Martha Rafferty recalls her father singing to her when she was growing up in the west of Scotland in the 1970s.
She listened to the melodies, loved the way they were instantly memorable, and was captivated by the mesmerising fashion in which her dad brought them to life.
“I grew up with songs such as Rick Rack and Look Over the Hill and Far Away and, when I was a child, I always thought they were folk songs or nursery rhymes,” she said.
“It was only later that I found out they had been written by my dad and there was just this sense of music being a very important part of our lives from an early age.”
It certainly proved inspirational to that proud parent, Gerry, who subsequently became one of the most highly-regarded and successful singer-songwriters ever to emerge from his homeland.
And now, 10 years after his death in 2011, Martha has completed a long-cherished mission to bring his 11th album to the public, ensuring that Rest in Blue will finally be unveiled in September.
Anybody familiar with Scottish music will know all about Gerry Rafferty’s place in the canon, whether working with Billy Connolly and John Byrne during the rise of The Humblebums in the late 1960s, or joining forces with Joe Egan and Rab Noakes in Stealers Wheel from 1972 to 1975.
They enjoyed chart acclaim with Stuck in the Middle with You, a song which was later a pivotal part of the Quentin Tarantino movie, Reservoir Dogs, and were even invited to record with legendary US producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
However, reputations never meant much to Gerry.
Blazing his own trail
An iconoclast with a steely determination to blaze his own trail on his own terms, neither seeking publicity nor courting the media, he resolved early on that the music what was mattered and he was never happier than when in the recording studio or making joyful noise with loved ones.
The results were transcendent in 1978 when he delivered the sumptuous album City to City, which still sounds as fresh today as when Raphael Ravenscroft’s famous saxophone solo on Baker Street first went down a storm on Top of the Pops.
That was the prelude to Rafferty creating a string of hits in a distinctive Paisley pattern: including Right Down the Line, Home and Dry, Take the Money and Run, Days Gone Down and Get It Right Next Time.
He gained myriad applause and plaudits throughout the world and City to City and Night Owl sold millions of copies, both in Europe and America, but once again, these were almost an unwelcome distraction and, as he said, in one of his rare interviews: “My life doesn’t stand or fall by the number of people who buy my records.”
Yet, behind the scenes, as Martha has revealed, he was toiling assiduously on a disparate collection of songs for the rest of his days: an idiosyncratic spirit without any interest in pursuing chart placings at the expense of quality control.
She said: “The majority of his songs were a work in progress, and he would have bits of songs on the go, sometimes for decades.
Work still relevant today
“It might be 40 or 50 years ago, but he was profoundly aware of what was going on in the world and he had a social conscience, so the work he created still has a relevance today and, in some respects, I believe that he was ahead of the curve.
“This album has been a long time coming, but we have been determined to see it through and I think that he would be pleased with the results.
“My father released 11 albums, but is sometimes seen by people as being a one-hit wonder [for Baker Street]. But he always said that he valued being the observer and that, if you become too famous, then you become the observed.
“For him, that was a working definition of hell!”
War and climate change
“This new work features songs such as Lost Highway, which is about the legality or otherwise of wars in the Gulf, in Iraq and elsewhere, and it still feels timely.
“Then there’s Sign of the Times which is about climate change and my dad was concerned about that, and, of course, it is becoming one of the most important issues for all of us to tackle for future generations.
“I had heard parts of these songs for many, many years, but I was just waiting for the right moment to find the time and space to give them the attention they deserved.
“I’m also thrilled that John Byrne, who was there with Dad right at the start, has contributed his unique artistic talents to this venture.
“It still seems astonishing that people such as him and Billy [Connolly] and my father all came together when they did, all from working-class backgrounds, and remained close friends even though they all had totally different careers.”
The Big Yin has already offered a warm testimonial for the new CD, which contains 14 tracks.
In addition to many brand-new originals penned by Gerry, it features popular traditional folk songs such as Wild Mountain Thyme and Dirty Old Town.
It also includes a cover of Richard & Linda Thompson’s It’s Just The Motion. And the work climaxes with a re-recording of Stuck In The Middle With You, recorded in the 1990s, which gives the track a fresh, country-inspired interpretation.
The result is a body of work which is brimming with raw emotion as a quintessential collection of blues, rock, and folk. Some of the demos date back as far as 1970, many of which he had singled out as potential tracks for his new album.
It’s a fitting testimony to Gerry’s prodigious gifts and one only wishes he was still around to take it on the road. But, while he left us too soon at 63, one of Martha’s major achievements is reminding us of her father’s superb vocal talent and she has stripped back some of the songs to reveal a frisson of vulnerability and warmth.
It brings out a rich hue to many of his lyrics and Connolly reacted: “I’ve never heard Gerry sing so well. He never fails to amaze me.”
His daughter is understandably delighted to have brought the project to fruition and particularly given the power of the material.
Many of the demos left by Gerry included multiple layers of synths, which Martha meticulously stripped back to showcase his immense vocal ability and she explained her desire to remind listeners of how he kept producing classy material long after he stopped appearing in the UK charts.
‘Songs deserve a wider audience’
She said: “Everybody knows about the songs in the 1970s, but I really hope these new tracks persuade people to go back and delve into his back catalogue, because he kept on producing great music throughout the 80s and 90s, which deserve a wider audience.
“It’s a body of work which should be more well-known and one of my favourite songs is The Right Moment [from the 1982 album Sleepwalking, which was later recorded by Olivia Newton-John and Barbara Dickson].
“It wasn’t a hit, but that was never the yardstick which bothered him. And that is maybe one of the reasons why the songs have endured so long and why a new generation is discovering and enjoying his music.”
It’s a potent message and there’s something heartwarming about the manner in which Martha talks about her beloved dad sitting with his guitar and singing Look Over the Hill and Far Away to his wee girl all those years ago.
And ultimately, the music still sounds every bit as timeless today as it ever did: compelling evidence that Gerry Rafferty might have gone to the great studio in the sky, but still has the ability to surprise and inspire in equal proportion.
Rest in Blue will be released on CD and digital on September 3.