It’s lunchtime early in the year of 1981. I am sitting in a venerable pub called The Feathers on the High Street of Gorleston, a suburb of the Norfolk seaside town of Great Yarmouth. It’s chilly outside and in my recall I am feeling a profound sense of isolation within myself. My recall tells me that, though I am no longer aware of why I felt alone in a world so far away from the one in which I grew up.
I’m sure there were others in the homey pub, though I can no longer picture who might have been there. I am nursing a pint of Norwich Castle bitter and eating a liver-pate sandwich. Funny how I remember the sandwich.
Somebody punches in something at the jukebox. The song that comes up is Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street. Perfect choice, though probably the worst choice considering the mood I was in. The song had been around for a few years by 1981 but it was one of those pieces that had deservedly segued into ‘standard’ realm.
I listen to that incredible Raphael Ravenscroft saxophone riff (for which Ravenscroft was paid a disgusting one-off sessions fee of £27, I might add) and the poignancy of the piece permeates my mood (and arguably my soul) that day almost exactly 30 years ago.
To me the piece had always been a background offering but on this day I actually listened to the lyrics.
He’s got this dream about buyin’ some land
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
And then he’ll settle down there’s a quiet little town
And forget about everything
For Rafferty the song was an ode to his days as a busker outside the Baker Street Underground station. But, more importantly it was about how he wanted to escape a life he was living.
I found that I empathized with the lyrics more than I had perhaps with any other bit of musical poetry. He captured exactly what I was feeling at that moment in my life. And what he wanted to ‘give up’ applied too painfully accurately to my life at an earlier incarnation of who I am today.
More profoundly, it told me what I had to do if I wanted to get out of assorted funks in which I tended to find myself, and to keep moving forward in my life.
I think on that particular day I bade goodbye to my protracted childhood and set out on a kind of quest to make it through this mass of confusion and sometimes self-indulgence called life. In retrospect it’s been good and I kind of like the man I am today.
Thanks, Gerry. At the news of your too-young recent death I couldn’t help but show gratitude for what you gave me.
Too bad and so sad that you didn’t really follow your own advice.