Friday, July 20, 2007

Rod The (Not-So) Mod

Not lately, anyway.  There was a time when Rod Stewart was at least moderately mod, but that was many moons ago.  Listening to his box set Storyteller makes one long for the good ol’ days when Rod was a true Rocker instead of the aging Rocker who now relies on warbling old standards like "What A Wonderful World" (Satchmo's song, not Sam Cooke's) to sell records.  A recent concert review indicates that Stewart still rocks out on tour most of the time, but sadly he’s joined the long list of singers and groups who can’t (or are just too damn lazy to) come up with any new material.  Nothing wrong with honoring the past now and then, but between Stewart and Michael McDonald, do we really need any more remakes of the same tired old Motown songs?  I mean honestly, has Rock ‘N’ Roll truly run out of things to say?  It’s like everyone’s creativity went out the window with the Reagan Administration, and now everybody just recycles the same old stuff.  Thank goodness I’ve been able to discover and delve into more obscure old stuff like Stax Records and Sun Records, et al, that is new to me, or I’d be a very sad audiophile.

I don’t mean bash Stewart altogether here, as this former grave-digger/English soccer star wanna-be has certainly had a fairly prolific career, beginning in the late ‘60s.  His high-water mark for me was 1977’s Foot Loose & Fancy Free, which track-for-track is probably his best overall album.  After that, he lost focus and dabbled in the disco thing with the infamous "Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?" and then became tabloid fodder about the same time over his affair with Alana Hamilton (wife of actor George Hamilton).  Rod’s Jet-Setter/Studio 54-denizen image rubbed me the wrong way, but he did manage to come back with decent albums now and again during the '80s like Tonight I’m Yours and Out of Order, and a couple of his cover songs during that time actually were pretty darn good, namely The Impressions’ "People Get Ready" (with Jeff Beck) and Bob Dylan’s "Forever Young".

There is one Rod Stewart hit that I will never need to hear again as long as I live.  For reasons unknown, back in 7th grade I made the mistake of attending this really dopey Junior High dance.  For other reasons unknown, the organizers of said dopey Junior High dance didn’t have the forethought to actually bring any music, but someone happened to have a copy of "Tonight’s The Night" on hand, and I swear we had to endure that damn song at least ten times that night!  Worse yet, we had to endure it being played on one of those crappy government-issue single-speaker school record players they used for music class (with a microphone in front of it to pipe it through the equally-crappy gymnasium P.A.), thus it had all the fidelity of a C.B. radio.  Great song, but I can’t hear it without thinking of that night.

My All-Time Rod Stewart Top 10:
10) "Stay With Me" (1972-with The Faces)  Love the line "With a face like that, you got nothing to laugh about…"  This band had a pretty formidable lineup at the time too—Stewart on vocals, future Stone Ron Wood on guitar, the late Ronnie Lane on bass, Ian McLagan on keys and future Who drummer Kenney Jones on the skins.
9) "Gasoline Alley" (1968)  Very underrated early Rod classic.
8) "The Killing of Georgie, Parts I & II" (1976)  One of those unorthodox songs that tells a tragic story, but the tune sounds real happy and upbeat, yet it worked anyway.
7) "Tonight I’m Yours" (1981)  This song always makes me think of the ‘80s, and I love the creative use of the bells during the choruses.  I could’ve done without that faggy-sounding "Don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me" crap, though…
6) "Tora! Tora! Tora! (Out With The Boys)" (1981)  Sounded like they actually WERE partying while recording this one...
5) "Hot Legs" (1977)  Probably the raunchiest song Rod ever did, and it’s a classic.  Nice lead guitar work from the underrated Billy Peek too.
4) "Blondes Have More Fun" (1978)  On the whole, I hated this album, but loved the title track, which also features guitarist Billy Peek (stealing a few Chuck Berry riffs).
3) "Maggie May" (1971)  Classic Rock staple that I grew up with on WHB during my halcyon Top 40 radio days as a kid.
2) "I Was Only Joking" (1977)  Stewart’s image as a hot-shot carefree Rock star makes it easy to forget that he can write really good songs now and then, and the closing track on Foot Loose & Fancy Free might well be his best lyrical work ever.
1) "Born Loose" (1977)  Another track from FL&FF, this one sounds very Stones-like in places and has always been my favorite Rod song.  It contains the word "piss" in the lyrics, but why it never got any radio airplay baffles me.

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