Monday, February 4, 2013

Hard Sell Of The Week

I am 75% of the way through Rod Stewart's autobiography and boy am I loving it! Probably, the most entertaining of all the recent rock and roll memoirs. He's smart, self-deprecating and hilarious. All these years of thinking what a lazy, preening waste of talent he's become have suddenly disappeared. Mind you, I am not about to defend the dreck Stewart has passed off as music for the last 20 years, but thanks to his own words leading up to it all, I've come to terms with it.

Absolutely wonderful stories about his family, Jeff Beck, Ronnie Wood, Elton John, Freddie Mercury and Scotland's football team are all there and at no time do any of those stories feel anything but human. Even when Rod Stewart talks about dropping thousands upon thousands on clothes and boats and art, it feels like something that any of us would do if we had the cash and not the frivolous spending of some diva.

As I am wont to do when reading about music, I get a soundtrack going of what I am reading about. Now there has never been any doubt in my mind about how amazing the Jeff Beck Group, the Faces, or the first five Rod solo records were. (I like "Smiler," too.)  But, I know I never gave mid to late 70s and 80s Rod a chance. Thanks to this book, I am finding some really terrific stuff. For example, read AMG's review of "Blondes Have More Fun." You wouldn't be caught dead listening to "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," am I right? But after reading Rod talk about it, and then reading the review, I realized about half that record is pretty damn fantastic. The fusion of rock and disco works in a big way thanks to big rock and roll bashing of Carmine Appice on drums. (The band absolutely cooks on the arrangement of the Four Tops' "Standing In The Shadows Of Love.")

When was the last time you listened to "Atlantic Crossing" or "A Night On The Town?" Forget "Tonight's The Night." Listen to "The Killing Of Georgie," which moved me to tears for the first time after years and years of hearing it but not listening to it. Or his very smart arrangement of "Pretty Flamingo." I'll even take it further with 1995's "A Spanner In The Works," which is really no different in style than "Gasoline Alley." It's just made by an older man.

I've said many times that Stewart's "Great American Songbook" series is some of the crappiest music ever committed to tape and I am not about to take that back. But "Rod/The Autobiography" is such a pleasant surprise, it seemed only fair to give the guy behind some of my favorite records of all time one more chance for old times sake.

Here are a few forgotten gems.


buzzbabyjesus said...

I look forward to reading "Rod". "That's All You Need" is in my current playlist, where it replaced "Too Bad", which came after "Twistin' The Night Away", "Every Picture Tells A Story", and "Had Me A Real Good Time".

Chris Collins said...

I LOVED "Rod". Loved it. I kinda knew I would. His liner notes are often hilarious and smart.

I bet our taste in Rod Stewart music overlaps by about 95%. Some of his records break my heart because he was SOOOO good when he was good. And I really hate those Songbook records. Lord do I hate them. But "Oh God" is actually one of my favorites. I listen to it often.

I do have a few 80's Rod guilty pleasures, however. I love "Some Guys Have All The Luck". I love "Baby Jane" and "Young Turks" and I even like that early 90's record "Vagabond Heart", which had a really good duet with Tina Turner on "It Takes Two".

I'm not blind to the musical crimes he's committed. And there have been many. But they seemed all the worse because, at his best, Rod Stewart made music with more heart, humor, smarts and fun than almost anyone. And the book is a great reminder of that.

steves said...

Not to change the subject too much, but have you read Townshend's autobiography? I'm slogging through it, but it's no fun at all. A bit too much navel-gazing for my tastes.

Sal Nunziato said...


Yes! Pete started off strong, I thought, and then it became a mess. Like diary entries with no rhyme or reason. It was painful, which is why I love "Rod" so much.

And Chris, "Tonight I'm Yours" nails that period of time and it really holds up, I thought.

The real surprise for me was how much I enjoyed "Blondes"

Anonymous said...

aaah. the love that dare not speak its name. thanks for coming out, Sal. it's brave men like you who pave the way for those of us still timidly lurking in the shadows, clutching our copies of 'Blondes...'
Looking forward to reading the book now.

A walk in the woods said...

OK, I was definitely not going to read Rod's book, but now I'll give it a shot. I am an unabashed Rod fan musically... so will be fun to read the behind the scenes.

Nice choices of forgotten songs... if I may say, me thinketh this calls for a Burning Wood Rod Stewart mix at some point - Just sayin'

William Repsher said...

I'm not as taken with the Rod book. He strikes me as a bullshit artist who started believing his own bullshit. Granted, his pre- and early-fame recollections are solid, but after a certain point, like late 70s, everything just seemed to come down to assembly-line blondes and lifestyles of the rich and famous. Much like Keith Richards' book. I don't think it's possible to write honestly about your life when you reach that level of success, that level of ego -- you're bound to paint yourself as a humble, funny guy who, hey, just stepped in shit, and look where it got me, man, long way from that cold-ass train station and Long John Baldry.

No. I think you could read Ian McLagan's book for a more measured take on Rod or The Faces bio by Andy Neill, both good reads. Not that Rod was a raging prick -- that was never the case -- but he did have a massive ego, and it got in the way, really got in the way, by the 80s, and hampered his ability to function anywhere near the creative level he had in earlier days. Never mind the American Songbook holocaust -- most sane Stewart fans had legitimate issues with him going back decades before then.

Hopefully you're aware of the demo version of "The Killing of Georgie" on the reissue of Night on the Town a few years back -- amazing to think that the song started out as a Dylan homage and grew into something else entirely. And I've always been a fan of Blondes Have More Fun, especially the over-the-top nonsense like Dirty Weekend and Attractive Female Wanted. That albums strikes me as an honest appraisal of where he was at in his life, which was a strange mix of rock star hubris, divorce bitterness and tasteful sentimentality.

Probably the last real Rod Stewart album as we used to know them. Everything after that just felt hollow, if catchy at times. And he surely wasn't the only aging rock star making disco singles circa 1977-80!

Sal Nunziato said...


I've always had an issue with bios and autobios. Every damn one of them. Authorized, unauthorized...if there's too much dirt, what to believe. Not enough dirt, truth is not being told.

The Rod book entertained me, unlike the Keith or Pete books, which felt like a chore. Worse, they both petered out about halfway through, as if their life stories were relegated to diary entries. More so with Townshend.

Rod may be full of shit and an egomaniac, but it made for the better read. (At least for me.)

I second Maclagan's "All The Rage." Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Ain't Love a Bitch, is a gem. I've always had affection for Blondes Have More Fun. Even D'Ya Think I'm Sexy has aged rather well. Surprisingly....

Anonymous said...

Funny. I had the exact experience while reading the Rod book. I didn't remember Foolish Behavior being so strong an album. It has some great rockers on there.
Oh, God I wish I was Home Tonight is a killer. Great choice posting it.
His book is everything I was hoping the Pete and Neil books would be.


steve simels said...

I interviewed in his hotel room when he was doing publicity for Atlantic Crossing.

He couldn't have been nicer or more gracious and patient.

But I'm reminded of what Greil Marcus said when the long slow decline began, and I paraphrase slightly.

"Rod Stewart wanted to be a star so badly he would do anything to achieve, even if it meant becoming an artist."

buzzbabyjesus said...

I stopped listening after "Atlantic Crossing". I liked Dobie Gray's version of "Drift Away", but Rod's just doesn't have it. The songs you posted are pretty good, but there is something essential missing.