Few rockers had so much promise around the turn of the 1970s as Rod Stewart. Blessed with an unmistakable voice and real songwriting ability, Rod the Mod began releasing solo albums in 1969 after a couple of acclaimed years as Jeff Beck‘s lead singer. At roughly the same time, he became the lead singer for the Faces (now without Steve Marriott and no longer carrying the Small prefix). Rod’s first two albums, An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down (The Rod Stewart Album in the US) and Gasoline Alley, were fine efforts with a enjoyable mix of originals and well-chosen covers. Not only was Rod in fine form vocally, but his backing band (a mix of the Faces and other fine English notables) backed him to the hilt with music that was spirited and just loose enough to be fun. Reviewers gave these records fulsome praise and Rod was on his way.
The year 1971 was very good for Stewart. His excellent third album Every Picture Tells a Story became a platinum breakthrough smash and to this day remains very high on “greatest albums” lists. Not only was “Maggie May” a #1 Billboard hit for five weeks (as well as topping the charts in the UK and elsewhere), but several other songs (the title cut, “Reason to Believe”, “Mandolin Wind”, and “I Know I’m Losing You”) quickly became FM staples and even after four decades still get lots of airplay on Classic Rock stations. If all this wasn’t enough, “Stay With Me” from the Faces’ A Nod Is as Good as a Wink… to a Blind Horse also became an FM must-play as well as breaking into the Billboard Top 20. Rod’s presence pushed the Faces’ album to #6 on the Billboard album charts.
After 1972’s Never a Dull Moment, something happened. Rod’s records—both solo and with the Faces—became spottier as he immersed himself in the perks of stardom. Over the next few years he became a tax exile in the US, dumped the Faces, began using increasing-faceless (pun intended) backing on his records, and dallied around with the exquisitely-untalented erstwhile Bond girl Britt Ekland. That nasty old Dark Side was pulling on Rod and he never really tried to resist. By 1978, his journey into evil was complete. Stewarts’s hit singles were devolving into self-parody. He should never have stooped to being a sad copy of Mick Jagger, but he did so with impunity with the Stones-ish “Hot Legs.”