The Paisley lad was sitting with a guitar, quietly singing amid the clamour, and he was introduced to her as a friend of Billy Connolly, with whom he was performing in the Humblebums.
All of them were taking their faltering first steps in the music business: Rafferty would go on to write and record such global hits as Stuck in the Middle with You with Stealers Wheel and of course Baker Street from his City to City album. Dickson paid her dues on the folk circuit before an award-winning stage and TV career intervened and her CV now lists honorary doctorates and an MBE. In recent years, she has returned to her folk routes, recording an album for Greentrax in 2011.
Now her second album for the folk label, To Each and Everyone, celebrates the songs of her long-time friend, who died in 2011. Currently on a UK tour, she returns to her native Fife with a concert in Rothes Hall, Glenrothes, on 24 October, then plays Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on the 25th and Edinburgh Festival Hall on the 27th.
Covering such gems as the inevitable Baker Street, The Ark and Mary Skeffington, To Each and Everyone is a real labour of love. Dickson sings with poise and warmth, in folk-tinged if sometimes lushly string-driven settings by her regular arranger, Troy Donockley, with whom she basically deconstructed then re-made the songs.
It’s a bold man who, in Baker Street, substitutes a violin for arguably the most famous saxophone riff in pop history, but the strings add an elegiac tone. Elsewhere, Look at the Moon emerges as a wry nocturne, while Dickson’s delivery of the title song movingly heightens its valedictory nature.
Her delivery can be strikingly reminiscent of Rafferty’s own intonation. “I had his voice in mind the whole time I was recording the album,” she says, while stressing, “It’s Barbara Dickson singing, not Gerry Rafferty.” Asked what makes Rafferty’s songs so distinctive, she sums up his style as “a fusion of the Irish popular song that his father’s family brought to Scotland and his mother’s singing. Then listening to the Beatles and the Everly Brothers and other quality pop on the radio, I think he grew up with a huge sense of melody and also this sadness in his music.”
She is anxious not to let any prurient interest in the alcoholism that led to Rafferty’s early death detract from his greatness: “We’ve let the songs speak for themselves. I’m completely ego-less about this project. I just want people to know that Gerry was my friend and I was proud to know him.”