Saturday, December 16, 2006

Rod Stewart (Faces)

Roderick David Stewart was born on 10th January 1945 in Highgate, London. The youngest of the family, Rod has two older brothers and sisters. Apart from Mum who was a Cockney, father and Rod’s siblings were all born in Scotland. Rod was spoilt as the youngest but showed interest in singing and was very much influenced by Al Jolson. Rod grew up a fanatical Scottish Soccer Fan and was quite handy as a player himself because he became an apprentice footballer with Brentford Football Club in West London. Ever impetuous Rod could not take being a boot boy and left. He went to Art School but did not complete the course, worked with his brother Bob as a sign writer but could not settle then eventually he hitched to Paris with folk singer Wiz Jones. Rod had learned to play the guitar at school and taught himself the harmonica. By day they busked and by night they went clubbing. A chance meeting with Memphis Slim saw Rod with his first professional engagement. Deported from France for vagrancy in 1963, Rod joined his first R&B outfit, Jimmy Powell and the Five Dimensions where he played harmonica (harp).

He soon built up a reputation and was lured into joining the higher profile, Long John Baldry’s Hoochie Coochie Men (formerly Cyril Davies' All Stars), when he was 19 years old. The band evolved into the Steampacket, (Long John Baldry, Stewart, Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll, Mickey Waller and Rick Brown) and did some recording.

When nothing came 'Rod the Mod' left to join Shotgun Express in 1965. He shared the vocal spotlight with Beryl Marsden and played in front of an impressive line-up which included Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac) and Peter Bardens (Camel).

Another move found him in the Jeff Beck group where he got the kind of exposure he was after and got the experience of touring North America. He teamed up with Ronnie Wood and the musos joined forces with the Small Faces, a mod band with considerable amount of chart success who had lost their lead singer/guitarist Steve Marriott. Rod and the Faces were viewed as out of step with the trends of the time. Whilst Rod strutted around the stage in brightly coloured satin suits, silk scarfs and platform shoes His spiky mullet was a fashion antithesis to his contemporaries who wore faded jeans and long flowing locks. But as the new age music grew to adopt Glam Rock Rod and Faces were seen as trend setters. In 1969, Rod Stewart released An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down. This is considered to be a mile-stone recording.

Simultaneously Rod and the Faces recorded their debut album called First Step, but this did only modest business.

The popularity of Rod and the Faces grew in the States and by mid 70s when Rod released his second solo album Gasoline Alley it reached the Top 30 and stayed in the listings for over a year.

Rod’s third album Every Picture Tells A Story (which he produced himself) saw him established as a brilliant interpretive singer, a prolific songwriter and a notable record producer. Rod was also an accomplished musician as his guitar work on Mandolin Wind would attest. Reason To Believe was the A side single from the album but DJ across the States played the flip side for preference. This was unusual since the song was over five minutes long, had no chorus or hooks line and was not immediately catchy. Despite this, the song took off and very soon radio stations all over were playing Maggie May. Rod achieved the impossible - a feat that had evaded both the Beatles and Elvis Presley at their peak! Maggie May hit No. 1 in Britain and America at the same time as the album Every Picture Tells A Story hit No. 1. Rod was at No.1 simultaneously in other countries too. This feat had never been achieved before.

Rod Stewart fever followed and the wee man became a No 1 Pop Star with many of his previous recordings released to cash in on his sell ability. He still fronted the Faces albeit the success was so far as a solo performer. Back in the studio the band put together their third and arguably best album, A Nod's As Good As a Wink to a Blind Horse. The album shot to the top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic and the single Stay with Me was an enormous hit.

For the first time many fans were made aware (thanks to television) their favorite solo singer was also the lead singer in the Faces. Rod's newly found army of fans could not get enough of him and whilst he and the Faces shared the limelight with other Glam rockers including Elton John and the Electric Warrior, Mark Bolan, Rod’s popularity was international. However, all was not well behind the scenes and Ronnie Lane (founder of the Small Faces) was frustrated at Rod's solo career fearing the Faces would become Rod’s backing band. When in 1974 Rod, famously disowned the Faces Oh La La album Ronnie “Plonk” Lane quit in protest.

Tetsu Yamauchi (former bassist with Free) gave the band a much tighter feel but they were beginning to lose their edge and rumours of a split were rife. Soon individual members were involved in solo projects and the future of the Faces was in serious doubt. As a swan song they released You Can Make Me Dance Sing Or Anything which arguably was their finest work.

In 1975 Rod was now a tax exile in the US and signed as a solo artist to Warner Brothers with no intention of using the Faces as musos. His Smiler album had mass appeal and attracted a much wider and more mature audience.

When the sequel Atlantic Crossing was released it was divided into a slow and a fast side, but all the high profile tracks were ballads. The album was incredibly popular and sold very well. Rod had crossed over and left his Rock’n’Roll to become a crooner.

Rod quit the Faces in 1975. Rod’s career continues unabated to this day and he remains as popular with the middle of the road CD buying public as he did in the 70s era with the pre-punk rockers. For preference I enjoy early Rod Stewart work, how about you?

Worth a listen:
The Steampacket
Baby take me

The Faces
Can Make Me Dance Sing Or Anything

Rod Stewart
Handbags and glad rags
Reason To Believe
Mandolin Wind
Maggie May
You Wear It Well (1974)
I Don't Want To Talk About It
Amazing Grace

Small Faces
Itchycoo Park

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