TS: The sax solo in 'Baker Street' vs. The guitar solo in 'Baker Street'

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Or is it wrong to choose?

William Bloody Swygart (mrswygart), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 20:58 (seventeen years ago) link

I think the guitar solo, by a whisker. It is grimly determined to move on, while holding just enough maudlin drama to identify the female perspective maintained through the song. The sax? Well, perhaps it's just a touch pro forma by comparison - the emotional content is less raw as a consequence, a little glossier.

the music mole (colin s barrow), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 21:08 (seventeen years ago) link

The sax solo in "Baker Street" was responsible for me spending 10 years of my life thinking that sax was shit and sax solos were double shit. Therefore, nothing can be worse than that smug, flatulent, unnecessary honking.

noodle vague (noodle vague), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 21:14 (seventeen years ago) link

That sax solo is one of the funniest moments in rock history. I can't help but laugh every time I hear this song. Sax solo 4 life.

billstevejim, Wednesday, 2 June 2004 21:23 (seventeen years ago) link

the song loses so much without it (see the foo fighters cover for illustration)

stockholm cindy (Jody Beth Rosen), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 21:25 (seventeen years ago) link

So the guitar solo wins - we are agreed.

the music mole (colin s barrow), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 21:30 (seventeen years ago) link

no, the sax solo wins.

stockholm cindy (Jody Beth Rosen), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 21:48 (seventeen years ago) link

I'd say at any rate the song is more well known for the sax solo than the guitar solo however on the whole the song is a played out piece of shit.

ipsofacto (ipsofacto), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 21:52 (seventeen years ago) link

the sax solo in 'I Can't Go For That' wins

helpful stevem (blueski), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 21:54 (seventeen years ago) link

i read somewhere that the sax solo is played by bob holness

robin (robin), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 21:57 (seventeen years ago) link

There is no sax solo in Baker Street. A saxophone is used to convey the central melodic motif, but the melody is not deviated from; the player does not improvise around it or use it as a starting point for an exploration of the song's harmonic structure.

Palomino (Palomino), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 21:59 (seventeen years ago) link

x-post big bumper book of bullshit was it?

de, Wednesday, 2 June 2004 21:59 (seventeen years ago) link

Palomino is right, I fear.

the music mole (colin s barrow), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 22:02 (seventeen years ago) link

Right, so let's go for 'The Sax Bit in 'Baker Street' vs. The Especially Skroky Guitar Bit in 'Baker Street'', then.

William Bloody Swygart (mrswygart), Wednesday, 2 June 2004 22:15 (seventeen years ago) link

I'm not sure what 'Skroky' is, but I was just about to suggest the guitar slide under the beginning of each sax phrase.

Jez (Jez), Thursday, 3 June 2004 05:55 (seventeen years ago) link

Sax Solo in Baker Street vs Sax Solo in Born to Run

Johnney B (Johnney B), Thursday, 3 June 2004 08:33 (seventeen years ago) link

Sax solo in Men At Work's 'Who Can It Be Now' beats them both, but is in turn beaten by sax solo in Foreigner's 'Urgent' - the ultimate 80's sax solo.

the music mole (colin s barrow), Thursday, 3 June 2004 08:36 (seventeen years ago) link

The sax solo in "Baker Street" was responsible for me spending 10 years of my life thinking that sax was shit and sax solos were double shit. Therefore, nothing can be worse than that smug, flatulent, unnecessary honking.

Agreed, even tho Gerry Rafferty is from my hometown - not that the song's bad or that Gerry actually played the sax himself

Dadaismus (Dada), Thursday, 3 June 2004 09:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I happen to love the sax bit, though not quite as much as what seems to be backwards-tracked guitar on the bridges. FWIW, the sax was played by Raphael Ravenscroft, which I only know b/c I think that's just about the best rock name ever.

Joseph McCombs, Thursday, 3 June 2004 11:59 (seventeen years ago) link

xpost i read somewhere that the sax solo is played by bob holness

"In one column, I also 'revealed' that Bob Holness...had played the saxophone solo on Gerry Rafferty's 'Baker Street'. Quite why, out of all the fictitious items I invented, this one should have caught fast in the public's imagination, I have no idea. I have heard it reported back to me in pubs and at dinner parties...I have read it in national newspapers. I've even heard other people claim to have started the rumour. It's actually Rafael Ravenscroft. He also played the equally lounge-lizardy sax break on Hazel O'Connor's 'Say Goodbye'."
Stuart Maconie, Cider With Roadies, p199.
I preferred the one about Neil Tennant being a qualified rugby league referee.

Canada Briggs (Canada Briggs), Thursday, 3 June 2004 12:40 (seventeen years ago) link

three years pass...

The sax riff so wins this it's not even funny. Great guitar solo vs. THE ONLY LEGITIMATE USE FOR A SAX RIFF IN THE HISTORY OF ROCK MUSIC.

