Baker Street Remembered
All over the world fans are mourning the death of Scottish singer-song writer Gerry Rafferty and I’d like to add a few words of appreciation and thanks. It’s not so much that I was a huge fan but ‘Baker Street’ has been one of my favourite records for over thirty years and that gorgeous sax solo still makes the hairs on my neck spring into action when it breaks like surf over Rafferty’s quietly introspective lyrics.
We often associate favourite songs with people and places from our past and ‘Baker Street’ is no exception. It takes me back to my teenage years spent shooting pool in the back room of the Holborn Hotel in Thurso, usually with my mate Ronnie Dunnet. Neither of us were old enough to be there, technically speaking, but Thurso is Thurso, youth is youth, and we both knew how to handle a cue (much better, it has to be said, than we handled the row of nips lined up on the bar).
Those weren’t misspent days either, they were the best of times. Racking up the balls, having a laugh, wondering what would happen next. It was a world of possibilities. Rafferty wasn’t my usual music tipple back then. I reckoned the world (Thurso) was divided into two kinds of people: those who loved punk and the intellectually inferior beings who didn’t. However, alcohol, ‘red leb’, a loud jukebox, and pretty local lasses were too heady a mix to allow a curious teen to get bogged down in too much musical arrogance. Punk didn’t get you laid. (Not much did back then). And ‘Baker Street’ was undoubtedly ‘the song’ of 1978, rarely off the Holborn Hotel jukebox. So many fuzzy tangled memories have fused into that magnificent record.
A couple of years ago I was up visiting my dad in Thurso and the conversation got round to his childhood. He moved to Thurso in 1937 when he was four years old. I could tell from my gran’s thick Doric accent that the family were old Aberdeen but I didn’t know much about that side of the family except that my dad’s first cousin was the footballer Ron Yeats, a Scottish international who went on to captain Bill Shankly’s Liverpool in the 60s.
My gran, bless her, was a real character. She never lost her wonderful ‘fit like’ accent despite forty years living in Caithness. She was known locally as ‘Eberdeen Jean’. My dad’s family moved north prior to the war when my granddad took a job as a baker in Thurso. He worked as head baker in the ‘pie shop’ that was next to the current Post Office until he retired in the 70s. My gran helped out in the café next door.
I’d occasionally asked my dad whereabouts in Aberdeen he was from, where he was born, and where the family lived, but he could never mind. Then recently we visited his sister, my aunt Lillian, and I pressed her on it. It’s important to ken where you’re from. Of course she knew. It was in the auld part of Aberdeen they bided…. in Baker Street! That’s where they stayed and that’s the street where my dad was born. And yes, my granddad really was a baker from Baker Street! Corny but true.
“When you wake up it’s a new morning
The sun is shining it’s a new morning
You’re going.. you’re going home…”