Rod Stewart Faces the American Dream

Page 5 of 5

"Recording in Australia?" Drummer Kenny Jones's eyes grow large. "He says things all the time, but I've never . . . never heard that one yet." He laughs. "You're the first. I don't know a thing about it."

Jones, diminutive and soft-spoken, has been with the Faces some six years, since their earlier configuration as the Small Faces, that swell little group whose records he remembers with justifiable pride. His self-esteem seems important to Kenny and he takes his job seriously. Onstage he is ever alert, attentive to the moves of every member of the band: ready to accent some gesture of Rod's, watching for one of Woody's telepathic signals to extend a solo. The addition of Jesse Ed Davis on rhythm guitar has altered that interplay, eliminating the holes that formerly existed for Kenny (and everyone else) to fill and, for the time being, making the equilibrium of the set less flexible.

"I don't give a shit where it is, as long as we do it.

"The breakup talk," Jones offers, "is because Rod said it in the paper. It was Rod's creation. Rod's baby, that was. Rod says a lot of things. I mean, in the national newspapers . . . I did an article myself, actually, to be fair . . . In one paper he said, 'If the Faces are gonna split up, it'll be now or never, 'cause this is the closest we've ever been to it.' But he tells some other newspaper, 'I'll never leave the Faces, they're a great band.' Came out the same fuckin' day and everything.

"He just likes to confuse the press," Kenny says, with some confusion of his own. "I think he does it harmlessly . . . jokingly, not realizing that the other side of the fence takes it seriously . . . I suppose it keeps the interest going or something. I don't know. Who knows?"

The next scheduled Faces album, Kenny says, is a "best of" package. It will include, for those who missed it twice as a single, "You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything."

"The one thing I've really neglected the past three months," Britt Ekland says, "is my own career." She sits on a metal folding chair in the locker room of Tucson's University of Arizona Stadium. In another chamber, a lavatory away, the band is tuning for the concert. Daughter Victoria is being interviewed across the room by a college journalist who has happily accepted her in lieu of a Face. At his feet is Britt's camera case, covered with the backstage passes she collects as souvenirs of her travels with Rod; they have been together, she estimates, nearly every hour of the past six and one-half months. (Of her new hobby, Woody has said a bit cattily, "We were all surprised to find out that Britt was a photographer now. But . . . she can take photographs, so . . . once again . . . nothing wrong with that!") While still allotting time to Victoria and two-year-old Nikolai ("That's, uh . . . Lou"), she has devoted the rest of her energy during that period to Stewart.

"It's really worth it. I wouldn't do it if it weren't. I mean, I know how important I am. I am my own product. I have two children and I have a career. But he's, he's really worth it, he's . . . a unique person. I don't think I would say that just because I love him. If you stand out there every night and watch him work . . . He just knocks me out. I think he's incredible. Even when they're down and they can't get anything going and they just go through it, he's still good. He's very consistent. Very consistent person. Very dedicated. He'll sit in that hotel room before a gig, sour faced, thinking what a creepy hole he's in; but once he's out there, it's the most important thing in his life. I admire that."

Rod walks through the room in his preshow white terrycloth robe, stopping to ask Britt, "You lying?"

"No, I never lie," she says, reaching out to touch him. "What you got in your pocket?"

"It's a phone number," he answers, rolling his eyes significantly.

"Oh, yeah?"

"It's Paul Nelson's."

He shucks his robe in the next room and returns to pose for local photographers in his stage suit. Enjoying himself, he blows the whistle he wears around his neck and waves at Britt. "Hi, cutie!" she calls. "Look at you! Yards and yards of silk."

A moment later, she is saying of him, "He's very spoiled. He really is. Like a spoiled kid. 'Cause everybody loves him. They really do, let's face it. He's like my son. My son, he's so pretty and cuddly – he'll throw his arms around you, he loves everybody. It's easy to love somebody like that. Oh, sometimes he's a bit moody, but very little. But he is very demanding."

"And you?"

