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Dylanesque pop bubble-gum favourite
January 4, 2011 1:32 PM   Subscribe

RIP Gerry Rafferty, Scottish singer songwriter best known for the 70s hits 'Baker Street' and 'Right Down the Line', and as part of Stealers Wheel, 'Stuck In The Middle With You' which was later immortalised for new generation in the film Reservoir Dogs.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (99 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, sad news. Both "Baker Street" and "Right Down the Line" were part of the soundtrack of my childhood.

(The Brother and I used to sing along with the latter and take great joy in singing "wooooo-man," long before we knew what a Scots accent was.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:35 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


We used to play "Baker Street" all the time at the radio station I worked for.

Great song.

.
posted by HostBryan at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Baker Street" has the greatest saxophone solo of all time.

Of all time.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:38 PM on January 4, 2011 [34 favorites]


"Baker Street" has the greatest saxophone solo of all time.

Of all time.


This guy gets it.
posted by HostBryan at 1:38 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Baker Street is the Carmina Burana of smooth rock "What's that song called?" songs.

And it's excellent.

.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:39 PM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, man, I had the single to Baker Street in pink vinyl. Sigh... and that song had a crankin' guitar solo. RIP, good sir.
posted by dbiedny at 1:39 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


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Baker Street is still one of my favorite songs of all time. The lyrics of aching loneliness and misplaced optimism still resonate with me. And it was the last time that a saxaphone was used so well in a Top 40 hit. The 80's went and buried that instrument forever.
posted by helmutdog at 1:40 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Baker Street is the Carmina Burana of smooth rock "What's that song called?" songs.

Holy crap, you're right! I just listened to it and didn't know I knew it. Do doo doo doot doot doot.

.
posted by bondcliff at 1:43 PM on January 4, 2011


.

Best thing about the solo is that when you sing that song at karaoke it gives you a break so you can have a shot and light a cigarette.

Best use of baker street, the slow motion basketball court fight scene in Good Will Hunting. Totally surpasses the Atlantis bar fight scene in Goodfellas.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:43 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not too long ago I read the Wikipedia article on him, spurred I think by hearing "Baker Street" playing in iTunes. The section on his "Disappearance" seemed kind of sketchy to me, but the truth is out now I guess.

.
posted by tommasz at 1:45 PM on January 4, 2011


"Baker Street," what a great song, and so sui generis. For some reason that song and "The Year of the Cat" always share the same slot in my mind, because they're both such out-of-time, unique tunes.
posted by blucevalo at 1:46 PM on January 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


For the first two years after I first moved to a really big city, trying to navigate my way through a bigger world, and not quite believing I could miss home so badly, it felt like I lived right on Baker Street.
posted by helmutdog at 1:46 PM on January 4, 2011


I'll have a . please, Bob.
posted by popcassady at 1:47 PM on January 4, 2011




When I was a saxophone teacher in the 1980s, every kid wanted to learn the solo from "Baker Street" so I sat down and transcribed it. Years later, I was at a friend's house and among his sheet music was an umpteenth-generation photocopy of my transcription. I was proud.

I am tempted to get the sax out and see if I still know it!
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:50 PM on January 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


I wonder if Lisa will play Baker Street one more time...
posted by Mister_A at 1:50 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Windopaene at 1:53 PM on January 4, 2011


He's got a dream about buying some land
He's gonna give up the booze and the one-night stands
And then he'll settle down
In a quiet little town
And forget about everything


.
posted by briank at 1:54 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by jquinby at 1:59 PM on January 4, 2011


He was in a band with Billy Connolly called The Humblebums. Here's their songs "Mother," "Rick Rack," "Song for Simon," and "Harry."

It's like finding out that Joe Walsh was once in a band with Richard Pryor.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:59 PM on January 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


.

Soundtrack to many a family summer road trip.
posted by dnash at 2:00 PM on January 4, 2011


Oh, sad news. Both "Baker Street" and "Right Down the Line" were part of the soundtrack of my childhood.

I can still see the dining room of the first apartment my mom and I lived in in Boston (well, Brookline). Dinner cooking, stereo blasting, both of us singing along at the top of our lungs.

RIP Gerry.

