Bigger than Rod

 

Rod Stewart has been knighted. His autobiography was one of the musical memoirs I read in late 2014 as a detox from the general election campaign and meant to review for this site but, mostly, never got around to.

It was probably the most good-humoured and unpretentious of the lot. Stewart knows his faults and points them out before anyone else can get around to it – for example, his mid-’80s hit ‘Passion’ was a travesty:  he reveals his mother expressed her dislike and he concludes ruefully it was clearly a song not even a mother could like.

From the same era, he also reveals that, touring the US with his backing band, the only band which could outdo them for partying stamina and drug taking was the all-women Go-Gos.

And there is the aftermath of his split with Our Rachel, and how she wanted someone younger. In sharp contrast to his freewheeling and footloose image, he reveals he ended up seriously depressed and in therapy in California. More characteristically, he says the three therapists he saw were all varying degrees of useless. One breezily told him ‘you’ve seen one **** you’ve seen them all’; a second came on to him; the third suggested he get a cat.

Stewart’s best work was the first four albums he did in the early 1970s.’You Wear It Well’ is still my favourite of his big numbers – it’s a great, rough-hewn song about an old flame.

His later solo stuff, when he was a stratospherically feted pop and sex symbol, was almost all awful: ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’ has I suppose a certain kitsch ironic charm, if you’re into kitsch ironic charm, but personaly I find a little of this sort of thing goes a very long way. 

The first four albums were much more downhome, and much better. 

And, with The Faces, there was this great version of Paul McCartney’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’. To my ears, it knocks the original into a cocked hat. McCartney might be one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century, and the song is, no doubt, a stupendous declaration of the sudden, astonished emotion of a bloke unexpectedly finding love  – that line ‘maybe I’m a man in the middle of something/that he doesn’t really understand’ gets me every time. It’s perfect.

McCartney, though, isn’t always the best interpreter of his own work. And Rod and his rough, boozy sidekicks extract the emotion and soul from the song which McCartney himself never quite managed.

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