I'd Rather Go Blind – Mick Hucknall

I’d Rather Go Blind is a special song, and Mick’s recording of it is one I’m particularly proud to have produced.

The album it appears on, American Soul, was a record with somewhat left-field origins – a project that began life as a list of songs Seymour Stein had compiled of some of the great American classics – what it went on to become was a curated collection, perfectly tailored and resonant with Mick’s amazing voice.

Simply Red were in a hiatus phase at the time we first discussed the record. Mick was touring with the Faces, and loving it – and I went to see them play one night and was blown away. The material was quite different from Mick’s usual repertoire, I think he found it freeing to let his hair down for a while, and for me it was a chance to see different sides to him as a performer. To my mind, the biggest highlight of the night was Mick’s performance of I’d Rather Go Blind.

It was totally blistering; gripping. I was genuinely struck.

Of course, Rod Stewart had done a very notable version of the song, back when he was the lead singer in the Faces. But still, when we came to developing a possible list of material for what would be American Soul, I couldn’t get it out of my head, and advocated for it relentlessly.

As the idea of the record developed, Mick brought his own extensive knowledge and love of classic songs to the fore – it’s fair to say he’s an aficionado, and always has been – and from Seymour’s original long-list we narrowed it down to just a few choice, prospective titles.

By this point, Mick was still a little unsure of doing I’d Rather Go Blind for a record of his own, as it was so closely associated with the Faces. But it’s originally an Etta James track, and I nagged away at him to do it. Eventually, to my delight, he said he’d give it a go.

When we got to the production, I tried to keep the arrangement simple and classic, and leave as much space as we could for Mick’s vocal to exist in. Most of the band was made up of regular Simply Red players as they knew exactly how to handle a song like that. I commissioned Peter Vetesse to create a really stylised string arrangement; and Peter being Peter, also played some amazing organ, and sang as an entire choir on his own at the end of the track.

We recorded the orchestra for it at Abbey Road studios, and Mick’s performance was spectacular, as good, if not even better than I’d imagined it would be.

The whole track came together so easily, once we’d decided to do it, it was as if fate had always intended it to be.

After the album was released, I’d Rather Go Blind was play listed on radio – a remarkable feat for a song at that tempo, a mark, I think, of just how well it was received.

Overall, I look back on it as one of the best productions I’ve done for Mick – and the strange thing is, if I hadn’t seen him do it live with the Faces that night, I’d never have nagged/encouraged him into doing it.

I’m really proud of the work we did on American Soul as a whole. But I’d Rather Go Blind is truly one of my own personal favourites.