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