Album: The Rod Stewart Album
. . .
My favorite song on The Rod Stewart Album is a multi-part keyboard-drenched epic that features one of the most human moments I’ve ever heard on any record. Never a prolific writer, Rod snaked around that by being an ace interpreter, especially of his own songs, where he brought out their soul-baring aspects without ever getting maudlin.
“I Woudn’t Ever Change a Thing” is a prime example of this, an insanely wise look back from a guy who was way too young to be this wise.
I wouldn’t change a thing if I could live it all again
Ah yeah, haha
That opening is just Rod singing over Ian McLagan’s piano, but it doesn’t really last that long, because almost instantly an organ starts soaring over the busy, chugging, ever-soaring rhythm section of Ron Wood and Mickey Waller, both of which are floating lighter than air. Just like Rod, who crams a lot of words into the first verse, some of which were:
Can you remember happy hours
Spent drinkin’ and thinkin’?
We thought we could change the world
And we never, never, never, never, never
Never thought we could get much older then
Rod’s singing of “never, never, never, never, never” perfectly encapsulates both the folly and beauty of being young and having all of the time in the world because you’ll always have all the time in the world, won’t you?
Meanwhile, sticking right there with Rod — practically harmonizing with him — is the organ , played by ::checks notes:: Keith Emerson?
Yup, in the summer of 1969, Keith Emerson was still with his first band, The Nice, and in an interview I found online, Emerson said that Rod Stewart wasn’t even there, but that he mostly jammed with the other musicians because Rod turned up late. Given that Rod has full songwriting credit, I have to assume that Rod Wood, Mickey Waller and Martins Pugh & Quinttendon had already gone though the music with Rod, but who knows?
Obviously, a Rod Stewart session was just a blip on Emerson’s radar, because within a year, he’d team up with Carl Palmer and Greg Lake — who was having a pretty good 1969, as well, — and, well, you know that story.
We were the ones who loved to love
The right to love
We’d bring it on home with the right song
Played at the right time
What happened to the girl that you loved once and left?
Young man, did you break her heart?
Did she live, and did she marry?
Did she ever think on your face again?
Ah, now hold on a minute
As great as Emerson’s cameo was, it was neither the greatest nor weirdest cameo on “I Wouldn’t Ever Change A Thing.” Nope, that would be producer Lou Reizner — the guy who signed Rod to Mercury records for the price of a sports car — who duetted with Rod on the second verse. By this time, “I Wouldn’t Ever Change a Thing” has built and built and built to its first climax, and then dropped back down for the second chorus.
Then as the organ and piano play off of each other, and Wood and Waller play a straight rhythm, Wood leading the charge with some cool bass as Reizner bounces from speaker to speaker with each couplet.
I think what you say is all so right
But I find it hard to jog my memories
(Don’t worry Lou, you may never get another chance, yeah)
Yes, I think what you say is all so right
But I find it hard to move my memories
(Say it again with a lot more feelin’, yeah yeah)
And I think what you say is all so right
But I find it hard to find my memories
(Don’t sing so serious, you make me feel so sad, yeah)
But if I was true to myself
I would probably find it was a tear in my eye
That stopped me from believing you
(Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry)
Rod’s chant of “don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry” is one of the most lovely and supporting and nakedly human moments I’ve ever heard on any record. After that, there is an Emerson-led breakdown just for a second, as Wood, Waller & McLagan instantly rev the song back up.
You know my tongue gets tired
When I think back on all of the things we do
But I wonder if I’ll remember these few precious things
As years pass me by
Ah, when young bodies that grown older
And minds become dimmer
I’ll point the finger back in time
I said I wouldn’t change a thing if I could
If I could, if I could live it all again, yeah
As he’s singing all of this, the song starts collapsing around him — Mickey Waller beating it into submission with his drums — and as it does Rod sings the only thing that could possibly make sense after all that heaviness: “La da da, la da da, la da da, la da da da da da”, which he follows up with one last wistful, “never never never never never never” that you might miss in all of the chaos because it’s clear than “never” is becoming “now.”
“I Wouldn’t Ever Change a Thing” wasn’t a single, or even a cut on Rod’s first album that seems to get a lot of attention, but it’s probably my second favorite Rod Stewart song.
“I Wouldn’t Ever Change a Thing”
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