.
posted by rtha at 2:01 PM on January 4, 2011


I've always loved Baker Street, and it's one of my favorite Foo Fighters covers.
posted by gabey at 2:03 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by Thorzdad at 2:03 PM on January 4, 2011


According to legend, sax player Raphael Ravenscroft was paid for his time recording his part with a check for 27 pounds, that bounced.
posted by radiosilents at 2:14 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Right Down The Line" is Our Song for my marriage. RIP, Gerry.
posted by norm at 2:15 PM on January 4, 2011


Best use of baker street, the slow motion basketball court fight scene in Good Will Hunting

"Hey CAH-mine, remembah me? You an' me went ta kindergahten tagethah!"
posted by yerfatma at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by arveale at 2:19 PM on January 4, 2011


Stuck in the Middle with You is the best faux-Dylan to ever hit the Top 40. I wonder how Rafferty felt about how Tarantino re-popularized the song.
posted by jonp72 at 2:20 PM on January 4, 2011


Man, this sux. I just put "Right Down the Line" on the phone last month.
The production on all those songs make them a textbook on studio work. Great writing, great playing and boy, what composition. Pop Songs chock full of mood and drama.
Thanks Man.

.
posted by djrock3k at 2:30 PM on January 4, 2011


Such a sad story of his decline, though; if only he could have found a way to fight his demons.

I still love Baker Street, had no idea "Right Down the Line," was the same guy.
posted by emjaybee at 2:30 PM on January 4, 2011


Yeah, "Right Down The Line" is a big one for my wife and myself as well... and "Baker Street" is the first 'you-will-hear-this-song-all-summer' song I can remember from long, happy childhood vacations with my family. Huge bummer. So long, GR.
posted by mintcake! at 2:31 PM on January 4, 2011


I had my Radio Job From Hell in the San Joaquin Valley, CA the year "Baker Street" was in the Top 40. A conservative Program Director didn't like the screaming guitar solo so I edited it out of the album-length version to be able to play it. I also got him to add the B-side, "City to City", to the playlist, which was one of my all-time favorite "traveling-music" songs, especially that year when I would drive myself out of The Valley to LA or SLO every weekend. I have most of his not-as-successful discography and it's all good. Very good.

♪.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:33 PM on January 4, 2011


.

I was in grade school at the time and this song was one of my favorites to hear on the radio as I got ready for school. It wasn't until around 1990 that I realized that the same guy who sang "Baker Street" also sang "Stuck In The Middle With You". What a great pop-rock voice he had, right up there with Steve Miller & Paul McCartney, smooth but not weak.
blucevalo: I also always put "Year Of The Cat" & "Baker Street" together in my head. Both late 70s, both with saxes, both by Scotsmen.
posted by frodisaur at 2:33 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The production on all those songs make them a textbook on studio work. Great writing, great playing and boy, what composition.

Indeed. I seem to recall Guitar Magazine once publishing a transcription of "Stuck in the Middle With You" and identifying eight separate guitar parts on the track, and it still doesn't seem cluttered.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:33 PM on January 4, 2011


Hitting the bar right now, going to put on "Baker Street", "Right Down the Line", and some Stealers Wheel. Maybe put on "Year of the Cat" and "Time Passages" for good measure since Al Stewart is also scottish and is going to die some day too.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:36 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Man, I hated that song when I was a kid. I was an angry punk, and "Baker Street" was everywhere, and it made me want to smash things.

But of course, tying my shoes also made me want to smash things. I heard the song years later, after I had calmed down, and realized that I quite liked it.

I still go nuts when "Afternoon Delight" comes on, though.

.
posted by steambadger at 2:37 PM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Trying to make some sense of it all,
But I can see that it makes no sense at all,
Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor,
'Cause I don't think that I can take anymore
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Goodnight, good sir. Another part of my childhood/young adulthood soundtrack gone.
posted by fixedgear at 2:39 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


very smooth...
posted by tustinrick at 2:40 PM on January 4, 2011


He had a really, really sweet voice. Sweet. That's really the only way to describe it. In the same neighborhood as Glenn Tilbrook.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:40 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by litleozy at 2:47 PM on January 4, 2011


It sounds like Rafferty's final years were rather tragic. Here's hoping he didn't suffer too much - though seeing as it was liver failure there's an awful chance he did.

That said, 'Baker Street'. I now know its name, the name of one the pieces of music I detest most (I rank it somewhere alongside Sheryl Crow's 'Soak Up the Sun'). Somehow that beast's name has eluded me my whole life, taking its creator's passing to teach it to me. I'll be honest - it's the saxophone. I cannot stand that whining, wailing sax. The lyrics and vocals would be bland enough to cause the song to scrape by unnoticed, but oh my - that sax.
posted by item at 2:50 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right . . .

