Rod Stewart Faces the American Dream

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Rod and Britt descend to the Cabaret Lounge, a lavender-lit cavern nearly empty of customers, where a tuxedoed house band is playing "Love Train." They sit down at the deserted bar and order a glass of white wine and a beer, in their mink and satin, in the ghoulish light. A teenaged girl runs up to him, runs her hands over his clothes. "Is it really you, are you really Rod Stewart? God, you're so beautiful!" She tells of missing his concert – the tickets she'd bought blew out the window of her girlfriend's car.

"Ah, yeah," he says, narrowing his eyes and peering with a smile into the past. "How many times I've missed soccer matches that way . . . " Whether or not that's true needn't matter. It might be true. He can imagine it. He can mingle his reality with someone else's.

The girl leaves as Rod writes her a personal message on a cocktail napkin. She returns with her mother. "Mom, this is him, he's the one I'm always talking about. Oh, you're so neat! You're the neatest thing ever to come to this town."

"Oh, Ah dunno," Rod mumbles, loving every second. "Sliced bread . . . "

She leaves for good, replaced immediately by a hearty guy who gives credentials of having partied for two weeks with the Stones during their recent American swing. "That Woody, he must be made outa steel, he was up all night every night, him and Keith both."

"They try and outdo each other."

"Well, Woody's about the greatest guy I've ever met. So down to earth . . . Say, you know, Rod, 'I wanna get lost in your rock & roll' – you really did it to me with that one, Rod."

"Mentor Williams – he's the boy who did the lyrics, and the lyrics are all of that song."

"Hey Rod, that 'Three Time Loser' – You really singin' jackin' off to Playboy'?" He had read this in the Rolling Stone review. Rod laughs. "Paul Nelson didn't miss that one, did he?"

The man lingers for a brief discussion of Sam Cooke's breathing technique ("You know as much about it as I do, mate," says Rod) and then begins to edge away. "Real nice talkin' to you, Rod." He is preparing a parting remark. "You know, Rod – " Britt, staring straight ahead, knows what's coming. "I tell you what, you couldn't get a better lookin' woman."

"Oh," Rod says softly, watching her face as the fellow trots away, "Ah dunno . . . "

"Where did you and Britt meet?"

Rod is sitting in the back of a small Lear jet flying between Albuquerque and Tucson. He glances at where Britt sits a few feet away, near Victoria, and lowers his voice. "Well. Coupla times. In London. Coupla functions, just to say hello to. Then she came to the Forum, last time we played L.A., last March. Did you go? And I took her to the all-night laundry. We watched her bra go 'round in the machine . . . " He laughs at his joke; then, with a serious face, says in even softer tones: "Good person. Knows music very well. She's only been with us for a coupla gigs. She's going back tomorrow. She won't get a chance to see us anymore, unless we do the Forum. That's why I wanted her to . . . just catch these two shows." It's an odd thing Rod seems to be saying, for Britt has been traveling almost constantly with the Faces throughout this tour, missing by her own count only three dates.

Rod and Britt live together in Los Angeles's Holmby Hills, where Rod moved to avoid England's personal income taxes, which can escalate to a staggering 98%. The tax subject is one Rod is eager to discuss. "You know, they don't seem to understand. You only get one bite of the apple. I can't be doing this for the rest of me life. I don't want to do it for the rest of me life. You do an apprenticeship for seven or eight years, like I've done – well, like everyone's done – an' then you earn a lot of money in one year and they want to take 90% away. I mean, I'd stay. Just leave me a little bit; just enough to get by on. But 98% – Christ!

"Inflation there is 35% now. The unemployment figures are enormous. That's why I'm so proud that I've sold . . . I think it's a quarter of a million albums in three weeks. That's ridiculous for England. The average sales for an album there is about 7000. And 'Sailing' has been Number One for three, four weeks now. It's done half a million copies. The last time I sold that many singles was with 'Maggie.' 'Sailing' is like the national anthem over there. It's the Number One single in Holland, in Sweden . . . And they're gonna put it out here. I don't think it's an American single, though. I think 'Three Time Loser' should be the single. Of course I'd love to be proved wrong . . .

"You've never seen one of our concerts in England, have you? I want so badly to play there. It takes on a completely different light there. It's absolute bedlam. Very emotional crowds we play to. Incredible. They know every word of every song. When we do 'Angel' or something like that, they sing it all the way through. I don't sing it. We let them sing it. Woody just strums along. If I was to stop them from singing, I'm sure they'd want their money back." He mentions his huge hit record again. "I just want to get back there and sing 'Sailing.' Let them sing it for us, you know?"

Though Woody and Rod are the only ones faced with the tax dilemma, Stewart thinks the entire band should move to America. "I'd like to keep us all together in L.A. The band's so good now. It's gettin' better every night. You know, we're a lot better together than we ever would be apart.

"It dawned on me last night," Rod says, "how good everybody else in the group is. I can't think of a drummer who can put as much strength into a solo as what Kenny does; he's like Buddy Rich . . . And Mac, Mac's an incredible pianist . . . Tetsu – I mean, Tetsu, some nights, I stand there in awe of him . . .  So I'll tell you what. I'll change me mind from what I said a few nights ago. I'll be as bold as to say that even if Woody does leave – and he should make up his mind sooner or later, though I think genuinely he does want to tour with both bands – even if he did join them, I think I would stay with the band. Find somebody else. Even if Woody does go. I'd miss him. Christ. But I've realized how good the others are . . . "

What of his own career, then, and the pressure to become a soloist, sans Faces – isn't that what Warners wants?

"Yeah. Oh yeah. I think that's what they want. Well they won't get it. As long as the band's there, I'll be there . . .

"I mean, I'd be willing to have a go at a Faces album. If I get another solo album done in December and if we go to Australia and Japan . . . I think we should record there. Australia. There's one incredible studio in Sydney. If we did it nice an' quiet, an' thought about it. I just don't want anyone to be waitin' for it, so they can knock it, which is what's always happened.

"Well, I've got to get one more album out on my own, soon as I can. I owe it to Warner Bros. I just do. There's been so much fuckin' about over the last year . . . I just want to keep them happy. They've done a good job for me. I think so. I've got no complaints against them whatsoever. I mean, I've never really had a record company behind me.

"As for the Faces . . . I think now we've had enough time to think about it, to look back at what we've done, we could create something really good. But someone's got to take the helm . . .

"I'd give anything to produce it. Or even get Tom Dowd or somebody in to produce it for us. I'd do it if I was asked. I really would, and I think I could get an album done in a month. But I gotta be asked. Yeah. Like I said . . . it's not a dictatorship. I can't tell them what to do. They all live their own lives. I'm willing to try."

A formal invitation is necessary, then? Short of that, would he himself consider making the proposal?

"Well . . . " He turns again to the security of the window. "It's far from the time to do it now. I mean, I'd love to do it in Sydney. When we get to Australia . . . "

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