Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rod Stewart Dead at 33 [Updated]

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 10:31 AM

click to enlarge Rod Stewart: 1945-1978
  • Rod Stewart: 1945-1978

Most of you don't know this, but former Faces singer Rod Stewart died mysteriously in 1978, his death initially made evident upon the release of the disco-infused Blondes Have More Fun LP--if you've ever wanted to hear what the soul being sucked out of a man sounds like, then I recommend giving it a spin. Since then, the devil himself has channeled his messages through the zombified golden pipes of the English rocker. The proof is in the pudding.The Anakin Skywalker of rock singers, Stewart was blessed with perhaps the finest voice ever bequeathed to a white man--some guys have all the luck--yet has spent the lion's share of his career using those God-given powers for evil instead of good, singing unspeakably sappy vapid crap. At "64" his voice is still pitch-perfect and the amount of great music he could've made, but didn't, is criminal. Consequently, he is one of the most critically maligned figures in rock history: the archetype of the commercial sellout. This point was best made by legendary rock critic Greil Marcus who once said: "Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart; rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely."

Since Stewart's outright soullessness has long since been established by nearly every rock critic to come before me, you might wonder why I've now decided to throw my hat into the ring of condemnation. The answer is simple: After three decades of slobbering on Satan's salty, sweaty ballsack, Stewart was recently given a brief opportunity to redeem himself--if only for a night--and he totally blew it.

click to enlarge Seriously.
  • Seriously.
I'm talking about his absence from the one-off Faces reunion performance on Sunday. The concert--a benefit for the Performing Right Society--was held at London's Royal Albert Hall and featured original members Ronnie Wood, keyboardist Ian McLagan, drummer Kenny Jones and former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman--in for the late, great Ronnie Lane. Sounds promising, right? Wrong. You haven't heard the worst part yet: In Stewart's absence vocal duties were handled by a slew of guest performers including Simply Red's Mick Hucknall, Kiki Dee and, wait for it...Spice Girls' Mel C. Yes, you read that right, and yes, that is a little bit of throw-up you're tasting in your mouth. Fucking Sporty Spice was singing for The Faces. Thanks Rod Stewart, you fucking wanker.

[Update: Contrary to what was reported by The Guardian U.K., Undercover, Channel 4, Gigwise, MOG, Spinner and Consequence of Sound, the Mel. C. and Kiki Dee performances were independent of The Faces portion of the show. According to commenters who attended the event and as reported on Clash Music, The Faces performed three songs on which they were joined by Andy Fairweather Low, Paul Carrack and Mick Hucknall. Mel. C didn't sing for The Faces. Thank God.]

(In other news: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" singer Kiki Dee is still alive.)

Seriously though, why is a Spice Girl still famous enough to set foot on the Royal Albert Hall stage, let alone in the company of three Faces and two Rolling Stones? I thought British people were supposed to be smart.

If you're wondering why Stewart was a non-participant, he's claiming it's because he's busy promoting his newest blow against musical heritage: Soulbook--where he treats listeners to vanilla renditions of soul classics. This is, of course, consistent with the model set forth by his Great American Songbook and Still the Same releases earlier this decade. Although I've not yet heard it, I'm willing to bet that Soulbook makes the Michael McDonald Motown tribute records look like Songs in the Key of Life.

click to enlarge What three decades of being under Mephistopheles' control will do to a man.
  • What three decades of being under Mephistopheles' control will do to a man.
The holiday season is just around the corner, which means I'm about to be hearing a whole lot of this garbage when I take a trip home to visit the fam in a few weeks. You see, my parents are Rod Stewart super-fans. Almost to the point of being completists, they celebrate even the darkest corners of the man's catalog, from Tonight I'm Yours to Vagabond Heart, Unplugged...and Seated to the unprecedentedly lame Great American Songbook--an insufferable four-volume collection of Stewart crooning cocktail-party standards that will undoubtedly serve as the background music for all our holiday festivities and family functions until the Rapture comes. Oh wait, we're Jewish and don't believe in the Rapture. Fuck. By virtue of my upbringing, I was subjected to not one, but two Stewart concerts while growing up, and no matter how many incredible shows I've seen in my life--from Fugazi to Springsteen--the pain and trauma remains.

For me, hearing any post-1978 Rod Stewart material--with the exception of the anomalously awesome 1981 cut "Young Turks"-- is like being forced to confront a childhood abuser. The Faces material, as well as any solo record predating Foot Loose & Fancy Free is absolutely timeless, though, and still totally rocks in the face of all Stewart's ladder-career transgressions. It's really a shame that he couldn't escape the clutches of mediocrity for just one night to save the reunited Faces from falling into the hands of the guy who sang that vanilla cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now." To me, this is definitive proof of Rod Stewart's Faustian pact with the devil. Who ever could've thought there was hope for rock 'n' roll?

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