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MAY 10, 2009 12:57AM

When Rock Goes Bad (part 2): The Rod Stewart Disaster

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Part 1 of When Rock n Roll Goes Bad can be found here

Editor's Note: The staff here at Crimes Against Rock are defeated, broken, and ill. After our analysis of Rod Stewart’s career, and the aborted analysis of the  Jefferson Airplane>Jefferson Starship>Starship travesty, staff and interns began displaying strange, violent, and erratic behavior.


The beer doesn’t work anymore. Nothing works anymore. Most are suffering from what is known as “the musical bends.” We have set up musical decompression chambers where affected members are fed a steady diet of the MC5s, Carl Perkins, Soundgarden, and Patti Smith in order to readapt to normal life. It is clear we pushed ourselves too hard after the Meatloaf investigation. Analysis of the Doobie Brothers and the Mick and Bowie tragedy in part 1 seems to have driven some people over the edge. We ask that your prayers go out to staff and family as we rehabilitate, and learn to live in the world again.  

Here now is part two of When Rock Goes Bad

      Rod Stewart is not sexy and neither is his craptastic music

                                       do ya think

                                                    No. No we do not. 

A few years ago I was in the man cave jamming out to Jeff Beck’s 1968 album “Truth.”  My wife burst into the room looking at me with anger and disappointment in her tender eyes. Her lips curled into a sneer, her teeth bared like fangs. “Is that fucking Rod Stewart?” she spat.

I was taken aback, caught off guard. I felt dirty and guilty. You’d of thought she just caught me surfing for porn or overpriced power tools on the intertubes or something.

“Well, yeah, I mean no, I mean, uh—it’s Jeff Beck. Great guitar player. ‘Truth' a cool album. Rod Stewart sang for Beck.” In order to calm my wife, who has long admired me for my refined and impeccable taste in music, I had to explain that Rod Stewart was once a respected and dynamic rock singer. “Really,” I argued, “he was cool once.”

Once. A very long time ago. 

It seems impossible to remember a time when Rod Stewart was cool. Rod Stewart. My god. For most people born during the 70s, Rod Stewart will forever be remembered for sleezy, disposable, disco pop-rock that was the rage during the late 70s and early 80s. Rod Stewart. The name has become a punch line to a joke we long ago forgot. He’s become a living symbol to everything that is unholy and wrong with rock n roll.

It wasn’t always this way. Rod Stewart began his career with much promise and vitality. He was the lead singer in an early version of the Kinks (The Ray Davies Quartet). “Rod the Mod” went on to perform in the R&B outfit Shotgun Express during the middle 60s with Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green.  

And then he landed the gig as front-man for one of the greatest guitar-slingers of all time: Jeff Beck. The Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart released two of the fiercest blues rock albums of the late sixties with “Truth” and “Beck-Ola."

One of the greatest ironies in rock n roll history is that shortly after Stewart joined Beck’s group, Jimmy Page found himself reforming the Yardbirds (soon to be Led Zepplin) and initially wanted Stewart as a singer. One imagines Robert Plant occasionally calling Stewart just to thank him for joining Beck’s band


"Thanks Rod for not being available for Zepplin. I will always be awesome, and you will not." --Robert Plant

After parting ways with Beck in 1969 Stewart recorded a couple of good and well respected solo albums before falling in with Ron Wood and a few of the lads from the Small Faces. This eventually became The Faces in 1970. The Faces were a good rock band. There was an insouciant, rollicking, and booze-soaked attitude to the Faces that made them fun, and garnered them a devoted live following.


                          "I didn't always suck!" --Rod Stewart

It is therefore something of a mystery why Stewart, who had heretofore been involved with quality bands and music, checked into the Sucktown Hilton after leaving The Faces. By the late 70s Stewart was mister disco Hollywood, shaking his ass in spandex to truly despicable music.   

