifetime spanned over four decades, i.e. from the early 1970s into the late aughts. 

His is not a name you’re likely to commonly come across, and it would seem, despite his longevity, that Gerry never reached his full potential due to, most simply put, being the victim of alcoholism. Indeed by the looks of things, alcohol would have been the main contributor to the fact that he passed away at the age of 63 due primarily to liver failure.

Who wrote “Baker Street”?

Gerry Rafferty (1941-2011) wrote this song completely on his own. Furthermore, he also had a hand in co-producing it, accomplishing the latter task alongside Hugh Murphy (1946-1998). 

Gerry’s only child, Martha Rafferty, is on record as stating that this song was influenced by a popular book, 1956’s The Outsider by Colin Wilson (1931-2013). According to Martha, her dad was reading the said book at the time he composed “Baker Street”.

Release Date of “Baker Street”

This track can be found on “City to City”, Rafferty’s sophomore album. United Artists issued Baker Street as the album’s second single in 1978.

The Accomplishments

This song stands as the biggest hit in Gerry Rafferty’s discography by a long shot. For instance, it marks the highest he ever reached on the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart, where it respectively peaked at numbers 2 and 3. 

CountryPosition
United States#2
United Kingdom#3
Austria#4
Belgium#9
Ireland#3
Netherlands#9
New Zealand#4
Switzerland#2
West Germany#3

It’s also his only track to reach as high as RIAA-gold status and BPI-platinum standing. And it actually reached number one on the Cash Box Top 100. Furthermore, it replicated this same feat on Canada Top Singles and in South Africa.

That Sax Riff!

This song is widely heralded due to featuring what some have dubbed “rock’s greatest sax riff”. Said saxophone was played by Raphael Ravenscroft (1954-2014). Raphael later revealed that he was paid only £27.50 to do so (which as of this writing would be equivalent to about £152.00 or $174.00). And as if that wasn’t enough, the said check ended up bouncing.

Raphael also grew to hate the riff, not because, all things considered, he was grossly underpaid but rather due to the fact that, under his estimation, it’s “flat” and “out of tune”.

Famous Covers

An obscure British act known as Undercover covered this song to notable success in 1992.  Later that decade, in 1998, the Foo Fighters dropped their own rendition, albeit replacing the famous saxophone riff  with some guitar playing. 

Famous Media Appearances

“Baker Street” has been used in many TV shows and movies, with one of the most memorable appearances being on one of the most-unforgettable episodes of The Simpsons, that being 1997’s “Lisa’s Sax”.

American psychological drama movie, “Good Will Hunting” featured the song as part of its soundtrack. It was also heard when Will (Matt Damon) punches a guy on the basketball court.

“Baker Street” was played when Robert (Jake Gyllenhaal) leaves shortly after entering a hardware store and stares at Lee (John Carroll Lynch). This scene is from the 2007 American thriller movie, “Zodiac”.

“Baker Street” is featured in the Glaceauu SmartWater commercial featuring Jennifer Aniston. The saxophone riff plays when she tosses her hair and takes a sip out of the bottle.

The 16th episode of the second season of American TV series, “Happy Endings” utilizes “Baker Street”.

Video game “Grand Theft Auto V” featured the track in its 2013 release.

It was also featured in 2016 American animated musical comedy movie, “Sing”.

Baker Street

1 Response

  1. Mike Ingman says:

    “Baker Street” best song ever recorded!

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