But here no more, in the middle or elsewhere.

.
posted by rdone at 2:53 PM on January 4, 2011


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posted by ob1quixote at 2:54 PM on January 4, 2011


I also always put "Year Of The Cat" & "Baker Street" together in my head.

I heard "Year of the Cat" while extremely high at a party years ago. Given everything else, I was starting to think I hallucinated it until recently; no-one I talked to had heard of it.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 2:58 PM on January 4, 2011


Steambadger, me too! I still have days when I want to smash things.

My folks listened to a ton of this kind of music. I was in my 30s before I realized how much I love Gerry Rafferty's voice.

Maybe I should take his passing as an example and have a look at my own demons.

.

And a . for my mom, who would be delighted at how hard I'm taking this.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 2:58 PM on January 4, 2011


I've been amazed to hear how many people are like me with "Baker Street" -- the song you remember from being a kid in the late 70s. Sui generis indeed.

Funny thing is while Gerry Rafferty is filed in the same drawer in my brain as Al Stewart, so is Boz Scaggs, and for some reason I thought Scaggs did "Baker Street." Then I remembered that it's the wrong woodwind -- "Baker Street" has the sax, "Lowdown" has the flute.

.
posted by dw at 2:59 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Splunge at 3:06 PM on January 4, 2011


Everyone knows the sax solo from Baker Street, but it's the outro guitar solo that makes the song for me. RIP Gerry.
posted by rocket88 at 3:10 PM on January 4, 2011


.

Baker Street and Right Down the Line were among the first things I downloaded when I discovered Napster.

I also group them with Year of the Cat and Time Passages; add to these Dream Weaver. Great songs all, but Baker Street had the most oomph of all of them.

In 1991, I was in a band with a huge Nirvana fan, and he only wanted to play Nirvana covers and Baker Street. I voted we should just ditch the Nirvana covers and play Baker Street.
posted by not_on_display at 3:11 PM on January 4, 2011


"Look over the hill
and far away.
We'll see the light
of a brand new day..."
posted by Windopaene at 3:13 PM on January 4, 2011


Whatever's Written in your Heart (with backing vocals by Barbara Dickson)
posted by Lanark at 3:15 PM on January 4, 2011


I'll have a . please, Bob.
posted by popcassady at 1:47 PM on January 4


The story of Bob Holness playing the sax was a wonderful urban myth.
posted by rh at 3:16 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Baker Street" will always define repetition for me. It was overplayed when it came out and has been overplayed ever since. Its relative merits as a song and as a recording and as a performance are dulled by its ubiquity. It certainly has to be among the top ten most broadcast records of all time.
posted by bonefish at 3:18 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 3:19 PM on January 4, 2011


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posted by motty at 3:23 PM on January 4, 2011


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posted by rhiannonstone at 3:27 PM on January 4, 2011


Going a bit OT (although a big fan of Rafferty), for anyone out there who likes Year of the Cat, the Old Grey Whistle Test performance (live, of course) is a jaw-dropper.
posted by grounded at 3:30 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


so sad
posted by growabrain at 3:31 PM on January 4, 2011


Apropos of nothing: I've spent the last few minutes listening to Rafferty's 'Baker Street' and the Al Stewart singles also mentioned, and the one thing that really startled me was the crispness of the recordings. I grew up in the seventies listening to these songs on crappy AM radios with mono speakers, and listening now through the stereo speakers on my computer is like a revelation. Heck, I may be buying some best-of music collections in the near future.

You're never too old to re-live the better parts of your past.
posted by spoobnooble at 3:31 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Best use of baker street, the slow motion basketball court fight scene in Good Will Hunting

Here you go.
posted by jonp72 at 3:34 PM on January 4, 2011


That damn song still makes me wet myself.
posted by Twang at 3:37 PM on January 4, 2011


Well that is a bummer. As a Sax player, I got a lot of mileage playing Baker Street for the ladies. I liked a lot of his work. Very sad to hear of his demise. As a (sometime) bass player, I was reading one of the obit links for Mick Karn with sadness, but I actually gasped when there was a mention that Gerry had also passed.

