Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Rod Stewart - "My Way Of Giving"

On his early albums, Rod Stewart was a unique, terrific interpreter of others' material. He delivered master versions of songs written or made known by artists such as The Temptations, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bob Dylan. Perhaps the oddest cover he did was "My Way Of Giving", a song originally done by The Small Faces. Because at the time of Gasoline Alley, from which this tune is lifted, Rod was a member of The Faces - the band The Small Faces evolved into after Steve Marriott left and Stewart and Ron Wood joined. The Small Faces version of the song is two minutes long, a wonder of blue-eyed soul and superb backing vocals. Rod's version is four minutes long and his vocal is conversational and intimate where Marriott's had been restrained and cool. By the end of his version, Rod is attacking the vocal with ebullient whooping and brings the band into the whoosh, only to have it end with simple, touching keyboard notes.

Oh, and that band? Not the typical Mickey Waller, Martin Quittenton, Pete Sears band that showed up on those early Stewart albums, but members of The Faces - Kenney Jones, Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane instead. (Needless to say, Ronnie Wood was on a track no matter who the rest of the band was.) So we have Rod Stewart covering a Small Faces song and the bass, drums, and keyboards all come from the guys who played on the original. Members of the Faces would show up on other songs on Stewart albums two-through-four also, one wonders how these songs - and especially "My Way Of Giving" - ended up on Stewart solo albums rather than Faces albums. As I have found zero info on this in my research, I like to imagine that Stewart album vs. Faces album involved coin flips or card games.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Kiss - "Hard Luck Woman"

In last week's post, I theorized that Bonnie Tyler responded to music industry demand for more Rod Stewart mid-tempo hits. A year before this Kiss, ever the savvy businessmen, had pulled the exact same move. In this case Paul Stanley actually wrote the song with Rod Stewart in mind as the artist who would record it. Then he realized his own band should record and release it, because: 1) How many ballad hits could a band like Kiss come up with? "Beth" had been a monster hit earlier in the year, and wouldn't "two-point-five" be the over/under mark? I'm sure Stanley and Gene Simmons hired some market research whiz to find out how much money the band stood to make in the girls-who-like-the-slow-songs demographic; and 2) It wouldn't be very Kiss-like to hand away a song that had potential to make even more money for the band as their hit to an AM Top 40/FM AOR rival like Rod Stewart. Royalties vehicle? Forget that!

So what we have in "Hard Luck Woman" is (apologies, but I am simply going to cut-and-paste some words from last week) a raspy vocal and simple acoustic-guitar-and-rhythm-section a la early Stewart. Part of me loves to imagine that when Paul Stanley wrote this (and when I imagine classic-era Kiss doing anything away from the stage like recording tunes or writing songs … I still see them in complete makeup), he was daydreaming and thinking: "The Faces are packing it up and Ronnie Wood is joining the Stones. Maybe Rod will be looking for a new songwriting partner? Time to drop this teenybopper costumed nonsense and become a serious artist. Me and Rod … Rod and me! Why not me??"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Tuneage
Bonnie Tyler - "It's A Heartache"

Rod Stewart. By the time I was aware of Rod, he had hits like "Tonight's The Night" and "You're In My Heart" that I always found depressing and soon he moved on to songs that were so aggressively bad like "Hot Legs" and "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" that they must be considered hostile. And if anybody remembers the song "Passion" … well you know why it took me until circa 1990 to embrace any of Rod Stewart's music. Then I found out about his early greatness and landed where I still am today: I only listen to his first four albums (plus his brilliant cover of "What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)" from that sam era) and can never get myself to move past 1972's Never A Dull Moment.

But apparently in the mid-seventies, when he skyrocketed to superstardom, there was a need for more Rod Stewart product, and Bonnie Tyler responded. "It's A Heartache" has a raspy vocal and simple acoustic-guitar-and-rhythm-section a la early Stewart. I was surprised when researching reading up on Wikipedia about this song that it was also a huge country hit. Because to this day I have it is permanently wired in my brain as an AM Top 40 hit like those mildly depressing Stewart songs. Also, any listen to this song reminds me of a relative who once said Bonnie Tyler's voice "is as good as John Denver's." I kept my mouth closed but thought "wha??"