Sunday, 27 April 2014

Rod Stewart album by album

Barely started - a lot of work to do..... March 2019

Every Picture Tells A Story is one of my favourite albums. I love it to bits. I first encountered Rod Stewart at the Weeley Festival in August 1971, and I recall him introducing one song as a story about a schoolboy and an ageing Liverpool prostitute. Even though the song was not yet a hit, and the Every Picture Tells A Story album had only been released the previous month, his announcement generated a huge response from the crowd. I think it was that response which made me remember the moment so clearly. And I'm grateful for that, as I can pin-point exactly the moment when I first heard "Maggie May". I saw Rod again at the Hemel Hempstead Pavilion in Feb 1972, after "Maggie May" had been a hit, and he was suddenly the biggest act on the planet. In order to get maximum profit out of the booking, the Pavilion decided to release tickets during a concert in which they booked some cheap acts. So you had to pay twice. The acts were very bad, and most people just bought their Rod Stewart tickets and went home (or to the pub). I watched one act briefly with some friends. I remember the girl singer took her top off in order to encourage more people to watch. One friend said that if we cheered enough she might take her bottom off as well. Anyway, it was worth enduring that atrocious concert, because the Rod Stewart concert became memorable for me near the end. As was common in those days, I was leaning on the front of the stage (no bouncers in font of the stage in those days). Stewart was drinking something, and he playfully offered it to those of us leaning on the stage. I put my hand up, and he grabbed my arm and pulled me on stage, and then pulled up someone else. He then put his arms around us, and we sang "Maggie May" together. Awesome moment. At the end of the song the set was over, and he shouted in my ear that he would get into trouble for having me on stage, so I should go backstage with him. Sadly I turned down that opportunity, preferring to have a few moments on stage, larking about in front of my friends. It may well be that part of the appeal for me of the early Seventies era Rod Stewart and the Every Picture Tells A Story album in particular, is due in part to those two live experiences.

Anyway, even though I enjoyed that album, and some of his other early Seventies albums, I've never really explored his life and career. I mean, I know a bit, and I know some of the legends, such as that he played harmonica on "My Boy Lollipop", but I don't know much, and I thought it was time to pull all the facts together, and sort out the truth from the rumour.


Rod Stewart was born and brought up in Highgate. He had a comfortable and happy upbringing. Among the legends of his youth are that he played professional football, was a gravedigger, got arrested on protest marches, and went busking in France and Spain. Well, he played football for his school, and for Middlesex Schoolboys, but he was never signed to a professional team. He went for a trial at Brentford, but they didn't call him back. He worked two Saturdays at Highgate Cemetery helping lay out plot, but didn't do any grave-digging, though he encouraged the myth. Some sources do report that he got arrested on an Aldermarston March, though by his own account his involvement was more motivated by fun than serious politics. He started playing the harmonica and busking in 1962 - and did busk in Paris and Barcelona as mentioned in the semi-autobiographical song "Every Picture Tells a Story". In 1963 he briefly sang and played harmonica with the Dimensions, then in 1964 worked with Long John Baldry in the Hoochie Coochie Men, where he had his recording debut on "Up Above My Head" in June, while also starting his solo recording career, and releasing his first solo single, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, in September. In 1965 he joined Steampacket with Baldry, Julie Driscol and Brian Auger. Though they didn't release any material while together, they did record some demos, such as "Can I Get a Witness",  which were released later to cash in on Stewart's Seventies success, and they appeared in live performances on a couple of TV shows: Steampacket jam with Eric Burdon and Stevie Winwood  (National Jazz Blues Festival at Richmond Athletic Grounds, 6-8 August 1965) and Steampacket live. After Steampacket, Stewart joined Shotgun Express, a similar style group, and they recorded and released I Could Feel The Whole World Turn Round in October 1966 - other members included Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood.

