on November 21, 2012
Way back in the 1970's, I saw Rod Stewart acting like a petulant prima donna on a British TV program, and for a long time thereafter had him pegged as an immature twit, albeit one with a great voice. As someone who went to university in London in the mid-70's and saw just about every rock band that was worth seeing - plus a fair number who weren't - I was never a great Rod Stewart fan. I liked some of his songs - I would have absolutely killed to see the Faces play "Stay With Me" in concert - and appreciated his unique voice, but I never jumped wholeheartedly onto the Stewart bandwagon.
All of which somehow makes this autobiography all the more of a delightful surprise. It's lightly written, funny and informative. It's also charmingly self-deprecating; here is the voice of a former Bad Boy of Rock and Roll, all grown up and now looking back with the balance and wisdom of his later years.
The book is full of good behind-the-scenes stories that tell of bands, songs and relationships. We learn of Stewart's humble origins, his unsteady progress as a singer and harmonica player (he notes wryly that he was playing the latter badly for a year before someone pointed out that you could actually play the instrument by sucking as well as blowing into it), and the ups and downs of various bands and albums before fame and commercial success finally sunk their hooks into him for good. This happened in part because of his classic song Maggie May, which Stewart almost discarded from the Every Picture Tells A Story album because he didn't think much of it:
"When the Beatles finished `Please Please Me', George Martin allegedly clicked on the talkback and said, `Congratulations, boys, you've just recorded your first number one.' What would I have said had I spoken to the studio after finishing Maggie May? Probably, `Well, that's sort of OK, I suppose. Drink, anyone?'"
Originally released as the B side of a single, Maggie May was played widely by radio DJs in the States, and then in Britain, and this finally catapulted both the song and the album to number 1 at the same time in both countries (a feat which, Stewart notes, not even Elvis or the Beatles had managed).
Stewart avoids the temptation to use his autobiography to settle scores, and usually describes conflicts tactfully, despite telling us that, "as everyone in the business of rock'n'roll knows, the rule is as follows: in bands, there's always one c**t who no one gets on with." (Amazon won't allow the c word to be printed, even though it's a quote from the book). That he was a horrible and terminally unfaithful partner to his various wives and girlfriends he openly admits. The caricatured life of a star - literally sex, drugs and rock and roll - was too good to pass up, and Stewart indulged unceasingly and head first. At one point he confesses to spending a week in a prime hotel suite in the south of France, literally flying in one girl after another (his manager would drop off one girl at the airport and then head over to Arrivals to pick up the next to arrive).
And on the positive side, we get some great stories about his closest friends in the business; the tales of his long relationship with Elton John, including their constant practical jokes and one-upmanship, are particularly amusing. Not to mention the so-called Sex Police: members of the band who tried their best to stop any other band member from having sex with whatever groupie he'd brought back to the hotel after a concert. In one case, this involved removing every last piece of furniture from a musician's hotel suite and replacing it with live chickens. The afflicted band member duly returned and, acting as if nothing was amiss, proceeded to enjoy his girl anyway... as Stewart notes, the important thing was not to give your friends the satisfaction of seeing you inconvenienced or annoyed.
Along the way, we get amusing digressions on various topics ranging from his love of cars to Rod Stewart impersonators to the staggering amount of work involved in creating his hairdo... all of this related in a tone that makes it clear he never takes himself too seriously.
Viewed superficially, Stewart could be written off - as some have done - as a pretty boy with a good voice. But that does him a disservice: it's very clear from this book that a genuine love of great music was there from the beginning, and he has both appreciated and embraced genres that ranged widely from folk to blues to hard-core rock. Indeed, reading this book made me go back and listen to a "Best of" album (I highly recommend The Definitive Rod Stewart, a two-CD set that includes most of his best songs); in doing so, I recognized many of these influences, sometimes woven together to give a richer whole. Above it all, of course, is that famous raspy voice which, at its best, reflects Stewart's emotional investment in the lyrics (listen to his heartfelt rendering of Tom Waits' wonderful song Tom Traubert's Blues).
