21 January 2011

Homesick blues and radical views

I remember Rod Stewart being introduced onstage to perform at the BRIT Awards one year and, as he got into the first chorus of Downtown Train, his new single at the time, my father said: "He's never made a bad record, this bloke."

I think almost everybody would disagree with that certainly now, and also back then, in 1990. Though at the time, he wasn't too far wrong.

I didn't like a lot of the overproduced 1980s stuff - which is odd for me to say, I know - but it's grown on me since I started doing the Q show. (Except for Young Turks. I really, really hate that song). On reflection, it was his image then that perhaps put me off a bit. His hair was ultimate peroxide and the clothes were tight and garish and clingy and leathery and, well, you didn't see his generation of 1970s survivors dressed like that as they pushed 40. Mind you, I suppose David Bowie, Elton John, Billy Joel and even Bryan Ferry weren't going for the out and out sex-starved audience, even in their younger and more virile days. Rod was a musician on the pull. The rest got their end away as a side issue.

What I've always liked about Rod Stewart is that he's never tried to be something he isn't. Beyond making music, all he's ever been interested in is women, football and ale. Fair enough. He's lived quite the life and it's a tribute to his success - and perhaps a touch of thriftiness - that he maintains this lavish lifestyle despite diminishing record sales and an impossibly complicated love life that has produced any number of kids from varying women, with another due before long.

Some of the earlier solo recordings are still just mint. Maggie May is obvious, but I think Reason To Believe, the song it originally usurped as an A-side, is a belter. Mandolin Wind is fab. I love the simple sentiments of I Don't Want To Talk About It and the shuffle-in-seat, mildly discomforting candour of I Was Only Joking. And Hot Legs has a chorus and a sexuality that many pop songwriters of today would kill to be able to convey.

I must confess though that I know very little about the Faces. The singles are familiar, especially Stay With Me (the line "I know your name is Rita 'cause your perfume's smelling sweeter" is one of the most desperate rhymes in rock) but as far as I can tell, their existence had just begun to depend on Rod a little too much as their profile started to grow, and his concurrent solo career became his priority. Mick Hucknall might have had Ron Wood's approval for the recent tour, but I can't see it myself.

Do you remember his version of Ruby Tuesday? He ruined it for me with the way he delivered the first line; going upwards with the crucial "from" instead of down low, low, very bloody low, in the way Mick Jagger did. Couldn't listen to it after that.

Rod released a single called I Can't Deny It about ten years ago, allegedly the big comeback song. It was okay but you knew straightaway it was a Gregg Alexander composition, with that sort of semi-relentless piano over four bars that had made up almost all of Ronan Keating's banal first solo album. Given that Rod wrote so many of those timeless songs of the 1970s, it surprises me how little he has chosen to write material in his later career. Then came all that guff associated with the Great American Songbook, which I've capitalised even though I'm not sure I should. And the recent covers albums were pretty much unlistenable.

Still, end on a positive because I reckon he's worth it. Everyone must have a favourite Rod moment. Here's mine...

1 comment:

office pest said...

Rod's famous for his trains, and his train set / scale model of Grand Central Station. Quite the correct thing to spend one's cash on, after babes and champagne of course. A man needs a break after all.