Johnny Fever, Monday, 21 April 2008 04:16 (thirteen years ago) link

well that's not true. there's a little tune called infinity by guru 'guru' josh

electricsound, Monday, 21 April 2008 04:24 (thirteen years ago) link

I know, I was being hyperbolic. And only a minute or two after I posted, I remembered "Tequila".

Johnny Fever, Monday, 21 April 2008 04:34 (thirteen years ago) link

Yeah, and the Coasters.

Isn't the sax bit the first thing you notice about this record? The melancholy story, pro forma (but good) rock guitar solo, etc., you don't pick up until later.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Monday, 21 April 2008 05:24 (thirteen years ago) link

Is it just me or does anyone else momentarily confuse this song with Glen Frey's "You Belong to The City" every time they hear that opening sax solo?

Romeo Jones, Monday, 21 April 2008 06:51 (thirteen years ago) link

"You Belong to The City" was quite obviously inspired by it/ripped it off.

Johnny Fever, Monday, 21 April 2008 06:52 (thirteen years ago) link

this song = summer vacation at the beach in 1978, forever.

Ravenscroft has played on records by Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, Abba, Alvin Lee and many others.

The guitar solo in the song incorporates a motif inspired by a pair of seagulls accidentally trapped in the studio during recording.

sleeve, Monday, 21 April 2008 07:00 (thirteen years ago) link

sax riffs?

808 state, mate. Pacific.

OK, it's not exactly a sax.

Mark G, Monday, 21 April 2008 07:43 (thirteen years ago) link


gershy, Monday, 21 April 2008 07:50 (thirteen years ago) link

Cue my usual Jimmy Young "ar-har that was R.A.F. Ravenscroft you see" quote.

But big up to Scott Walker's regular guitarist Hugh Burns for the scalding guitar solo at the end.

Dingbod Kesterson, Monday, 21 April 2008 10:13 (thirteen years ago) link

as on "No Regrets" ?

Mark G, Monday, 21 April 2008 10:32 (thirteen years ago) link

Actual best uses for a saxophone in rock:

1) "New York's Alright If You Like" 'em from Fear
2) "LA Blues" from The Stooges
3) Choice bits from Third by The Soft Machine

But "Baker Street" is fantastic, can't believe it's not apparent to all, music theory concerns notwithstanding. "Baker Street" when it came out in 1978 sounded like just about nothing else being played on the radio, and it (to a certain degree) retains that freshness today. While it's easy to think of popular album rock tracks from the '70's that featured a saxophone, what's a lot harder to do is to think of one outside the three contexts of 1) rhythm and blues 2) more straight ahead blues and 3) retro old-time contexts.

Sure, "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" feature the sax, an at least the Stones tune is way better, but neither of them sounds anything at all like "Baker Street"

I don't want to make it sound as if I'm electing "Baker Street" to the pantheon inhabited by the Soft Machine or anything, but Mr. Rafferty's tune has something of a prog feel to it. In that sense it's both a little more ordinary and a little more of a record of 1974 than of 1978.

SecondBassman, Monday, 21 April 2008 19:26 (thirteen years ago) link

There is no sax solo in Baker Street...

Why I hate the Comic Book Guy stylings of ILM sometimes.

Pleasant Plains, Monday, 21 April 2008 19:32 (thirteen years ago) link

Yeah, but technically speaking, that's correct. The saxophone is, for all intents and purposes, the chorus of the song.

And for AM-radio listeners in 1978, there was no guitar solo. It was edited out of the single version.

Sara Sara Sara, Monday, 21 April 2008 19:40 (thirteen years ago) link

Yeah, I get that, by definition, the sax part isn't a solo.


Pleasant Plains, Monday, 21 April 2008 19:44 (thirteen years ago) link

Having now subjected myself to the Foo Fighters version and the Jars of Clay version on YouTube I hold this truth to be self-evident: duh, it is the sax riff that takes a good song and makes it such an instantly recognizable killer song. Forgot there even was a guitar solo until replaying the original version today.

that's not my post, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 06:07 (thirteen years ago) link

Apparently the only place you can still get the single edit (short of buying the 45) is on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack. Wikipedia says that in addition to it being edited for time, it's also sped up a little. Listening to it and the LP version back to back, the single edit totally wins (and there's still a good portion of the guitar solo that remains).

Johnny Fever, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 06:13 (thirteen years ago) link

Anyway, "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick," end of debate.

Dingbod Kesterson, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 09:23 (thirteen years ago) link

six years pass...

Yeah, sad.

I read a little bit earlier that said when he went in for the Rafferty session, Baker Street was already recorded but had these empty spots leftover for a saxophone part. Rafferty didn't have any suggestions on how to fill it, so Ravenscroft just launched into this old blues figure and BAM the rest is history.

