Later this month Rod Stewart will release his new album Another Country, which features 11 songs he wrote or co-wrote, including his great new single "Please." In a recent Rolling Stone feature, he explained the decision to return to songwriting. "I'd done the Great American Songbook albums," he said. "I'd done a soul album. I'd done a rock [covers] album. I backed myself into an alley because there's not much left to do except write." We asked our readers to vote for their favorite Rod Stewart songs. Here are the results.
In the early 20th Century, the Young Turks revolted against Turkey's monarchy and ushered in the Second Constitutional Era, a pivotal moment in Turkish history. Nowhere in Rod Stewart's 1981 song "Young Turks" does he sing the words "Young Turks" and nothing in there even remotely references Turkey. Instead, he sings "Young Hearts." It's lead to a little bit of confusion over the years. It's also a key moment in Rod's career since it showed he had become a genuine 1980s hitmaker and not a Seventies dinosaur unable to adapt to the New Wave era.
A very young Cat Stevens wrote "The First Cut Is the Deepest" in 1965 and saw soul singer P.P. Arnold turn it into a hit two years later, shortly before it appeared on his second LP New Masters. Ten years later, Rod Stewart released his own version of the tune. The song of early heartbreak shot up the charts all over the world and has been a key part of his live repertoire ever since. In 2003, Sheryl Crow did her own version of the tune that became a hit as well.
Rod Stewart never indicates what offensive crack he made to infuriate his lover, but it sounds like it was pretty bad. "What I'm doing must be wrong," he sings in "I Was Only Joking." "Pouring my heart out in a song/Owning up for prosperity/For the whole damn world to see." The 1977 tune was the B-side of "Hot Legs," showcasing his vulnerable side. It was a huge hit, and hopefully it did manage to convince his lady that he was, in fact, only joking.
Rod Stewart completely owned the radio in the late 1970s. He was a singles machine churning out disco, rock and soft ballads that worked across all sorts of platforms. This gentle ode to the "the big bosomed lady with the dutch accent" hit Number Four on the Hot 100 in 1978. He was singing about his girlfriend Brett Ekland, declaring that his love for her was "immeasurable" even though "the attraction was purely physical." They broke up about a year later.
The 1975 tune, written by Gavin Sutherland, was a monster hit in Europe, selling over a million copies in England alone. For whatever reason, it failed to connect in America and stalled out at Number 58. For that reason, he rarely plays it stateside. When he plays it in other countries, however, the crowd sings along to every word.
Some songs have hidden meanings that take years of study to full understand. And then there's a song like "Hot Legs," where basically everything you need to know is in the title. The song is about a woman with great legs that randomly shows up at 3:45 a.m. to surprise Rod Stewart with some late-night sex. "Hot legs, you're wearin' me out," he sings. "Hot legs, you can scream and shout/Hot legs, are you still in school?" That last one is a very pertinent question, but he doesn't seem to be waiting for an answer before getting down to business. Things were different in the 1970s.
The gay rights movement was still in its infancy in 1976 when Rod Stewart released "The Killing of Georgie." Very few mainstream pop acts were writing songs about the subject, but Stewart had a homosexual manager and publicist and wanted to write about their struggles. "The Killing of Georgie" is about a gay man thrown out of his home by his parents. He finds a community in New York, but is killed by a street gang one night after a Broadway show. It's one of Stewart's finest lyrics, and he recently brought it back into his live show.
Rod Stewart released his cover of Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe" as a single in 1971, but disc jockeys turned it over and began playing the B-side instead — something about an affair with a woman named Maggie. Anyway, his cover of "Reason To Believe" didn't get a lot of attention until two decades later when he taped an MTV Unplugged special and brought it back. VH1 put it into heavy rotation and suddenly the song was a huge hit without that pesky B-side distracting everybody.
This tender love song from Every Picture Tells a Story was never a single and was overshadowed by the many hits that Stewart scored solo and with the Faces during this time period. But looking back it's clear it was one of his finest tunes of the era. It's about a guy missing his love after they survived a horrific winter together. As the title makes clear, there's a lot of mandolin in the song. Outside of a single performance in 2010, he hasn't played it since 1993.
In 1961, a teenaged Rod Stewart went to the Beaulieu Jazz Festival with some buddies. It was there that he met an older woman that took his virginity in a beer tent. "How much older, I can't tell exactly," he writes in his 2012 memoir Rod: The Autobiography. "But old enough that she was highly disappointed by the blink-and-you'll-miss-it-brevity of the experience." The memory came back to him 10 years later when he wrote "Maggie May," a highly fictionalized experience of the early sexual encounter. It became his first huge hit and remains his signature song to this day. Rod has no idea if the real Maggie May knew the song was about her.