.
posted by Sk4n at 3:43 PM on January 4, 2011


I believe the Foo Fighters did a cover of "Baker Street," which really surprised me when I heard it on the radio. And Rafferty was the producer on the first attempt at Richard and Linda Thompson's Shoot Out the Lights. They didn't like the results so they re-did it with Joe Boyd. Some of the tracks showed up on the Watching the Dark boxed set.
posted by Man-Thing at 3:44 PM on January 4, 2011


Childhood favourite, still constantly revisited.

.
posted by artaxerxes at 3:47 PM on January 4, 2011


The enormous outpouring of unabashed love and adulation for Baker Street gives me pause, for I now feel just a little bit older. You see, the complete and utter disconnect between my own loathing of the song, and the full-on adoration expressed here must surely be an age thing.

Of course, now some other oldster like me will surely step into the thread to say they love the song, at which point I will feel truly alone in the universe.

That said, it is sad that this musician had to check out at such a relatively young age. And I'd like to add that I am very, very fond of Stuck In the Middle With You.

RIP Gerry Rafferty.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:40 PM on January 4, 2011


Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right ...

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posted by zooropa at 4:52 PM on January 4, 2011


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posted by Smart Dalek at 4:55 PM on January 4, 2011


I didn't dislike "Baker Street," exactly, but it was so evocative of a certain mood that it always make me feel kind of uncomfortably weird and lonely and adrift. I remember listening to it on the radio the summer we drove from Ft. Collins to Santa Fe for vacation. I was sitting in the back seat of my mom's 1977 Honda Civic, reading Prince Caspian and watching the yellow scrubby landscape flit by, and it felt like a creepy foreshadowing that adulthood might not turn out to be the nonstop awesomeness of independence and disco-dancing and glittering coolness that, at 10, I had apparently assumed awaited for me.

That said, "Right Down the Line" and "Stuck in the Middle with You" are unabashedly great tunes, even though I'm among the millions of people who now reflexively cringe and try to protect my ears whenever the latter comes on the radio.

Sad to hear of the pain of his later years. Hope his passing was peaceful.

.
posted by scody at 4:55 PM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Mattie's Rag

Night Owl
posted by lucien at 5:14 PM on January 4, 2011


Fuck. 'Baker Street,' is my go-to afternoon bar song. You will be missed, gerry.
posted by jonmc at 5:14 PM on January 4, 2011


Baker Street. Best instrumental hook of all time, as far as I am concerned.

I love the song but Scody nails the emotions evoked pretty well.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:15 PM on January 4, 2011


Oh, and most definitely...

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posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:19 PM on January 4, 2011


I heard the news and immediately thought of the three separate AskMe questions that asked for a song ID based on "hey, that song with the sax solo?"

Seriously though, sad news.
posted by cabingirl at 5:42 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gerry Rafferty and Walrus Mash Up.
posted by Evilspork at 5:55 PM on January 4, 2011


Seriously, fuck alcoholism. It destroys the life & soul of the afflicted almost as quickly as it does their body and mind. I lost one of my best friends to alcoholism and (eventually) liver failure - it is, without a doubt, one of the most degrading and painful ways to go out.

.

Rest in peace, Gerry.
posted by echolalia67 at 6:08 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Baker Street was the first piece of vinyl I ever bought- 99 cents for a 45. I suppose as my first act of independent musical consumerism, it could have been worse. RIP Gerry Rafferty. I never listen to the whole album and it's probably your fault.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:12 PM on January 4, 2011


Gerry Rafferty music has the same visceral nostalgia punch for me that dark brown brick, chrome, and smoked glass does -- anything that went on in my happy early childhood maintains a tremendous hold over me, and "Baker Street" is so wonderfully of its time. And I listened to him a lot later on, too, late teens, also good times; "Night Owl" whisks me off to drinking pear cider. So...ouch. Good times, good times, good soundtrack. Thanks, Mr Rafferty.
posted by kmennie at 6:13 PM on January 4, 2011


Baker Street was one of the must-have road tunes for a trip my brother and I took when I was 18. It's been a favourite ever since.

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posted by bwg at 6:35 PM on January 4, 2011


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posted by peacay at 7:09 PM on January 4, 2011


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posted by mygothlaundry at 7:21 PM on January 4, 2011


Apparently I only ever had City to City on vinyl and cassette, since I can't find evidence of it among my CDs. Lo, it's on itunes for $4.49. And I still remember all the words.

