Tag Archives: American Pie

Under The Radar: Rod Stewart??


In 2010, The Faces finally reunited after several aborted attempts, subbing Simply Red moptop Mick Hucknall in the Rod Stewart seat and grabbing original Sex Pistol bassist Glen Matlock to stand in for the late, great Ronnie Lane. (Somewhere, Tetsu raised a pint. And then probably a few more…)

In 2010, Rod Stewart released yet another collection of American croooner covers, his fifth, which once again endeared him to housewives, daytime television talk shows and background noise radio. Oh…and probably fattened his wallet by another few million pounds.

Most people who revile the MOR album collections remember Rod as the spiky haired carouser who juggled his own stellar solo career with his stint as lead beverage in The Faces. It was a phenomenal run, albeit a short one, but the influence from Gasoline Alley and Every Picture Tells A Story and A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse continues to live on in bands from The Black Crowes to The Diamond Dogs. Add in The Small Faces and Paul Weller and you can pretty much trace the genealogy of every Britpop band since then.

While Stewart arguably hasn’t been a viable writer since the early 80s, there was a glimmer of hope eleven years ago, a road flare from the tour bus called When We Were The New Boys. Yes, it was a cover album (except for the title track, an American Pie take on his own career), but the covers were from the likes of Oasis and Primal Scream and Graham Parker…and they rocked! Of course he couldn’t sustain it, but the ballads (including covers of Nick Lowe and Ron Sexsmith) were done well. as a longtime fan I was excited that he rediscovered his muse. Now twelve years later, I’m still waiting for another sign.

I really have mixed emotions about his cover of “Ooh La La”. He sings it well, although that song will be forever owned by Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane. One could say that it’s a heartfelt nod to his old bandmate, except that…well, his timing sucks. Lane’s battle with MS was painful and long, and he was far from financially solvent thanks to the mountainous bills that illnesses like that generate. Sure would have been nice if Rod would have covered this when he was at the apex of his stadium dates…or if he had gone back on the road with his old mates. Huge royalties and tour money would have made a major impact upon Lane’s options. But no

I don’t hate Rod Stewart. Hell, I don’t even know Rod Stewart. And lord knows what I would do if someone rolled up to me and told me I could make millions of dollars by transforming myself into…well, the highest paid karaoke singer on the planet. I just feel like I’ve watched a guy with once-in-a-generation talent take the easy road rather than push the envelope.

So it’s quite possible that you did miss this blip on the radar, halfway between “Love Touch” and “Fly Me To The Moon”. I heartily recommend that you grab it – I’ll add in my original review if I can find the damned thing – because “Hotel Chambermaid” and “Rocks Off” and “Cigarettes and Alcohol” and “Ooh La La” are worth the price of admission and then some. And yes, I will hold out hope in my heart that the old rooster has one last hurrah left in him.

If you want to know what all the Rod Stewart fuss was about, try the excellent collection Sessions…or read this.  And if you want to hear a full length tribute to Ronnie Lane, go get Ian McLagan’s wonderful Spiritual Boy (as well as Plonk’s catalogue, of course).

When We Were The New Boys at Amazon.

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Fifty Years Later

poster image courtesy Rock&Rap Confidential

poster image courtesy Rock&Rap Confidential

There are certain dates that will be forever etched into your memory, and unfortunately most of them are associated with a tragic event. People forget birthdays of close friends, some even forget their own aniversary, or they’ll get the date but not the year. But widely shared tragedies etch so deeply into our psyche that you usually remember where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing the moment the news broke. Just about everyone reading this paragraph has a scar from 9/11. Some of you have one for Kurt Cobain. No disrespect for Shannon Hoon, but when the Blind Melon front-man left this mortal coil, there just wasn’t the same impact. Dying of a drug overdose is so passe for musicians that unless you’re at the top of the A-List, it’s just another sad waste of talent.

Even those taken by disease, whether young (Bill Hicks) or older (Frank Zappa), usually don’t “etch”. Losing someone whose art I enjoy and respect will impact me, certainly – I mourn their loss and feel the world is a less interesting place without them. But as time passes and I continue to celebrate their life and legacy through their art, I’m hard pressed to remember the exact date, sometimes even the year, and I don’t have that mental surveillance photo burned in my head. I might have been at home, or in the car, or at work…was I alone? Did I get a call or read it online? I don’t remember. I do remember when Kennedy was assassinated (I remember the teacher, even the kid he yelled at, and my mother sitting in the living room crying when I got home). My John Lennon moment is far more painful; I was older and he meant so much more to me  (Poor House North, crowd stunned in disbelief wandered home in tears. My roommate Dave and I stayed up all night fielding visitors and phone calls).

Maybe it takes a combination of things to register the effect. The person would have to be enormously famous, and I’m talking enormoushere. I remember when Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin and Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix died, and while there were candle-light vigils and front covers of Rolling Stone and lots of songs of their played on the radio…can you name any of the dates? Maybe the person was at the cusp of their fame, maybe they were about to embark down a new road, maybe they were the icon of their generation. Not too many people fit the category.

And no drug overdoses, Elvis excepted – the death would have to be violent. Not too many things are more violent that suicide or murder, but Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke were shot, yet it’s Lennon we think of. Ian Curtis hung himself and Herman Brood took a spectacular swan dive off the roof of the Amsterdam Hilton…but they’re not Cobain and the shotgun. Accidents too; many from Harry Chapin to  Sam Kinison died in a auto wrecks, but it’s James Dean who everyone thinks of first. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane went down, so did Stevie Ray’s helicopter, but when you’re talking plane crashes, only one matters. They didn’t write an anthem about the day the helicopter crashed.

I am not old enough to have been impacted first-hand by the death of Buddy Holly; probably the closest I’ve come to feeling that was the first time I watched The Buddy Holly Storyand felt like I had been punched in the chest. I can tolerate every other bizarre thing Gary Busey has done in his life in return for that wonderful heartfelt performance, and the fact he, Charles Martin Smith and Don Stroud sang the songs and performed the music made it even more special. It’s one of the best music movies ever made and although Busey didn’t win the Oscar (Jon Voight did for Coming Home –  DeNiro, Beatty and Olivier were the other nominees), Joe Renzetti did for his score based upon Buddy Holly’s music. (Joe also was involved with The Idolmaker, a little known movie about the creation of teen idols featturing a phenomenal performance by Ray Sharkey…but I digress). I did enjoy La Bamba, and although I haven’t seen a Big Bopper movie I’m sure I will enjoy that too if it ever comes to pass. Ritchie Valens was a talent on the rise and a great loss, but Buddy Holly changed music with his vision and accomplishments.

Don McLean’s “American Pie” might be one of the most overplayed songs in rock’s hallowed halls, but at the time it was both a fun exercise in cryptology and a reminder of how fragile life is. You should never take anything – or anyone – for granted. I know there are many who truly did feel this was “the day the music died”.

But we’re here, fifty years later, and so is the legacy. Pay tribute to Buddy Holly today by playing his music. And if you haven’t seen The Buddy Holly Story

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