Through the 80s Stewart furthered his status as a joke and a has-been with awful release after awful release. Stewart attempted a critical comeback with a popular cover of “Downtown Train” in 1990, but only succeeded marring the good name of Tom Waits (although I’m sure Waits appreciated the royalty checks). The time for apologies had long past. Rod Stewart was officially anathema to the good name of Rock.


 "I want my song back Stewart. Don't make me go ninja on your ass."

Why? The question keeps popping up. Why damnit? Why would someone blessed with one of the most killer rock n roll voices ever, piss away his talent? The timing of Stewart’s move to suck-o-rama certainly correlates with his move to L.A. Coincedence? It is clear that L.A. in the late 70s and 80s was a coolness black hole, as far as music goes. We have reached a tenuous hypothesis that the problem stems from something Pablo Escobar put in the coke during this era, but further research is needed.     

A few months after getting caught listening to Stewart by my wife, I received a phone call from my Mother.

“Honey, I know what you can get me for my birthday.”

“What’s that Mom?”

“That Ron (sic) Stewart has a CD of classic songs.”

“Oh. You mean Rod Stewart ‘The Great American Songbook.’”

“Yes, yes, that’s it.

“Well Mom, there are plenty of great versions of Gershwin, Carmichael, and Berlin songs out there, why don’t you let me compile a ‘best of’ compilation for you.” I was actually looking forward to hunting down good versions of The Great American Songbook.

“No, everyone here (West Palm Beach, i.e 'oldtimeytown') is raving about this Ron Stewart. I want that one.”

I closed my eyes and grimaced. When my Mom likes a musician it is time to perform last rights on said musician. She spent the sixties rocking out to Englebert Humperdink and Wayne Newton so Mom's musical taste is, how shall I put this, questionable. “Fine Mom. Fine. Rod Stewart."

But it wasn’t fine. Now Rod Stewart has soiled and desecrated the Great American Songbook.

So now, if you happen to find yourself at a Rod Stewart concert, you might find yourself praying for a meteor crash while Stewart wipes his ass on your ears with a melody of “Hot Legs> As Time Goes By> Do Ya Think I’m Sexy> Stardust.”

--MJwycha, Crimes Against Rock

Rod Stewart circa 1972 with the Faces. This is good. 
Rod Stewart's 1978 disco hit "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" This is not good. Not good at all. May Cause "musical bends". Listen at your own risk. 

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MJwycha - yes!!! I have contemplated writing about this very thing more than once. I just LOVE early 70's Rod Stewart. "Every Picture Tells a Story", "An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down", "Lost Paraguayos". My girlfriend in college and I used to listen to Rod Stewart and talk about how very hot he was. We ignored all the disco crap, but I don't think I can forgive this Great American Songbook nightmare. The only thing worse I can imagine would be Bob Dylan singing Cole Porter. At least that hasn't happened - yet.
Rod was OK until he started prancing around singing about his alleged sexiness.

MJ! Sorry the beer's not working any more, buddy, but you're giving me a fantastic education - Rod Stewart could have been in Zeppelin? I can hardly wait to share that trivia with my son! I remember Stay With Me - I just didn't know Stewart sang it.

Just don't go messing with Englebert Humperdink. He sings me to sleep after the lovin'. I'm kidding... I just like saying Englebert Humperdink.

Thanks for the Mother's Day present MJ. Keep the posts coming; you're doing important work here.
Really your crimes against rock series is the funniest thing on OS.
"Rod Stewart. The name has become a punch line to a joke we long ago forgot. " - my head hurts from laughing so hard.

