posted April 22nd, 2024

Jim Rafferty’s relatively unheard version of his own “I See Red” now finally makes its splendidly remastered debut on Drag City in the form of a new 7" out May 24!

Should the name Jim Rafferty sound a tad familiar, he is in fact the older brother of Gerry Rafferty, of “Baker Street” and “Stuck In The Middle with You” fame. As a songwriter, Jim had signed a solo deal with Decca in the late 70s. With Gerry in the producer’s chair (and several of the same musicians Gerry later recruited for his hit album, City To City), Jim produced the album Don’t Talk Back, comprising the kind of sophisticated, melodic material typified, like his brother’s work, by strong emphasis on vocal harmonies. Decca went out of business concurrent with their release of Jim’s arguably superior second album, Solid Logic, produced by Martin Levan, and Jim entered the 80s with no record deal… but with some good new tunes to shop.

Such as: the self-penned, nervy and minimalist new work “I See Red”, which Jim signed to Hit & Run publishing to be picked up by Phil Collins for ABBA star Frida’s 1982 solo album. The song’s outsider narrative and implied reggae rhythm, made somewhat cartoonishly explicit in Frida’s version, also found favor with a number of other artists. Clannad’s near-identical version of “I See Red,” appearing on their album Magical Ring, would chart in the UK; subsequently, brother Gerry would cover the same song on his Wing and A Prayer album. Jim’s version outshines them all: a sleek pop parcel with an irresistible hook inside.

The flip-side of Jim’s “I See Red” has its own cover history — “Fear Strikes Out” first appeared on Ian Matthews’ 1984 LP, Shook. Matthews, a journeyman who’d once sung in Fairport Convention alongside Judy Dyble and Sandy Denny and later hit the charts several times as a solo act, roots his version firmly in Jim’s ineffable arrangement, which makes sense — but Jim’s version notches up the excitement brightly, showcasing sharp guitar and keyboard textures in the mix. And sounding more like a hit.

Now, some 40 years later, the superior versions of these two Jim Rafferty originals arrive on a 7” single (and digital streaming services) May 24, 2024 on Drag City. It’s a surprise and delight, not just for Jim, but for purveyors of sublime pop songs all around the world.

Artists in this story: Jim Rafferty