Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Memories of Baker Street

If you were a teenager in the late 1970s, "Baker Street" almost certainly must bring back memories that are strong and vivid.

I know it does for me.

There are some songs that always remind me of the very first time I ever heard them. I am instantly reminded of how old I was, where I was at the time, what I was doing, etc.

"Baker Street" was not one of those songs for me.

I don't know how old I was when I first heard it. I don't know where I was at the time. I don't remember what I was doing.

I do remember that, when it was a hit in 1978, I was working at a self–service gas station. My shifts tended to be 4–6 hours long, and there was little to do, as I sat at my window, except listen to the radio so that's what I did.

Thus, my mind links that song to memories from my perch, where I could watch as traffic came and went through my hometown. A song called "Baker Street" seemed to be the ideal theme for the work I was doing, which was good because the radio stations played it as often as they could.

Seriously. If I pulled a six–hour shift, I probably heard that song played four or five times on the radio during that shift.

I couldn't tell you the first time I heard it. I only know that I gradually became aware of it; one day, it just seemed like it had always been around.

That song was recorded by a fellow named Gerry Rafferty, a Scottish singer/songwriter who died yesterday at the age of 63.

I heard his name often in 1978. I don't know if I heard it a few years earlier, when his other signature song, "Stuck in the Middle With You," was a hit for a group called Stealers Wheel.

I always preferred "Baker Street," I guess. Bruce Eder of wrote that it was "a masterpiece of pop production."

And so it was, I suppose.

All I know is that, whenever I hear it — and I do still hear it, from time to time, when I'm driving and I have my radio on — I feel as if I am transported back to the late 1970s, and the things that were on my mind then are fresh on my mind now.

"Baker Street" is that kind of song. It has a strange kind of power, the ability to conjure up stray memories that have been trapped in my brain for years.

It's really weird, sometimes. I can be driving along and "Baker Street" will come on the radio, and a fleeting thought will cross my mind. I will think of the girl I was dating or a class I was taking, or I will remember that I need to change the oil in my vehicle.

That's a plausible thought — until my subconscious mind produces an image of the vehicle that needs the oil change — and it isn't the vehicle I drive today but rather the vehicle I was driving 30 years ago! I guess it goes without saying that the thought loses all credibility at that point.

I'm losing more and more of those links to my past as time goes by.

It's just as well, I suppose. That time is gone, and those memories that have been locked in my brain all these years are ghosts that need to be set free.

It's time to let them go — and to let Rafferty go as well.