But I have fond memories of Gasoline Alley b/c it was my first rock album, after graduating from the Bay City Rollers.
I liked this post, there were some interesting things to consider. Here are my thoughts; some of them might sting a little, but I hope not too much.
1) Patti Smith is no cure for "musical bends"-- all that woman's music ever made me wanna do was jump out of a window to get away from it. I liked her better when she reinvented herself as Chrissie Hynde, and wrote interesting music and was in a band that could actually play. AND she could sing too.
2) I am cracking up, trying to get a mental (and aural) picture of Rod Stewart singing for Led Zeppelin!! Things that might have been... along with unicorns, dragons, and Pushmi-Pullyu's, lol.
3) For the longest time I thought that song was called "Downtown Trine", due to Rod's horrible enunciation. (Apologies to Tom Waits-- I'm sure the original song wasn't so awful, but I can't stand to hear that song any more.)
4) L.A. as a "black hole" for cool music... you might have a point there, as far as British musicians are concerned. The great Dusty Springfield moved to L.A. in the late 70's to further her singing career, which instead headed straight for Suck Central.
5) I'm glad your mom never decided to investigate the music of Tom Jones! He totally owns Englebert and Wayne where coolness is concerned. Looked better in a chest-bearing shirt too!
6) You will never, ever, find me at a Rod Stewart show. Not after that strange, sad appearance he made on "American Idol" a couple of years ago. That was so painful to watch, it wasn't funny.
7) My favorite Rod Stewart song is "You Wear It Well". I first heard it when I was 6 or 7 years old and living in England in the early 70's. It was always playing on the radio, and he appeared on a few TV shows too. He was sooo cute back then! And he could sing.
dustbowldiva--"Every Picture Tells a Story" is a flat out classic. It really is a shame...he could have had a good career...he coulda been somebody, to paraphrase Brando.

Vonnia--yup. Although I will add that it is perfectly acceptable for a rock star to sing about being sexy. As long as they don't do it over disco beats. And they don't wear spandex. Never spandex.

annette--glad you're getting something out of all our misery! :) Oh and by the by: I could say Englebert Humperdink all dang day. It really is fun to say.

Stella--Comedy is sadly what Stewart's career has become. It took me a while to convince my wife that he really was once cool.

Sandra--Thank you for the really nice comment. It means a lot. I've said it before, oftentimes these musical humor posts seem to write themselves!
MJ, bless you my son, and a hearty Amen! I won't go so far as to say Rod Steward Must Die (offends my better nature) but I will say he needs to have his arthritic ass whooped by Richard Thompson, which could well have the needed therapeutic effect. And you know, while reading this I was feeling a lot like I was reading something by Donald Fagen, who could at least stand around and urge Thompson on and collect bets. The nightmare continues, but you've done your best. Kudos!
You're right about the rock music of the late seventies, early eighties. It was teflon coated. Music today is better, lots better. Better than the sixties, even. There are so many great songs now, the compositions informed by all that has gone before. Now is a great time to be a music listener.
I've most always liked Rod Stewart, except for "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" Horrible song! It's all about his raspy voice, love it!!! His best was with Ron Wood, "Stay With Me," "Cut Across Shorty" and many others. Later loved "Mandolin Wind" and "Young Turks." He should have stayed with Ron and left the sexiness alone. He is definitely not sexy!!! He was great in concert though. LZ thing is very surprising, never heard that.
Another perfect diagnosis, Dr. MJ. No one would have cared that he puked and died if he hadn't been so damn cool for a while. I have "Every Picture Tells a Story" on my i-pod, (Truth, too). It was, we thought, a guy beginning a distinctive career with an original blend of Brit-folk, blues-rock so well suited to that voice. Little did we know. I must have been about 14 when Maggie May and Reason to Believe filled the airways. I am amazed at the music you cover in this series. I long thought I was the only one who still gave a rat's ass about such things. You are the man!

I hope a whole generation discovers the mad genius behind Tom Waits and Jeff Beck and others who soared above the crowd by finding their own ways along their musical journeys. Thank you for your tireless efforts, which I understand have been conducted at no small risk to your own mental health.

Young man, you just might save the world.
Zazacat--I'm going to have to disagree with you about Patti Smith. "Horses" is great.

AJ--thanks for commenting. I'm not sure a butt kicking would have worked--he should have just stayed away from LA.