"I don't think you can be, once you have children. I am when I'm working, I'm very egotistical; but no, I'm not spoiled, I don't think. There's no time for it. If I want something done, I'd better do it myself. Rather than asking other people to do it, and asking them, and asking them again. It's usually quicker to do it yourself." Those who have seen Britt demanding small things be done for her – a glass of wine to be poured and brought, say, from a bottle a few yards away – may not hold the same image of her as she does. She was heard to explain why she couldn't fetch her own wine: "Because I'm a lady."

Part of the appeal of traveling with Rod, though, is in discarding some aspects of her familiar role. "I, like . . . well, like, I do his makeup. I take care of things. I like to see that he goes on looking his very best and I worry when I'm not there. In Denver, when I didn't go along, they had me on the phone ten times before the gig, asking, 'How do you put the mascara so you get it so?' They had the makeup ladies from the hotel to do it but they didn't know how. It's . . . kind of nice. Makes you feel . . . needed." She giggles self-consciously. "I enjoy that. I enjoy being this . . . person who belongs to another person and not a . . .  movie star. I can just . . . be someone else. It's really nice . . .

"When we met, it was suggested that it was a publicity stunt. I was very shocked. My God, how could anyone think that? I mean, not from my side. Whenever you see a picture of us in print, it's either 'lovely Britt Ekland and ex-gravedigger Rod Stewart,' or . . . the other way around. I don't think much about it. When we appear in public, that's okay; but when we don't, I like us to be private.

"We have had offers – it's the obvious thing, isn't it – for us to do films together. Yeah, he's . . . he's . . . you just know he could, I mean, he's really talented." She clucks her tongue. "I'm so pro him it's ridiculous but . . . If you know him, you have to be. He could do it, but I think it would be a mistake right now. I think he should stay out of the movie industry, he should stay out of the talk-show circuit, he should just really be what he is. Doing the records he wants to and doing this. He should have a little mystery about him. He shouldn't be that accessible to the Beverly Hills circuit, like a lot of rock stars are today. You know which ones I mean. I don't think that's good.

"I suppose we are a fairly interesting couple. I guess we are, or people wouldn't want to write about us or photograph us. That's okay. I don't mind. I think my life is really exciting. As long as . . . as long as you don't have to work hard for it, or . . . give up anything that you really want to do. It is necessary. It is part of the job one's doing. It is important that people should know about you. Obviously they think that your life is a little more exciting than theirs, otherwise they wouldn't want to read about you. And if it isn't – you should make it a little more exciting."

In the rehearsal room, the Faces are having their nightly preconcert jam. Kenny beats time with aluminum sticks on a rubber practice pad fitted over his snare. Mac Plays a portable keyboard. They do "Tracks of My Tears," with Rod standing next to the guitars, head thrown back, bent like a convex pole, legs moving in a standing puppy trot. Motown gives way to Muddy Waters, then a Chuck Berry riff asserts itself. Woody takes the opportunity to run over some tricky fingering with Jesse, who is still learning subtleties in the arrangements. Charlie, the road manager, keeps popping into the little room, blowing a whistle and shouting, "Come on let's go!" to little effect. Rod and his whistle duet with him. It's taking Charlie longer each night to get them out of the dressing room. The band is having too much fun now, and besides, as Woody yells into Charlie's ear, this is an important rehearsal. But the moment inevitably comes and then the Faces troop in darkness to the stage, where they're greeted by the blare of David Rose's "The Stripper."

Tucson's show is a corker. The Faces are presented at true worth and their worth is much more than most groups. They have something to say and are sure of themselves but never arrogant or overconfident. They look so delighted when their moves draw shouts – as if pleased to see these simple tricks still work. It's partly as if they've taken the aggressive hedonism of the Stones and tempered it with their own good humor, played with it and presented it as a reflection of the audience. Their "messages" are basic ones that need restating from time to time: that it's all right to have a good time, all right to move your body below the waist, all right to look pretty and bat your eyes, all right to hug your friends, all right to clench your fist, all right to rock & roll. "All right," as the Stones said, "all night long," and as the Faces say, "All right for an hour."

This story is from the November 6th, 1975 issue of Rolling Stone.

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