In this lesson we look at Gerry Rafferty’s song Baker Street and the guitar solo performed by Hugh Burns.
written and recorded by Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty. Released as a single in 1978, it reached #1 in Cash Box and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it held that position for six weeks.
The album City to City, including “Baker Street”, was co-produced by Rafferty and Hugh Murphy. In addition to a guitar solo, played by Hugh Burns, the song featured a prominent eight-bar saxophone riff played as a break between verses, by Raphael Ravenscroft.
Rafferty claimed that he wrote the hook with the original intention that it be sung. Ravenscroft remembered things differently, saying that 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.” 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.
The guitarist Hugh Burns has scored movies like Die Another Day and The Hobbit, and played with the likes of Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Jack Bruce, and George Michael throughout his storied career. Burns is responsible for the blistering guitar solo on “Baker Street ” and considers working with Gerry Rafferty one of his life’s great honors.
“Quite frankly, I loved his songs. I regard it as a great good fortune that I was able to meet and contribute something to Gerry’s music,” he told me over the phone from England. “I did six albums with him. Probably doing more music with him than any other musician.” He was also friends with Ravenscroft and toured with him.
Hugh Burns was performing on the road with Jack Bruce in 1978 when he made arrangements to visit the London studio where Rafferty’s album City to City was being recorded. “I went to the studio after I played the gig and I think one of the first songs we played was ‘Baker Street.’ And I said, ‘This is fantastic. This is a great song.’”
Burns told me that there’s no question that Rafferty came up with the music that became the famous riff line on “Baker Street.” After Burns laid down the solo, Rafferty asked him to “have a go at what obviously became very famous, which was the sax line.” Burns tried it on guitar, but the two men agreed that it would be better on the saxophone. “That’s the way I always saw it,” he remembers Rafferty telling him at the time.