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posted by rtha at 7:31 PM on January 4, 2011


Seriously, fuck alcoholism.

At times like this, I hope there really is some sort of afterlife -- some place out in the universe where souls like his can go to find some peace.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:15 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by ericb at 8:27 PM on January 4, 2011


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posted by mike3k at 8:30 PM on January 4, 2011


I also group them with Year of the Cat and Time Passages; add to these Dream Weaver.

I would also -- and I don't know why -- put Elton John's "Levon" in this group.
posted by steambadger at 8:48 PM on January 4, 2011


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posted by lapolla at 8:53 PM on January 4, 2011


R.I.P. Gerry

I just downloaded the City to City album off of Amazon a few months ago. My wife still had it on vinyl but it was something she had since college. There's a ballad on the album called "Stealing Time" that was a favorite of ours - something even a Led-head like me could appreciate. Gerry's phrasing was so perfect and there was this gorgeous slide guitar in the background...music had such little pretense then.
posted by Ber at 9:26 PM on January 4, 2011


As with others, Year of the Cat and Baker Street are stuck together in my head as part of listening to a radio at night, drifting off to sleep as a kid.
posted by rodgerd at 9:29 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


In 1989, I heard this easygoing song (over an office Muzak system) with a great, never-used-before chord progression, and didn't think to scribble down any lyrics. I looked for that song for quite a long time. Had it in my head that George Harrison might have sung it. (Nope.)

In 2007, I had internet radio playing, a '70s station, when holy shit it's that song. The one I've been seeking (on and off) for 18 years. The station saw fit to put artist and title in the stream so it showed up in the iTunes display, and now I had it: "Home and Dry", by Gerry Rafferty.

He was one of the good guys.

.
posted by kurumi at 10:58 PM on January 4, 2011


I didn't know until just now that he was also the guy from Stealers Wheel. Once, when my car spun out on the side of the road in a winter storm and I landed deep in a snow-filled ditch, "Stuck in the Middle with You" was playing on the oldies station I had on.
posted by dhens at 11:35 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I own 10 pieces of vinyl. Two of them are City to City. Love the album, but Baker Street was the one that always did it for me. Was a memorable pleasant time in my childhood when it was on the radio and it has always stuck as the song that takes me back. It defines the happy part of my youth more than anything else I can think of and I'm not even sure why. Sucks that Gerry's life took such a terrible route due to alcoholism. As sappy as it may sound, I just hope he knew how much his music meant to so many people. Goodbye good sir.
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 1:02 AM on January 5, 2011


.

Funny, I've known for a long time that "Baker Street" was by Gerry Rafferty, but I had no idea he also did "Stuck in the Middle With You." In fact, I had long thought the latter was by The Traveling Wilburys - I mean the singer was clearly Dylan, and it just sounded like them, right? This is a crappy way to find out the truth.

RIP.
posted by Marla Singer at 4:49 AM on January 5, 2011


It wasn't until around 1990 that I realized that the same guy who sang "Baker Street" also sang "Stuck In The Middle With You".

It wasn't until reading his obit last night that I realised this.

My little fond memory of Baker Street: doing a festival gig, my band (rather electrically demanding) started to play, overloaded the generator, no more noise. A few minutes pass, someone fixes it, we start playing, overload, no more noise. A few minutes pass, still not fixed, the crowd beginning to get restless and moody. Our sax player decides to launch into an acapella rendition of the Baker St hook. CROWD GOES WILD.
posted by Slyfen at 4:50 AM on January 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


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posted by rahnefan at 5:03 AM on January 5, 2011


Rip, Gerry. Rip.

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posted by Ahab at 6:31 AM on January 5, 2011


I'll pop a valium and put "Baker Street" on repeat in his honor.
posted by hellbient at 8:24 AM on January 5, 2011


Spent my senior year in of high school in India. Didn't miss the States much, except when a host sister put on "Baker Street." The despair just took me home. Had her play it again and again. She finally bought me my own copy.

As someone who's been known to spend a bit too much time with a bottle, I'm sorry as all hell to see that booze got another one of us.
posted by QIbHom at 10:31 AM on January 5, 2011


To me, as far as soft-rock-jazz-lite-whatever songs go, "Baker Street" ranks with "Deacon Blues".

.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:05 AM on January 5, 2011


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