I nearly abandoned the rest of the 1970s for the 1980s until Quinn’s pick. Listening, again, to Tears for Fears reminded me of how much I love a saxophone in rock music. I think I might stay in 1978 for a little while. It was a good year, musically…for me, anyway. I can remember buying this 45 at a Woolworths in my hometown’s only mall. I also remember playing it on my little suitcase record player. I was eleven at the time. There’s not much that Gerry Rafferty put out that I didn’t like. ~Vic
A Scotsman (I am from Clan MacPherson), Rafferty’s first band was The Humblebums (founded in 1965), joining comic Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey in 1969. Harvey departed shortly afterwards and, in 1971, Rafferty recorded his first solo album when he and Connolly parted company. In 1972, he joined with Joe Egan to form Stealers Wheel, their biggest hit being Stuck In The Middle With You from their first, self-titled album. After disbanding in 1975, legal issues over Stealers Wheel prevented him from releasing new material for three years.
Baker Street, the second track from the album City To City, was released February 3, 1978 or, possibly, January 20, 1978, depending and entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week of April 22, 1978. It made it to #2 the week of June 24, 1978 and stayed there, stuck behind Andy Gibb‘s Shadow Dancing, for six weeks (as a side note, my paternal aunt gave me the Shadow Dancing 8-track album for my twelfth birthday and it was shoved into a brand new stereo system from my parents):
“…Baker Street was a smash and it allegedly took some serious chart chicanery to keep it out of the #1 spot. [It] stalled out at #2 right as […] Gibb’s Shadow Dancing was in the midst of its seven-week run at #1. According to legend, the chart tabulators at Billboard had actually figured out that Baker Street had finally ascended to the #1 spot in one of those [seven] weeks and they’d called the new chart into the producers at Casey Kasem’s radio show, America’s Top 40 [sic]. But, because of a last-minute correction, Kasem had to re-record the end of that week’s show, putting Shadow Dancing back on top.
According to rumor, Bill Wardlow, Billboard chart director, made the call to keep Shadow Dancing at #1. Wardlow had supposedly gone to dinner with Andy Gibb’s managers and he’d mentioned that Baker Street had knocked Shadow Dancing out of the #1 spot. Gibb had been scheduled to perform at a Billboard-sponsored show in New York and his label threatened to pull him from the bill if Billboard didn’t keep Shadow Dancing on top…so that’s why Baker Street never got to #1. This is all pure speculation and hearsay but, it’s a good story. Record labels have been doing everything in their power to game the Billboard charts ever since those charts began and it certainly seems possible that Baker Street could’ve been a casualty of all that.
The Number Ones Bonus Tracks
StereogumSeptember 22, 2020
“While doing a bit of research the other day, I found myself poking around the edition of Billboard dated February 17, 1973 (PDF), as one does.
Here’s some of what’s inside:
Willis “Bill” Wardlow has been named associate publisher of Billboard. Over the next several years, Wardlow would be responsible for occasionally jiggering the Billboard charts to reward or punish record labels and to do favors for industry friends. As we learned a few years ago, his manipulations led to Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” spending only 12 hours at #1.”
J. A. Bartlett
The Only War
The Hits Just Keep On Comin’February 24, 2021
40 Years Later: Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street ~ The Most Controversial No. 2 Song Ever? (DJ Rob Blog/04-17-2018)
Baker Street: The Mystery of Rock’s Greatest Sax Riff (The Atlantic/Adam Chandler/12-17-2015)
Scott Paton: Billboard Insider Comment (The Hits Just Keep Comin’ Website/AT40 From The Inside/09-16-2013)
Smoking The Bible
Great selection- Baker Street my favorite song of 1978- and certainly on the short list for favorite of the 70’s and of all times!
Backdrop of my “tween” years. I loved hearing Rafferty’s music on the radio.
Awesome song! I’ve always felt that a saxophone sounded great in songs on the radio!
I had NO idea about folks “cooking” the charts! Wow.
Love this one!
I miss saxophones in rock on the radio. Hell, I miss ROCK on the radio. Classic Rock stations may go the way of the Oldies stations that showed up in the early 80s. You have to be in the right place for terrestrial radio. If you have Sirius/XM, you can find pretty much anything you want.
