Saturday, November 4, 2017


WhaaaaatTF? Surely a serious muso (sic) site like this wouldn't mess up so big time as the above heading? Rod bloody Stewart, fer chrissake... But hang on, hold that thought for a moment. And of course I know it isn't the original, but, whisper, it's better, an unpopular viewpoint, but still mine. Plus  it came at a time when there was still, just, a smidgeon of credibility in the Stewart cache. I think it initially appeared as a new song on the 'Greatest Hits' compilation of 1989, one of the first CDs I ever bought. A massive worldwide hit as a single, it probably introduced the name of its writer, Tom Waits, to many and certainly then to me. Like many, I then sourced the original, finding Waits' voice a step too far for my sensibilities, a situation that remains to this day, no matter how hard I have tried. But Stewart glides his rasp effortlessly through the sweeping chorus, deservedly winning the Grammy for best male vocalist that year, the richly layered backing pepped by Stewart's one-time boss, in his eponymous group, Jeff Beck on slide guitar.

So what is it with Stewart, a man whose music I had earlier loved, both with the Faces and alone? If 'Greatest Hits' was one of my first CD purchases, 'Sing It Again, Rod' had been one of my first on vinyl. My generation had been endeared of his boozy and shambolic persona, with the uncanny knack of both having a way with his own words and music, and being able to pick plum covers. The rot had seemed to set in with his transatlantic crossing, SWIDT, to be with Britt Ekland. As ever is the way, the fickle british uber-fans took umbrage with his fame and fortune and left him to their wives and girlfriends to enjoy, whose patronage lingers to this day, as my elder sister can testify. The odd gem could still be cherry-picked from his catalogue: the boy could still know a good song when he heard one, although that tolerance became ever more strained by his discovery of the great american songbook. Was he the first rocker to plough this lucrative furrow? Though I doubt we would have been spared Mr Dylans's forays into similar territory, I can think of many who might not have had that thought had Stewart, or his bank-manager, not had that thought first. ( I lie awake in dread of the forthcoming Seal tux'n'tapdancing travesty 'Standards.')

So, too, what is it with Waits, a supremely talented songwriter, whose songs, when covered by other voices, I adore? Am I alone in finding his corncrake throat-clearing anaethema? I sometimes think I must be, my friends and peers all seemingly in awe of him and his deranged Charlie Chaplin meets Charles Bukowski image, with his musical arrangements more of the foundry than the footlights. Or do I troll? (No, which is why I also include, for balance, or proof as I call it, his version of 'Downtown Train' below, with a couple more to take away the taste.)

Everything But The Girl

and Mary Chapin Carpenter

Get some versions here.
Me? I'm heading back under my bridge.

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