Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Rod Stewart Primer"
Forget the old guy with the challenged voice singing standards and marrying women half his age. Once upon a time, Rod Stewart was a god, our most riveting live performer, if you ever saw him with the Faces, you'll never forget it.
But I'm getting ahead of myself...
SHAPES OF THINGS
Forget the Yardbirds take, upon which Jeff Beck also played guitar, this version is a mind-bending adventure that will have you leaning into the speaker just to get closer the sound. And that's what it's all about, the sound. Back when there was no production, maybe a light show at best.
And sure, Jeff is wailing.
But who's that guy singing?
We didn't know.
If this act had stayed together, they could have been as big as Led Zeppelin, well, close, but Jeff has a hard time getting along with people, and the group splintered.
HANDBAGS AND GLADRAGS
From the initial solo album.
If this doesn't close you, stop reading right now.
Yes, written by Mike D'Abo of Manfred Mann fame, it was already a hit by Chris Farlowe, but Stewart made it his own.
AN OLD RAINCOAT WON'T EVER LET YOU DOWN
All the press was about Stewart's reworking of the Stones' "Street Fighting Man," which opened his debut solo LP, entitled "The Rod Stewart Album" in the U.S., but it was called "An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down" in the U.K., after this cut. And I include it primarily because Stewart wrote it. However when he sings the "la's" around 1:45, you'll melt. But the point is Stewart was not only a singer, but a writer, and even though most of the tracks he's recorded have not been originals, the best are.
MAN OF CONSTANT SORROW
What the hell, another from the debut, because it's so haunting you'll truly believe you're in Colorado. The sparse instrumentation, Rod's vocal...it's pure magic.
The opening cut from the first Small Faces album with Stewart (it said "Small Faces" on initial pressings, it was changed to "Faces" thereafter.) A Dylan cover, it was more than that. "First Step" was not only the initial Stewart Faces album, it was the best!
THREE BUTTON HAND ME DOWN
An entrancing ditty that you won't be able to get out of your head.
The BEST cut off "First Step," it's a magic elixir of Ron Wood's guitar, Ian McLagan's organ and Rod's vocal. Absolutely incredible, if you don't know it, you're in for a treat.
You could feel it!
The album cover was embossed... Rod's rooster hair, the manhole cover, you ran your fingers over them and...
This is how I discovered Stewart, the reviews on this album were so damn good I had to purchase it without hearing it first. And when I dropped the needle I said...HUH?
Because Stewart's voice is an acquired taste, and at this point we'd heard nothing like it.
The title track is still my favorite....
"Going home Running home Down to gasoline alley where I started from"
IT'S ALL OVER NOW
We rockers were enamored of the Stones' version, but Stewart made the song his own. And his radiated JOY!
ONLY A HOBO
Bob Dylan wrote it, but unless you're old and gray and a Dylanologist, you probably don't know it.
It's got the same feel as "Man Of Constant Sorrow," and that's a good thing!
"Only a hobo, but one more is gone Leavin' nobody to sing his sad song Leavin' nobody to carry him home Only a hobo, but one more is gone"
Everybody's a human being, never forget that.
MY WAY OF GIVING
It's the organ, it's the bass, the electric guitar...back when what was in the grooves was all that mattered.
"It's all part of my way of giving And I'm giving it all to you"
It's subtle, but it's incredible, it's the album track you think is a throwaway and then come to love the most.
Yes, the Elton/Bernie song, but before we'd heard the original. And to tell you the truth, I prefer Elton's take, but this demonstrates Rod's exquisite taste.
CUT ACROSS SHORTY
Originally done by Eddie Cochran, this will make your hair stand on end and have you scurrying down the rabbit hole, forsaking pop and just following this SOUND!
YOU'RE MY GIRL (I DON'T WANT TO DISCUSS IT)
Originally done by Little Richard, with a fantastic take by Rhinoceros being played on the radio, this was a complete reworking, it's a revelation.
And there you have it, seven cuts from "Gasoline Alley"... You've got to understand, this was the kind of album that had you poring over the credits...WHO ARE THESE GUYS! You felt they were virtuosos, you were interested in everything they had to say and do.
MAYBE I'M AMAZED
"Long Player" is deficient, but this live take of the McCartney classic is the best cut, especially when Rod comes in...
I saw the band at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. The band started without Rod, and then he sauntered in from the wings with a peacock walk I'll never forget.
And this duet was the most memorable moment of the show.
You know that special feeling when you experience greatness, stardom, before everybody else...THIS WAS IT!
EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY
I know, I know, all the press, all the accolades, went to "Maggie May," but this is the cut.
It's like Rod the Mod had something to prove, he was gonna show us, "Every Picture Tells A Story" is tour-de-force, right down to Maggie Bell's "vocal abrasives."
Hang in there long enough and you get lucky. You put out good work and nothing happens...and then something does!
And every fall this track goes through my head...it's late September, should I really be back in school?
(I KNOW) I'M LOSING YOU
Sure, the original was by the Temptations, but I far prefer this. It's like a freight train runnin' down the track broadcasting the message for all to hear. Whew!
Sounds like the Dylan covers above, and if I didn't tell you otherwise, you'd think Bob wrote it, but that's untrue, Rod did, and it's just as good.
STAY WITH ME
"A Nod is as Good as a Wink... To A Blind Horse" is nearly unlistenable, except for this, the Faces' classic.
Can I leave "You Wear It Well" off this list?
Yup, I'm gonna do that. Because it's essentially a reworking of "Maggie May."
But this is something different.
"Never been a millionaire And I tell you mama I don't care"
There's all kinds of references to money and products, but here Rod's not saying he wants and deserves them, but that they're not what's important.
Then again, back then money wasn't everything.
An acoustic story song, infectious.
My favorite cover of the Jimi Hendrix song, ever.
Most didn't know the original, it's become more famous over time, but Rod makes it less about the guitar workout and more about the lyrics and the changes.
THREE TIME LOSER
So Rod finally finishes his Mercury deal and signs with a real record company, Warner.
And disappoints us.
Oh, there was nothing wrong with "Atlantic Crossing," it's just that it lost the English feel, maybe because Tom Dowd produced it. Sometimes working with the right guy is the wrong thing.
Funny lyrics here though!
TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT (GONNA BE ALRIGHT)
So Rod's arguably the biggest rock star in the world, he's dating Britt Ekland and he releases this mildly-veiled sexual serenade and it was all over the airwaves and...
You just had to love it.
THE FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST
It was not on the Cat Stevens albums we knew, which were all on A&M, nobody knew this song, but it's the best on the LP.
Rod Stewart made "The First Cut Is The Deepest" a standard.
And when you listen to it now, it still seems like he means every word. If he'd only done this one cut, he'd still be remembered.
DA YA THINK I'M SEXY
Everybody went disco, from the Stones to the Beach Boys, most looking for the hit they hadn't had in decades, and still didn't have.
And "Miss You" is a classic.
But the man who truly triumphed in the disco sphere was Rod Stewart, because "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" is so damn good.
In other words, if you're gonna hop genres you can get away with it if you deliver a cut as good as or better than everything else in the genre. Furthermore, wasn't Rod selling sex anyway?
And for those who say this cut ruined Rod's career...come on, you're kidding! If you don't like "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" you've got no...sex!
And the above are the highlights. I left out some hits and live cuts. But the point is as the landscape changed and there was less need for what he did, Rod became a schlockmeister.
And that's sad, because he's messing with our memories, our picture of who he once was.
And that was the coolest, most credible cat out there.