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.