I didn’t know about the shenanigans, either, until I started reading. Nothing like a bureaucrat drunk on power.
I agree! As a radio guy, we worried when Sirius and XM showed up. However, local radio still is viable to a point. I swore I’d never get it, but I have it in my car now and love it for so many reasons!! Music being the number one reason, but I love old radio shows, too, so I love catching those!
…Dave goes back to computer and hits “delete” on his next songdraft pick… LOL! This was going to be my next, but I’m glad someone got to it even before I did. A fantastic song, which I think really changed the trajectory of pop/rock for some years – all of a sudden, saxes were everywhere! Truly one of the very best songs of the whole decade. Interesting trivia on Billboard, if it’s true. Rafferty did have another interesting milestone from it though – the City To City album was the one which finally knocked ‘Saturday Night Fever’ out of #1 on the albums chart.
Same here Dave. “Baker Street” was going to be my Round 6 selection, but thankfully, I’ve got more than enough great songs to choose from.
Assuming that the guy that showed up on The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ website’s comment section was a real Billboard employee… The owner/writer of the website seemed to think so. I didn’t check into the album charts.
Yeah. Sorry. I seem to have grabbed a well loved song out from under several members of the draft group.
hey its the fourth round- the song was available for 4 full rounds… finders keepers!
It is a great, great song.
A magnificent song, and also one of my favorites not only of 1978 but of the entire decade. I visited a friend in Germany from late May to late June of 1978, and he played “City to City” over and over again. I bought the album upon my return to California.
As a kid, it never occurred to me to buy the album. I don’t know why. I’d begged my mother to get me the Grease album after the movie and the very first album I bought with my own money was Surf & Drag (both from 1978…it was good year…LOL). I guess it was because I was mostly into 45s back then. I had a huge collection of them.
I bought mostly 45s until around 1974, at which time I switched to mostly albums.
This song is one of the few that never gets old. That is very interesting about the charts. I always wondered about CCR’s single chart positions… never a number 1.
This popularized the sax for a while in this era… and we are better for it.
With Wardlow, I wouldn’t be surprised if CCR’s…or anyone else’s…chart positions were messed with.
The sax did seem to show up everywhere after this, though Springsteen, The Stones, David Bowie, Billy Joel & Bob Seger had used them (and many others). But, the early 80s…Quarterflash (Rindy Ross was awesome), Hall & Oates, Foreigner, Men at Work, Duran Duran, Rod Stewart, John Cafferty, George Michael, INXS… They were everywhere.
Great pic Vic…you got to it before everyone else lol.
Quinn’s pick triggered my memories.
And the funny thing is Raphael Ravenscroft didn’ t even like his own sax playing on it!
I read some of that…where the story was Ravenscroft was only paid $27 for the piece. The Atlantic article was very interesting. Have you ever heard the Rafferty demo of this?
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Being a sax guy I had to take notice of this song. I just watched a Sherlock Holmes flick last night and thought Rafferty might have a connection because Holmes lived on Baker Street.
It would appear so. I didn’t go in that direction with the information. I should have dug a little deeper:
You dug deep. It was just a coincidence that I watched that flick the night before your take. That happens quite a bit with the folks I exchange music and thoughts with.
Something like that. Happens a lot.
It is a thing. I have experienced it quite a bit, myself. It’s the order of the Universe.
Magnificent pick. The saxophone part in this song is just epic. Also, interesting background story about the chart manipulation – incredible! Last but not least, that Billy Connolly clip is hysterical!
I was crying from laughter with that Connolly clip. I’ve followed his stand-up/comedy for years and I had no idea he had been in a band with Rafferty…or, apparently didn’t catch the information if he provided it in a routine.
He’s got a great voice and I can why you picked this one. Nice write-up, Vic!
You’re welcome 🙂
This song transports me back to that year, but I never knew there was this much talk about it. Never knew the #1 story. The Billy Connolly interview was great!
Way late to the party on this one but always thought this song was really cool given the prominent sax on it. – it really strode out at the time as pretty unique. Great choice!