Gerry Rafferty’s pop extravaganza – now without accordion overdubs

Gerry Rafferty

How many releases promising to give the complete recordings of a certain artist start off with two half albums (in other words ditching the other two halves of those albums)? Not many, I suppose. But the new Grapefruit double-CD set ‘Who Knows What The Day Will Bring? – The Complete Transatlantic Recordings 1969-1971’ does, for a good reason. 

Gerry Rafferty started his album career as one-half of a folk songwriting partnership with Billy Connolly of the Humblebums, turning that band into a New Humblebums in the process. So this album ditches the halves of two albums written by Connolly. Now that leaves some good songs where Rafferty is contributing as a musician out of the package, but on the other hand sets a very clear spotlight on Rafferty’s songwriting abilities. And that is a good thing to do, since they are simply amazing.

Over the course of these two jam-packed CDs there is in fact not a single dud among the tracks, and even the cutting room floor is littered with jewels. I was trying to refer to the out-takes here, making sure that even if you think you heard it all, you really need this package, in order to hear the demo of religiously tinted ode ‘Who Cares’, wordless homage to a daughter on ‘Martha’ and the rather lovely ‘Bernard’, that was used as raw material for ‘Mr. Universe’ (here complete with Rafferty’s instruction to other players: “OK, slow part”), apart from instrumentals and alternative versions.

If there ever was an album deserving to be called a forgotten masterpiece, I think Gerry Rafferty’s 1971 beatlesque pop extravaganza “Can I Have My Money Back?” would fit the bill. It is up there with “Would You Believe” by Billy Nicholls as far as I am concerned, although it has never had that same revered status among pop lovers. Well, it should.

Some records just get better the older they get, and this edition of “Can I Have My Money Back?” is literally one of them as it reinstates the original version of ‘Mary Skeffington’, without the overdubbed electronic accordion. 

I had no idea about this mistake, and have to admit to being one of the perpetrators because we released the album on my Strange Days label back in 2006 with the overdubbed version of the track. However, I checked the previous releases and they all have the same mistake, so for some reason the masters previously used for reissues were all at fault.

In a way, it is ironic that Grapefruit is now correcting this. Grapefruit may be the most conscientious and factually correct CD reissue label around, but that is only because label head David Wells’ other CD reissue label, Wooden Hill is now dormant. The irony is that the original CD reissue of this album back in 1996 where this whole overdubbed track replacement issue started was on Wooden Hill Recordings. So a lot of people may think that the guy who caused the problem is now fixing it. Well, not true. Wooden Hill Recordings was a label run by Cliff Dane and it had nothing to do with David Wells’ Wooden Hill label. Cliff Dane even renamed his label Wooded Hill Recordings in order to avoid confusion – as if that would actually do the trick!

Similarly to Paul McCartney, there is a strong folk undercurrent to Gerry Rafferty’s pop whimsy, and this sense of sure footing gives his music a timeless feeling. Although that continued to be a hallmark of Rafferty’s music, “Can I Have My Money Back?” is where everything really clicks perfectly, despite the fact that it is a contractual obligation album as you may divine from its title.

If you like what makes British pop unique while not taking itself too seriously, this is for you.

7 thoughts on “Gerry Rafferty’s pop extravaganza – now without accordion overdubs”

  1. I think Gerry Rafferty is too often dismissed on the back of Baker Street and one or two other minor hits but he really was a quality songsmith. I shall have to check out htis collection, thanks for the heads up.

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    1. Great that you like it, Graham! It isn’t Ram by Paul McCartney, but then nothing is as good as that! Can I Have My Money Back is nevertheless really great!

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      1. Agree entirely about the greatness of Ram. I was at university when that came out and it was really hard to convince my friends of its merits. It is easy to misunderstand as superficial and trivial. Yet it contains some of PM’s most personal lyrics and its an album I’ve never tired of listening to. It’s strange its taken so long for some critics to appreciate how subtle its so called simplicity is. At the time Ram came out I was still listening constantly to David Ackles first album although my wife was the only who shared my enthusiasm for this record and my friends hated it. Must confess I find it hard listening these days, much as I admire it.

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  2. I kind of grew up with Ram, it has been with me ever since. Being primarily an anglophile, I haven’t listened that much to David Ackles though. Only have his Five & Dime album, which is good but not to the point where I have looked for more from him.

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  3. Agree entirely .I first heard G.R. live as part of the New Humblebums and have been a fan and collector of everything Gerry orientated, for 47 years .Under appreciated Genius,master of his craft and fantastic producer as well as singer /songwriter. PS word for the many top class musicians he had in the pool of supporters. For me Hugh Burns and Jerry Donahue stand out.

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