Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Rod Stewart, A Night on the Town
38 years ago today, Rod Stewart found himself sitting atop Billboard’s Top 200 album chart with A Night on the Town, an effort so beloved that it continues to be held up by fans as one of the reasons why they were able to tolerate him spending so much time on those damned Great American Songbook albums.
Although you kids with your CDs and MP3s won’t appreciate the fact that the album’s two sides were designated as “Slow” and “Fast,” surely anyone can appreciate the opening track of A Night on the Town: “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),” a romantic ballad written by Stewart which instantly became a dancefloor favorite for a generation, not to mention a #1 pop hit. From there, it’s onto another classic, with Stewart taking on Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut is the Deepest” and, as he’s done with so many other covers over the years, thoroughly putting his own stamp on the material. (He also took it to #21 on the singles charts.) The remainder of the “Slow” side is dedicated to two further Stewart originals: “Fool for You” and “The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II),” with the latter track – which made it to #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 – often held up as one of his finest ‘70s efforts.
The “Fast” side, meanwhile, features only one Stewart composition: “The Balltrap,” which kicks off the proceedings. After that, it’s on to “Pretty Flamingo,” “Big Bayou,” “The Wild Side of Life,” and, to close things out, “Trade Winds.” Well, unless you’re listening to our 2009 expanded reissue, that is, which adds “Rosie” as the final track on Disc 1, then provides a second disc which opens with a studio outtake (“Share”) before providing 11 early versions of the album’s tracks, along with an early version of Stewart’s cover of the Beatles’ “Get Back.”
Most of A Night on the Town was recorded in Hollywood, but “The First Cut is the Deepest” found Stewart venturing down to Muscle Shoals, which just might have something to do with the names “Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn” and “Steve Cropper” popping up in the credits. You’ll also spot guys like Joe Walsh, David Lindley, and Tower of Power amongst the contributors…so, in other words, there’s a good reason why the album sounds as strong as it does, not to mention why it’s held up so well over the years.
Haven’t given it a spin recently? Now’s your chance. (There’s no such thing as a bad time to revisit a classic album, you know.)