Album: Every Picture Tells a Story
. . .
So how did Rod follow “Maggie May” — a song with a mandolin solo for the ages — on Every Picture Tells a Story? With an entire song about mandolins! And the wind they make!!
Well, that’s not entirely true, as “Mandolin Wind” is really a heartfelt love song.
When the rain came I thought you’d leave
‘Cause I knew how much you loved the sun
But you chose to stay, stay and keep me warm
Through the darkest nights I’ve ever known
If the mandolin wind couldn’t change a thing
Then I know I love ya
For much of its running time, “Mandolin Wind” eschews the idea of momentum: each verse is a self contained unit, starting up with a couple of strums of a mandolin, accompanied by an acoustic guitar and a twinkling pedal steel guitar. And, of course, Rod’s sad sweet voice.
Oh, the snow fell without a break
Buffalo died in the frozen fields you know
Through the coldest winter in almost fourteen years
I couldn’t believe you kept a smile
Now I can rest assured knowing that we’ve seen the worst
And I know I love ya
I love love love “coldest winter in almost fourteen years,” which is both weirdly specific and a bit vague. And I always wonder how he knows that. So maybe it was the coldest winter in thirteen years and eleven months? Or fourteen years and three months?
And of course, none of that matters when halfway through the song, Mickey Waller comes in with a tambourine, and there’s a mandolin, pedal steel and acoustic guitar hootenanny that is almost as poignant as Rod’s vocal. Almost. Because nothing is as poignant as his vocal on the last verse.
I recall the night we knelt and prayed
Noticing your face was thin and pale
I found it hard to hide my tears
I felt ashamed I felt I’d let you down
No mandolin wind couldn’t change a thing
Couldn’t change a thing no, no
Ooh, ooh, ooh
Those last round of “ooh ooh ooh” are off-the-fucking-charts heartbreaking. But, of course, Rod Stewart couldn’t leave it at that, so after you’d assume that the song is just about over, Waller sneaks in again, smashing his drums as Rod sings “and I love ya” over and over again until the fade. It’s a weird choice, but it totally works, though I could see where people might think it ruined the mood he’d set.
According to the Wikipedia page on “Mandolin Wind,” there is some dispute on who played the mandolin on “Mandolin Wind.” Some sources have it as Ray Jackson, who played the mandolin on “Maggie May,” which seems the most logical, but others have it as Martin Quittenton, or even Davey Johnstone, prior to joining Elton John’s bad. Hell, maybe it was that session guy from the 1960s who had disappeared, Jimmy Page.
“Mandolin Wind” was never a single, though it was on the b-side of the “I Know I’m Losing You” single, and I think it’s gotten a lot of airplay on oldies radio, as it absolutely should.
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