But overall, you don't have to love the guy to enjoy this book; it's a very entertaining romp through his career, and along the way it provides a highly readable history of the musical era in which he became famous.
And Rod Stewart - at least in his maturity - turns out to be a nice guy after all.
First off, I am a fan of Rod Stewart's and I may be a tad biased though I really don't think so.This book is interesting and loaded with Stewart's self-deprecating humor which makes it the easiest of reads. He takes his readers through his childhood and upbringing, the three wives, eight kids, and the much publicized romances. Couple that with a many decade long career, life on the road, career and personal ups and even some downs and the end product is a page turner from start to finish. As Stewart has proven time and again, he is the king of reinvention who manages to redefine himself over and over again. What emerges in this book is a Rod Stewart that is still sort of a rakish dog, bad boy, and capable of being vulnerable.
Stewart has managed to do with a book what he does consistently when he performs. He flirts, cajoles, and establishes an intimacy with his reader that is almost irresistible. This book is one of those special instances where the information is coming from the subject with a lot of honesty and heart. It seems as if he pretty much covers it all-----the good, the bad, and the ugly------and what is left is the many lives of Rod Stewart.
on November 1, 2012
Well I have always been a huge fan of Rod Stewart's and of the Faces but this autobiography surpassed even all of my expectations. As well as being informative and putting right a lot of the myths and stories surrounding himself and his bands (and his relationships) over the years, the book is genuinely funny and made me laugh out loud in places. I loved the history of the early songs and album tracks, and particularly the stories of his early performing years with Long John Baldry. Of course the Scottish connection and tales of football matches and trips to Hampden to see his beloved Scottish team play (and usually get beaten) were fascinating, funny and evocative of my own young years being a die-hard Celtic and Scotland fan. In the book Rod Stewart speaks respectfully of his ex-wives and partners and very lovingly about his children. He comes across as being, at heart, a real family man, which you can read from the book stems from his own childhood within a very close and loving family. Can't rate this book highly enough - Rod Stewart is a great story-teller, song-writer, singer and, what do you know, comedian. What a read!!
on November 25, 2012
Rod discussed many events that occured during his rise to fame. However, I never really felt like I got to know who he was as a person. I've been a big fan of his since the 70's, so I was hoping for more information about who he is. I felt he could have given more insight to who he is and how he was affected personally by the events in his life.
on September 16, 2014
I knew Rod Stewart back in the day and the poor old guy, one year older than me, is either suffering from memory loss or choosing to forget. I was not a groupie. I worked for these bands. I have the photos/negatives to prove it.
Let’s take the Shotgun Express, whom I watched from the side of the stage in England, 1967, as I was friend of Peter Bardens. Rod’s current version is much less of a disaster than the true story but, suffice it to say, Peter and Rod ended up hating each other until the bitter end.
Jeff Beck was always nice to me and very gentlemanly. We had lovely long talks in the dressing rooms, mostly about cars. Two things from this period: Rod did not have a driving license (1. He told himself in 1968, 2. It made the papers and magazines when he got it during the summer of 1970) and the last concert was 26.July.1969 at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, Michigan. They were supposed to play the 25th, as well, but Jeff cancelled, however he did play the next day.
His memories of Ron Wood during the Beck era are very faulty. And, no, I haven’t read Ronnie’s autobiography, yet. I was surprised that Rod never mentioned Ron’s slide guitar. He profusely carried on about “my Ron being the world’s greatest slide guitar player.” When The Faces played the Eastown Theatre in Detroit, Rod would proudly introduce Ron for his solo and then come down into the crowd to watch Ron from the front. One night he took my camera and walked across taking photos of just Ron. (Rod, also, gave my camera to another girl when he finished, but I promptly went and got it back.) On the next trip, Rod demanded to see the photos of Ron. Every one was blurred and Rod was very angry.