Rich--You are right, it is a good time to be a music fan. Lot's of quality music out there.

Just Pamela--He definitely should have stayed with Wood.
The Zepplin thing I read in a bio of Zepplin called "Hammer of the Gods." Stewart was the best and most in demand vocalist in England in the late 60s. The first person Page thought of when he was reforming the Yardbirds was Rod Stewart. The lack of good and available vocalists forced Page to seek out a newcomer--like 19 year old Robert Plant. Thank God.
Thanks for the words of support jimmymac! It's a dirty job but someone has to do it.
All the weird inside stuff in rock n roll is interesting and oftentimes funnier than fiction.
You missed Stewart's finest hour as a guest coach/judge on American Idol ;0) It can go lower than disco.
the way he has work jewellery is the Indian way but only women would wear the one around the waist. Bajubandh tho was worn by men too in ancient times....but point is your post was educative.
would you help me 'read' texts in context sometime please? I think if I knew the time and background it would add another level to my understanding of this genre of music, am especially curious about Rod S, Jimi Hendrix and Doors lyrics.
thanks for this post, the links, am going to go read all of your old ones too. rated.
oops sorry abt the typo : meant to write 'worn' and not 'work' in the first line.
Someone has to get to the bottom of this.. "good rockers gone bad" phenomenon.
Oh, you and I have to have a serious talk.


"It seems impossible to remember a time when Rod Stewart was cool."

It seems "impossible" if you know nothing about rock and roll! Early Rod Stewart - well, he's part of the foundation of rock and roll. Which obviously, you explain but everyone should know that, right?

Now, you're not being fair with the Disco period in my opinion. (It's HIS least favorite phase too, for what it's worth.) But "If you think I'm Sexy" is not a bad song.

Why didn't you find a video of him performing it? Half of the fun of Rod Stewart is watching him get all sexed up while he's singing, like a sexed up crazy rooster guy.

NOW...everything AFTER the disco period is a travesty and a trainwreck. ANY artist who sings standards makes me want to hurl.

Guess what I'm saying in short is:

* Rod Stewart was part of some of the best bands in rock and roll and everyone should know or they shouldn't be allowed to listen to his crappy stuff.

* The Disco phase isn't as bad as everyone makes it. You still have "discoitis." In the same vein, the Bee Gees actually rock and I'll take that to my grave, man.
I wanted your piece to be called "When Good Rock goes Bad."
Yeah, good rockers gone bad...whew there's plethora of 'em out there...Like Grand Funk Railroad...boy, did they take a dive. Rod Stewart never really rang my bell, even with Jeff Beck, although "I ain't superstitious" was an ass-kicker. With the Faces, he never could fill Steve Mariotts shoes. No there was a voice...I still get shivers when I listen to the Small Faces w/ Mariott doing "Tin Soldier"...shit, thst guy had volume & grit. Stewart sold his soul, and whatever respectability he'd garnered during his early career. Primarily, I am sure it was all about the money. As with Peter Frampton, he bit the artistic canvas after leaving Humble much talent wasted on schlock. (BTW, I absolutely loathed "Frampton Comes Alive, so there). "Rod the Odd" made his bed, let him languish in it.
Oh boy, okay Beth, we really do need to talk.

You say: "It seems "impossible" if you know nothing about rock and roll! Early Rod Stewart - well, he's part of the foundation of rock and roll. Which obviously, you explain but everyone should know that, right?"
No, not everyone knows this. An entire generation has grown up only familiar with his latter-day sins. Jeff Beck, the Faces, and Stewart's early albums like "Gasoline Alley" do not have much currency for the average pop music fan born after the 70s. It is worth pointing out that Stewart was once a promising vocalist.

The disco phase wasn't that bad!? Oh no. I can't believe you...I mean I really don't...Oh god. No, it was that bad. It's embarrassing. It's painful.

