There are so many rock music signatures from so many iconic musicians over the years. Think Mick Jagger’s lips,Steven Tyler’s microphone scarves, Angus Young’s schoolboy outfit, Alice Cooper’s makeup, and Gene Simmons’ boots. I know there are more, but too many to name.
One of those signatures involves Rod Stewart’s rooster head of spiky, blonde, gleaming, sugary hair. “Rod the Bod” as he has lovingly come to be known has had such a varied career.
For well over 45 years Stewart has done his best to keep up with the sounds of the time, whether it be disco, or new wave, or the Great American Songbook he aligns himself with now. Wherever he is there are 60 year old women still throwing their panties at him.
His catalog launched him into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. However, there was a time when Rod Stewart wasn’t all schlock and cheese. He put out some great records in the early 70’s before “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”. And… that song is damn near as good as it gets, but that’s another conversation.
Have you all got it all out of your system? I fully expect that you all might have chuckled when I said Rod Stewart once rocked….. I mean… he was the lead singer in the Jeff Beck Group, he fronted another hall of fame band in Faces, he was stellar, and his raspy voice was perfect for both the sappiest ballads, soulful croons, and to rise above Jeff Beck’s searing guitar. Stewart was born to sing in a bar band and he showcases his strut on his 1971 gem Every Picture Tells a Story.
Stewart’s third solo record was a roots-rock, bar blues style banger. It was loose, jagged, and full of cover songs that Stewart convincingly made his own along with his own penned songs. The title track, written with collaborator Ronnie Wood, chugs along as freewheelin’ as you can be with the top down on a two-lane highway. Stewart pulls Theodore Anderson’s “Seems Like a Long Time” with more of a downward, and thick, haze. He takes Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time”, folds it up, and puts it in his pocket. He removes the funk from The Temptations 1966 single “(I Know) I’m Losing You” and adds his own sneer that fills the air, and while Stewart’s voice is not as powerful as the Temptations, he holds his own with an arrangement that highlights his sandpaper rasp with a tight knit band to accompany him all the way through.
But it’s the first single from the record, “Reason to Believe”, that became the story. And not for that particular song, which is tremendous, but for the B-Side to the single which is quite possibly Stewart’s most famous sing; “Maggie May”. The first-person story of a boy-toy to an older woman became an international hit that propelled the album to the number one spot in multiple countries. It’s infectious sing-along verse is one of the most instantly recognizable ever… and one that once you hear it…. It’s extremely difficult to turn off.
Stewart obviously went on to bigger and better things. Disco in the 70’s, Poppy, new wave in the 80’s with the great “Young Turks” thrown in there. But, personally, I never felt he ever fully realized what could come after Every Picture Tells a Story. Die-hards may disagree, but I believe this gem of a record was his best, and should be celebrated as such.
Editor: This feature on Every Picture Tells A Story is our first in what we envision to be a continuing serious on those heirloom albums which helped build this genre we all love – rock ‘n roll…
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