Friday, October 17, 2008

Light in Your Head and Dead On Your Feet

The first thing I noticed was that he was a pretty good guitarist. The second was his dark sunglasses - on the Tube in October it's just posers and blind people who wear them, and going by the rest of his outfit he was definitely in the second category.

He was playing Baker Street, one of those wonderful, wonderful songs that always makes me want to turn the radio up. It's a song with a lot of stories attached to it, not least the one that the saxophonist was told to just play anything and ended up writing one of popular music's most memorable riffs for no more than a session fee. (Not true - Gerry Rafferty wrote the solo, but wasn't sure which instrument should play it.)

My favourite Baker Street story is, of course, the urban legend that Bob Holness played the saxophone solo. Whoever started the rumour (Stuart Maconie is often credited), Holness was the perfect candidate - so unlikely that surely it had to be true. After all, he did play James Bond before Moore, Connery or even Niven. I did my best to fuel the myth by writing a part for Bob Holness in a TV animation where he would voice a quizmaster who, in one particular scene, asked "Who played the saxophone solo on Baker Street?" Alas the part ended up on the cutting room floor and my contribution to the nation's collective false memory was lost forever.

The third thing that I noticed that day was that we weren't at Baker Street, we were at Green Park, two stops further down the line. Had he made a mistake and got off at the wrong station, unaware because he couldn't see? I was tempted to check if he knew where he was, but couldn't find an inoffensive way to phrase it. So I just dropped 20p in his case and wandered off with a dream about buying some land.