You know Beth, I thought you were cool. But then you say this. In light of your admiration for Stewart's disco disasters and your disparaging of Pearl Jam, I am seriously going to have to reconsider your cool credentials. I am very disappointed : )
I did look for the original video, but it wasn't on youtube. Most of the other performance vids were lame fan vids. This was the best I could do. Anyway thanks for the comments!

Rolling--thanks for stopping by. I had no idea that was Indian style. Thanks for pointing that out. Glad the post had educational value. I do try to present context--I will keep this in mind for future posts.

Joe Blow--Oh man, don't even get me started with Frampton. You are so right that Humble Pie was a good band. Some guys should just not front their own bands. Thanks for commenting.
[slinking silently out the back door...not holding a copy of the Great American Songbook CD...really]
Sigh. It all went so wrong so quickly.

I may have to lie down. I'm not feeling well suddenly.
I always knew that people could shit bricks, but never LP's! Curious.
I remember when both Rod and Elton John were considered Alternative and only played on underground FM stations. I blame Studio 54 and the duck suit.
Ah, yes, Rod the Bod. Loved Truth, Beckola and The Small Faces. Wore out Every Picture Tells a Story. Two of them.

Rod's an ass, but he is loyal to old friends. When Long John Baldrey, who gave him his "real" start in the business was a long time dying here in Vancouver, Rod visited him many times. That makes up for some of his execrable taste, for me anyway.

I can't imagine him in Led Zeppelin somehow. He was way too bluesy for that.
well....there is a story that aired on VH-1 when Jeff attended a RS show. there he encountered Britt Eckuland who mentioned to Jeff that Rod was wearing a pair of her panties to keep his "bits" in place. Jeff could not contain his laughter and left the building. great article.....but does Stewart appear to be trying out an Iggy Pop pose in the first picture? those trousers...........yikes! had he just gotten a body waxing?
One of the best RS songs has got to be....I Was Only Joking Lyrics
Artist(Band):Rod Stewart
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Print the Lyrics

Send "I Was Only Joking" Ringtones to Cell

(R. Stewart / G. Grainger)

Ever since I was a kid at school
I messed around with all the rules
Apologised then realised
I'm not different after all

Me and the boys thought we had it sussed
Valentinos all of us
My dad said we looked ridiculous
But boy we broke some hearts
In and out of jobs, running free
Waging war with society
Dumb blank faces stare back at me
But nothing ever changed

Promises made in the heat of the night
Creeping home before it got too light
I wasted all that precious time
and blamed it on the wine


I was only joking my dear
Looking for a way to hide my fear
What kind of fool was I
I could never win

Never found a compromise
Collected lovers like butterflies
Illusions of that grand first prize
are slowly wearing thin
Susy baby you were good to me
Giving love unselfishly
But you took it all too seriously
I guess it had to end


Now you ask me if I'm sincere
That's the question that I always fear
Verse seven is never clear
But I'll tell you what you want to hear
I try to give you all you want
But giving love is not my strongest point
If that's the case it's pointless going on
I'd rather be alone
'Cause what I'm doing must be wrong
Pouring my heart out in a song
Owning up for posterity
For the whole damn world to see

Quietly now while I turn a page
Act one is over without costume change
The principal would like to leave the stage
The crowd don't understand
You're offbase with is, mjwycha. Rod Stewart is sexy and some of his weird disco stuff is pure pop perfection. Of course, the Faces and early Rod rocked.

Strangely enough, I'm doing a top ten list of the sexiest men in rock. Rod made the list and I may use the green pants image.

Do ya think I'm sexy?

Yes, Rod...yes, I do.

He struts. Only sexy men strut.
There's a great saying that goes along the line of 'every disaster screams for humour' but this disaster screams for the hangmans gallows! To think Mr Stewart once sang Maggie May, You Wear It Well & the classic In A Broken Dream for Python Lee Jackson, WTF happened!!!! Oh & I love this site...too cool for words!
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