In all the parties, I worked for The Faces, there were no drugs of any kind, only alcohol. The first night I was hired, my business partners and I went back to the hotel and there was a party with weed. Rod and I did not smoke. Ron did. There was always alcohol, and for the parties we were in charge of, there was only Boone’s Farm Apple Wine with only one complaint from Ian McLagan, who wanted Courvoisier, but he didn’t get it. Plus, we had to keep cartons of milk for Rod in the ice-filled bathtub, as he had an ulcer and need the milk to sooth his stomach after a night of drinking. The rest of the band drank milk, too. Plus a friend just put my over 500 negatives on a DVD and in the onstage photos, Mac was never wearing a flower, nor was their any cocaine use, period. However, this may have started after they began playing the arenas and I was no longer working for them. That would be 1975. Rod makes it sound like this happened from the get-go.
I will make one comment here in defense of Rod: The Faces were playing Cobo Hall in Detroit and they were billeted in the Pontchartrain Hotel across the street. Looking out Rod’s window the huge marquee read, ROD STEWART AND THE FACES. Rod demanded that it be taken down. Cobo Hall said that it was too much work, the concert was only a few hours away, and it was staying. Rod was stuck looking at it. At another venue in Lansing, Michigan, Rod (and later the rest of the band) was so nice to the university kids working at the Holiday Inn that they ran out and put, WELCOME FROM ENGLAND THE FACES on their sign. (A side note: Jefferson Airplane were headlining the festival and when Grace Slick threw a temper tantrum and said they should be on the sign and the kids refused, they left…completely…making The Faces the headlining act!)
During the Jeff Beck Group days, they were driving themselves across country and to gigs in the U.S., at least. In The Faces, Rod had a room to himself at all times and, even when there was a limo, he would put the groupie-for-the-night in the back, close the door, and march over to us for his ride. Even to the airport, we got stuck with the world’s worst backseat driver (although he sat in the front) and was constantly worried about the speed we were driving. He liked it slow and timed the lights and was on constant lookout for any hazards, especially the possibility of children running into the street. His love of flash cars was never mentioned, although it is possible he was driving in England. Jeff said he, himself, often used his middle name, which was his father’s name, when getting tickets, so he would only have half as many speeding tickets…poor Mr. Arnold Beck! And you did NOT want to see Ron Wood’s driving, although Rod felt fine letting him drive.
The only Rod woman I met, besides the groupies, was Britt Ekland. She told me Rod was sleeping and couldn’t see anyone. I had things to give him and a paper to sign. I went back later and she told me the same. When she left, Ron Wood was the happiest camper in the world and hugged Rod to bits, and Rod yelled at me for not bringing the stuff earlier and defended Britt, saying she wouldn’t have done that. It happens with bands, you deal with it.
Rod was very tight with money. He would have me run down to the store for various toiletries and tell me to get a receipt. If the total was $19.99, he would go to Billy Gaff or one of the lads and borrow the money to the penny. Never a twenty and keep the change. (Britt did write of the same thing happening to her in True Britt, how Rod didn’t carry a wallet and she had to pay for everything when they were out, however, he always paid her back, to the penny.)
The band did, indeed, get paid cash for all the gigs in the early days. Reason? Checks bounced! Get your money after the ticket sales! Gaff would have to put the money in the hotel/motel safe until the next day when he could get to the bank.
Oh, and in Detroit, my business partners and I invented the ledge walk to scare the daylights out of Ron Wood. It worked! Rod nicked to it and told us to stop it! And, in those days, Peter Buckland was great fun, but not insane. Plus cake icing, when artfully added with a plastic knife, greatly enhances flowers on paintings… And, although I saw many a little man peeking over and out of things in a Kilroy Was Here manner, I never saw a penis, so this must also have started during the arena tours in 1975.
After early 1975, I lost permanent touch with Rod, so the rest of the book proved interesting, but taken with a grain of salt by me. I will say that Rod’s rules of raising children did, indeed, reflect his life of the road. Many a time I had to use the combo of first and middle name to get a naughty person’s attention and adapt the art of smacking the back of hands to stop them from, as an example, throwing rolls at each other in restaurants. The ‘mom’ approach worked with all the bands as, on the road, they are a bunch of little boys. So, if you find Rod’s rules a bit appalling (the bucket can also fall with the water and do a head injury), it was just that Rod was never a man, he will always be a boy.
