Album: The Rod Stewart Album
. . .
Alright, let’s see if we can set the scene. It’s late 1969, and a few months prior The Jeff Beck Group had released their second album, Beck-Ola, and just after touring that record, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood left Beck and replaced Steve Marriott in the Small Faces, soon to lose the “Small” because neither Stewart nor Wood were as diminutive as the other guys.
But before they record it, Stewart has a solo album to do, having signed a contract with Mercury records in late 1968 for what Stewart says in his highly entertaining autobiography was the price of sports car.
Said solo debut was recorded in the late summer of 1969 with Wood on guitar & bass, Martin Quittendon on acoustic guitar, and Mickey Waller on drums. This core quartet — plus many many guests — would fuel four of the greatest albums in rock and roll history.
But nobody knew that was going to happen in late 1969: after all, Stewart’s pre-Beck solo singles were mostly undistinguished blues, pop or blues-pop. And while the Beck albums were heavy riff-oriented blues rock — even if Stewart always seemed somewhat disconnected from the rest of the band — and the Small Faces were psychedelic brit-pop whimsy.
As it turned out, Stewart’s solo debut — debuting in the U.S in late 1969 as The Rod Stewart Album and the U.K. in 1970 as An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down — wasn’t any of those things. Instead, it was a melange of originals and covers (“Street Fighting Man” wasn’t even a year old, but “Man of Constant Sorrow” went back to 1913) heavy riff songs, folkie laments and even — in the case of “Handbags and Gladrags” — proto power ballads.
Ever seen a blind man cross the road
Trying to make the other side?
Ever seen a young girl growing old
Trying to make herself a bride?
“Handbags and Gladrags” was written by Mike D’Abo — who was the lead singer of Manfred Mann for awhile, though I first came across his name as Herod on Jesus Christ Superstar — who also arranged it and played the evocative piano. And, while normally, I’d probably find the arrangement overbearing, especially at the end with the full orchestration, Stewart sings the utter fuck out of it, especially on the choruses.
They told me you missed school today
So what I suggest you just throw them all away
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old granddad had to sweat to buy
“Handbags and Gladrags” didn’t really sound like anything else on The Rod Stewart Album, but what it did was kind of serve notice that Stewart would pretty much tackle anything, if he liked the song.
Initially, “Handbags and Gladrags” wasn’t released as a single anywhere, but in 1972 it was issued as one in the U.S., where it stalled out at #42.
“Handbags and Gladrags”
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