SO FAREWELL RAPH RAVENSCROFT. Raf, Raphael, however you want to call the saxophonist's saxophonist, who died in Exeter at the weekend. Only sixty years old. Makes you think. Does it? Is it the numbers that really matter? I like to think not.
'Baker Street' did it for me. Still at school and dreaming of living and working in London, I felt that Gerry Rafferty's sublime song managed to turn a dull thoroughfare famous only for a fictitious character, Sherlock Holmes, into an avenue as glamorous and exotic-sounding as Sunset Boulevard or Broadway.
It was the song that made us fall in love with the saxophone. There are plenty of indelible, incredible sax solos - Andy Mackay's on Roxy Music's 'Virginia Plain', say, or Ronnie Ross's on Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wild Side'; Dick Parny's perfect blues solo on Pink Floyd's 'Money', Bowie himself on 'Soul Love' from 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust ..' I also want never to forget Steve Norman's on Spandau's 'True'; but 'Baker Street' has always seemed the definitive ... regardless of that fact that, by his own admission, Raph was a bit flat.
But when 'Baker Street' hit, Gerry Rafferty was a has-been. Stealer's Wheel were stuck in the middle and on the way out, their moment past. How many thousands, millions of musicians have been there. They come and they go, most of them hoping against hope for everlasting fame and fortune, for the legendary status that inevitably eludes all but the few. Still, they make music honestly. They leave a legacy of their own, to those who remember, and who care. Raph did. He worked as a session musician for Daft Punk only recently. He also wrote and published the definitive work, 'The Complete Saxophone Player', in 1990. There'll be a rush on for that now.
The brilliance of a track like 'Baker Street' is its ability to transport us, in an instant, to the time when we first heard it. Who we were, who we hung with, what we fretted about, what we wore. It gifts us the magic to experience youth again.
Raph Ravenscroft played with so many greats. His contribution to all that remarkable music by Marvin and Floyd and Bonnie et al is all but forgotten now. Gerry Rafferty's gone. Now Raph is too. But 'Baker Street' will live forever.