Johnny Fever, Monday, 20 October 2014 20:12 (six years ago) link


Rafferty claimed he wrote the hook with the original intention that it be sung. Ravenscroft said differently, saying he was presented with a song that contained "several gaps". "In fact, most of what I played was an old blues riff," stated Ravenscroft. "If you're asking me: 'Did Gerry hand me a piece of music to play?' then no, he didn't."[10] However, the 2011 reissue of City To City included the demo of Baker Street which included the saxophone part played on electric guitar by Rafferty. A very similar sax line, however, was originally played by saxophonist Steve Marcus for a song called "Half A Heart", credited to vibraphonist Gary Burton,[11] that appeared on Marcus' 1968 album Tomorrow Never Knows.

Ravenscroft, a session musician, was in the studio to record a brief soprano saxophone part and suggested that he record the now-famous break using the alto saxophone he had in his car.[6] The part led to what became known as "the 'Baker Street' phenomenon", a resurgence in the sales of saxophones and their use in mainstream pop music and television advertising.[9]

In January 2011, radio presenter Simon Lederman revealed that Ravenscroft himself thought the solo was out of tune. When asked during a live radio interview on BBC London 94.9, "What do you think when you hear [the sax solo] now?" Ravenscroft replied, "I'm irritated because it's out of tune; yeah it's flat; by enough of a degree that it irritates me at best" and admitted he was "gutted" when he heard it played back. He added that he had not been able to re-record the take as he was not involved when the song was mixed.

The single version was produced using the tape of the album version sped up slightly, so as to raise the tempo and thus be more radio-friendly. This also had the result of raising the key by a half tone.
Urban myths

According to one story, Ravenscroft received no payment for a song that earned Rafferty an income of £80,000 per annum; a cheque for £27 given to Ravenscroft bounced and was framed on the wall of his solicitor.[10] The bouncing cheque story was denied, however, by Ravenscroft on the Simon Mayo Drivetime show on BBC Radio 2 on 9 February 2012.[citation needed]

The saxophone riff was also the subject of another urban myth in the UK, created in the 1980s by British writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie.[1] As one of the spoof facts invented for the regular "Would You Believe It?" section in the NME, Maconie falsely claimed that British radio and television presenter Bob Holness had played the saxophone part on the recording.[1] Later, the claim was widely repeated.[12][13]

Johnny Fever, Monday, 20 October 2014 20:17 (six years ago) link


Johnny Fever, Monday, 20 October 2014 20:20 (six years ago) link


Johnny Fever, Monday, 20 October 2014 20:22 (six years ago) link

wow, that clave is terrible there

my jaw left (Hurting 2), Monday, 20 October 2014 20:34 (six years ago) link

one month passes...

BBC Soul Music episode on the making of "Baker Street." Worth a listen.

Elvis Telecom, Monday, 15 December 2014 23:42 (six years ago) link

"Baker Street" when it came out in 1978 sounded like just about nothing else being played on the radio, and it (to a certain degree) retains that freshness today.

this is otm. when i first glanced the tracklisting to the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, i was like how does "BAKER STREET" fit into this? but you listen to it in that context and it does sound modern/fresh. though i'd add it's all about the VERSES.

rip van wanko, Monday, 15 December 2014 23:54 (six years ago) link

Baker Street is a very well done production. It's got that smoothe 70s studio sound with that electric piano and the additional latin percussion which keeps things moving during the breakdowns. Underneath that soft synth giving a totally different texture to the raw guitar and the uber sax riff, during the musical breaks. That smoothe jazzy underpinning then works so well when it breaks down with the laid back vocals. That laid back smoothe to the riffy crunch is definitely one of those birth of the power ballad moments that many have tried to ape but few ever really pulled off nearly as well.

earlnash, Tuesday, 16 December 2014 02:06 (six years ago) link

six years pass...

Is this not the most famous sax solo in rock and roll? What could challenge it?

Sassy Boutonnière (ledriver), Sunday, 22 August 2021 11:24 (four weeks ago) link

well Careless Whisper would like a word

assert (matttkkkk), Sunday, 22 August 2021 11:31 (four weeks ago) link

Isn't the sax solo in Careless Whispers kind of proto-vaporwave tho?

Sassy Boutonnière (ledriver), Sunday, 22 August 2021 11:37 (four weeks ago) link

if you’re gonna call Baker Street “rock” the field is wide open

assert (matttkkkk), Sunday, 22 August 2021 12:36 (four weeks ago) link

xp try playing it at 1/8th speed.

Being cheap is expensive (snoball), Sunday, 22 August 2021 13:48 (four weeks ago) link

Nothing in music more perfectly simultaneously inhabits the realms of both “awful” and “fantastic” than the sax solo in Baker Street.

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Sunday, 22 August 2021 15:51 (four weeks ago) link

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