In Feb 1967 he joined the Jeff Beck Group along with Ronnie Wood, and they recorded the albums Truth in May 1968, and Beck-Ola in April 1969. The group broke up, and he and Wood replaced Steve Marriot in the Small Faces and renamed the group the Faces. Around this time he recorded a few songs for Python Lee Jackson, including In A Broken Dream, which would be released in 1972 to cash in on Stewart's success. He had now signed his fourth solo recording contract with Mercury  (the previous three were Decca, 1964; Columbia, 1965-66; Immediate, 1968 - all had released unsuccessful singles), and in 1969 recorded his first solo album, An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down, released in the UK in Feb, 1970 and containing his version of Handbags and Gladrags. Immediately after, he recorded First Step, the first Faces album, which was hastily recorded, and sounds like it, though Three Button hand Me Down works well. His next solo album, Gasoline Alley, was released in Sept 1970.

To be continued.....


August 1968 - Jeff Beck Group

April 1969 - Jeff Beck Group

An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down
Feb 1970 - Solo

This is Stewart's first solo album. He'd signed a recording contract with Mercury in 1968, but didn't start recording the album until after he'd left the Jeff Beck Group in 1969.  Ronnie Wood from the Jeff Beck Group would join Stewart in the Faces, and he played on the album, along with the Faces keyboard player Ian McLagan. The other musicians were session players, with guest appearances by Mike d'Abo , Lou Reizner, and Keith Emerson.

This is a modest album which has elements of Stewart's folky, rocky style, but also elements of the Jeff Beck Group. It doesn't hold together as a cohesive album, as it feels like Stewart is searching for his own voice.  Stewart wrote four of the songs: "I Wouldn't Ever Change a Thing" and "Blind Prayer" are in the style of the Jeff Beck group, and are quite weak. "Cindy's Lament" is an RnB number reminiscent of Steampacket - a style that Stewart would return to on later albums, though without the psychedelic/heavy feel that he uses here to finish the song. The title track is the fourth self-penned song, and is the best of the four, including a little folk, a little slap rock, a little swing, it is a little rough and loose, but is strongly indicative of the direction that Stewart would take. "Man of Constant Sorrow", a folk song, shows Stewart's ability to choose a song and do a telling version of it. This song would not be out of place on Every Picture Tells  A Story.  The other songs are covers: he does a truly dreadful version of "Street Fighting Man", one of the few times he totally fucks up a cover; his cover of "Dirty Old Town" is unremarkable but acceptable; the third cover, "Handbags and Gladrags", is again one of those well chosen songs that he sings so bloody well. Is his version the best? Probably - it's certainly not half bad, and is the best song on this other mediocre and patchy album. Notable other version - Mike d'Abo (1967),  Chris Farlowe (1967),  Chase (1972),  Big George (The Office theme 2000),  Stereophonics (2001)

Score: 3

First Step
March 1970 - Faces

Gasoline Alley
Sept 1970 - Sept

Long Player
Feb 1971 - Faces

Every Picture Tells A Story
July 1971 - Solo

A Nod Is as Good as a Wink... to a Blind Horse
Nov 1971 - Faces 

Never a Dull Moment
July 1972 - Solo

Ooh La La 
April 1973 - Faces

Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners
Jan 1974 - Faces live

Oct 1974 - Solo

Atlantic Crossing
Aug 1975 

A Night on the Town
June 1976 

Foot Loose & Fancy Free
Nov 1977 

Blondes Have More Fun
Nov 1978 

Foolish Behaviour
Nov 1980 

Tonight I'm Yours
Nov 1981 

Body Wishes
June 1982

June 1984

Every Beat of My Heart
June 1986

Out of Order
May 1988

Vagabond Heart
March 1991

A Spanner in the Works
May 1995

When We Were the New Boys
May 1998

March 2001

May 2013

The Great American Songbook series

It Had to Be You
Oct 2002

As Time Goes By
Oct 2003

Oct 2004

Thanks for the Memory
Oct 2005

Fly Me to the Moon...
Oct 2010

Best Rod Stewart tracks

Maggie May
Every Picture Tells A Story
Gasoline Alley
Handbags and Gladrags
Mandolin Wind
The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II)
Downtown Train
Its All Over Now
Tomorrow Is a Long Time
The First Cut Is The Deepest
Reason to Believe
Brighton Beach
You Wear It Well
Stay With Me
Picture In A Frame
Tonight's The Night
Make Love To Me Tonight
You're In My Heart
Young Turks
In A Broken Dream
You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything
Have I Told You Lately
Its Over
Beautiful Morning
Three Button Hand Me Down

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