I’ve just got home from four nights in Melbourne and in between a reunion with a dozen of the best Aussies I’ve ever met, taking in Derby Day at Flemington, playing (and losing) tennis with a long-time rival and catching up with my sister and brother-in-law, I found time to read Rod Stewart’s brand new autobiography Rod.
I’d mentioned on-air a couple of weeks ago on Newstalk ZB that I not only loved Rod’s music, but had much admiration for the man too. “How could you say that about such a hell raising womanizer!?” said Alarmed of Albany via the text machine, but really it’s easy. Rod didn’t woo all those blonde beauties by being a Brad Pitt-esque hunk, he did it in large part by being so ridiculously charming. That charm didn’t just extend to tall, tanned models and actresses – read just a couple of chapters of Rod and it’s clear this is a bloke who blokes like too, be it his soccer buddies, his bandmates or famous cohorts like Elton John or (especially) Ronnie Wood.
I was talking to my sister about the difference between Rod and politicians who lecture to the rest of us relentlessly on Christian morality while privately conducting affairs or sometimes, much, much worse. I was contrasting that with Rod who (not surprisingly) never lectured on morality, has filled his book with a remarkable honesty and is oddly enough, someone I find inspiring.
Whereas Eric Clapton’s equally gripping book’s tales of his infidelity left me thinking how little I now liked Eric, Rod’s book had the opposite effect. I put this down to the fact Rod’s honesty about his failings is coupled with an acute understanding of how charmed a life he’s lived. He is simultaneously humble, grateful and self-aware enough to know both his astonishing talent and his monumental cock-ups. He also grew up.
All of that makes a working-class man who’s driven Lamborghinis for more than 40 years both very real and very relatable. And back to the morality stuff, I’d always got a sense that underneath the boozing, the cocaine-fuelled parties, the hotel-trashing and the shagging, this was an inherently good guy who wasn’t adverse to thoughts of a more spiritual nature. Bare in mind this is a chap whose neck has rarely been seen without a crucifix (even when it wasn’t just the accessory de jour), who covered Amazing Grace round about the same time he wrote about bedding a girl whose name he couldn’t remember (Stay With Me) and chose Curtis Mayfield’s devout People Get Ready as his mid-80s reunion song with guitar great Jeff Beck. He also admits to he and wife Penny finding an unspoken pull into churches where the two of them often walk in for silent prayer.
Rod is funny (his explanation of the prominence his buttocks received in the Da’ Ya’ Think I’m Sexy video is priceless), real, ridiculous, inspiring and self-deprecating. The New Zealand Herald critic said he felt like marrying the man after finishing the book. I don’t know about that, but I’d unashamedly love to hang out with Rod, encourage him to keep songwriting (a skill he’d thought had deserted him but which has recently returned), discuss our favourite Sam Cooke records, get some tips on the art of woo-ing beautiful women, have a couple of beers and crack a few funnies. He seems like that sort of bloke.
The song featured in this edition of The Roxborogh Report is 40 years old and was written by Rod and probably his best friend, Ronnie Wood (who prior to joining the Rolling Stones, was Rod’s bandmate in the wonderfully shambolic Faces. In Rod, Ronnie is always referred to as “Woody” and the two don’t just look like brothers, it’s clear they share a deep brotherly love. This song is early Rod at his very best in that it is not just rock, but is folk, has a bit of soul, has the narrative of country music and the humour of…well, Rod Stewart. This is Lost Paraguayos.