Sometimes I read a musician's autobiography, and I like him/her more afterward. Other times, as with this one, I'm left wishing I hadn't read the book at all.
This felt more like bragging rights than telling the story of his life. I learned Rod Stewart is an unapologetic womanizer who loves football (soccer to those of us in the U.S.), trains, and flashy cars. And that's about all I learned.
Stewart comes from a modest family that appeared to be lower middle class. Yet, when his career takes off, he makes no mention of his family's reaction. Did he help them out financially? Were they happy for him? Were they envious? None of this is ever talked about. Aside from mentioning his brothers and father in the context of football, we learn nothing about their relationship.
There is an entire chapter on his hair. Granted, it's a short chapter and perhaps meant to be comical, but I did not need that much information on his grooming habits. There is also an enormous amount of football talk. I got the point that he loves the sport without the endless pages on the topic.
He takes us through all his relationships, with the women he lived with, married, and cheated with. He makes a point of letting us know they were all young and supermodels. Some had children already, so he briefly played stepfather. He also had a bunch of kids of his own along the way. (I lost count of how many.) Yet, aside from him pointing out what a big part he played in each of their births, it's like they didn't exist afterward. Was it hard for him to leave them when he toured? Did he take them? Did he ever see them after divorcing their mothers? After reading 400 pages, I don't know the answer to any of these questions.
I would hope there is more to Rod Stewart's life than the self-important fluff he writes about here. Though it says a lot about the man that this is what he chose to share.
on November 20, 2012
Excellent. Mr. Stewart comes across as an honest man. One who recognizes his impact on the world. He realizes his mistakes and bares them boldly. A story well told of a life well lived. Most enjoyable.
on November 20, 2012
I felt like I was sitting in his living room in England in front of a fire with his whole family and Rod telling the strory of himself.
Not to many people can do that. To put it plainly,I just enjoyed the hell out of it. I'm 73 years old and can relate to all of his
later stuff and the many fantazys??? he has gone thru.
on April 21, 2016
Rod Stewart is the luckiest man in the world. And he knew it. His words. He still wakes up every day and thanks his lucky stars for the life he has led. He is also a very entertaining writer. A very glib, easy-going writing style -- it slides by without unnecessary words or serpentine meaning. And he knows how to use a summation sentence to start each paragraph, so you never have to re-read anything or ask yourself `What is this numnut trying to say?` He's self deprecating, and zero ego driven self-absorption is evident. There's much in it about his love life, which I appreciated. 3 wives plus 2 long term sig-others later, you do start to wonder if he will ever realize that his penchant for tall gorgeous blonde models in their early 20's may have had something to do with things eventually not working out. Really though, if you are also of the male persuasion, who likes tall gorgeous blonde models in their early 20's? (You can't see it, but my hand raised...).
I could have done without the details of his soccer(football) experiences, it being one of his passions and all. But he had the forethought to contain it in a few dedicated chapters titled `Digression` so it was easy to skip through it without missing anything else. But mostly Rod's autobi is about the music, and this is critically important to me. I was never a Rod superfan, but as a rocker I always liked what he put out along the way -- always a mixture of a lot of styles that only the rock idiom can do. It was about musical blends. I loved the details of how songs got written, who was playing what, and why the arrangements came together as they did. Too many Rock Stars tell you all the details about what happened to them, but not what it all meant. Only the evolutionary details of the music, and the times in which it was created, can explain what it all meant, and Rod digs deeply into his professional life in this regard. Very cool.
Of course, you also learn all the incredible long shots and lucking strokes that had to come together make a Rod Stewart. And there were plenty of them, most not the slightest bit obvious to Rod as they happened: `If you expect to get anywhere in the music business, son, you're going to have to get that raspy buzz out of your voice!` And on from there. By the end of this delicious autobi you agree with him -- he is without a doubt, the luckiest man in the world. At least the luckiest Rock Star. In addition to all that, he delivered something in his Rock Star autobi that few others have: Interesting writing!
on April 26, 2013
Not a bad book but it is clear he has a very narrow perspective of events/things in his life. It seems he has matured into a better person, but could have been more open about why it was so easy to move from one relationship to another.