Rod – The Autobiography

by Rod Stewart (Random House Struik, R230)

Three wives, countless girlfriends, seven children and a sprawling train set – the latter has followed him from home to home, country to country.

Rod Stewart has certainly lived since, at 15, his dad gave him a red tasselled Spanish guitar, instead of a much longed for wooden Tri-ang model railway station.

This “leave no knickers under the bed” autobiography sees Rod telling candid tales (often self-deprecating and, surprisingly, funny), dishing the dirt on himself, the music industry and many of those (a long-time mate with Elton John, they had some moments… ) who have crossed his really star-crossed path.

The women – including Dee Harrington, Alana Hamilton, Britt Ekland, Kelly Emberg, Kelly LeBrock, Rachel Hunter and Susannah Boffey, 17-year-old Rod’s first “serious” girlfriend, who gave birth to their daughter (adopted, she eventually came back into his life) – are worth a book in themselves. As for the hair/bouffant, a whole chapter is dedicated to his ongoing spike-athon!

Of late, reportedly, some of the ladies who Rod “loved and left behind”, are about to “take revenge” via a tell all “secrets laid bare” rockumentary. Then again, refreshingly, the man admits that he was never the messiah … more, a naughty and, some-times, pretty callous bloke.

Born to Elsie and Bob Stewart in North London, Rod was their fifth child and his entrance came with a bang – during doodle bug infested World War II.

Bob was a Scottish plumber, hence Rod’s later predilection for some often pretty ghastly tartan gear over the years, plus his lifelong support, along with all the male Stewarts, for Celtic (he has his own seat at the ground).

You may not be a fan, but kudos where it’s due. Like many young lads hanging out in the early 1960s, apart from footy it was music which “captured” Rod’s heart.

Many were called in the 60s and they had their share of the top 10 hits, but few are still around.

In this business, reinvention rules and Rod has had a few, hence, there he was, this past Christmas, rubbing it up with vibrato queen Mariah Carey and trendy rapper Cee Lo. The eclectic threesome performed and turned on the Christmas lights at NYC’s Rockefeller Center.

Music-wise, the 60s/70s was my era. Mention Mick and the boys, Jeff Beck (who apparently, loathed his chart topping hit Hi Ho Silver Lining), Long John Baldry, (Rod’s mentor and great friend), the Small Faces, Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, The Beatles, The Who, Led Zep, Ten Years After, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Fillmore East – I’m there.

Recalling a jamming session in his Jeff Beck Group days (1969), at the Singer Bowl Music Festival in Queens, Rod reels off the names: John Bonham, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Ric Lee, (Ten Years After’s drummer) and Glenn Cornick (Jethro Tull’s bassist) “piled on stage” to jam! Having morphed into Jailhouse Rock. Bonham’s grand finale to this momentous jam, was a striptease, resulting in arrest for indecent exposure…

Reflecting on Billy Gaff, the “mildly spoken Irishman” who managed The Faces (the band Rod Stewart joined after lead singer Steve Marriott departed), he recalls impresario/entertainment entrepreneur Robert Stigwood giving Gaff some advice.

Stigwood had invited Gaff to be tour manager for rock “supergroup” Cream. Gaff said he didn’t think he had the “necessary skills”. Stigwood “paused and replied, ‘Have you ever looked after children?’”

As a summary of tour management, in the days when rock/pop musicians were almost expected to trash hotel suites and then, often high as kites, roll on stage “pissed” as newts, this is spot on. – Sally Scott