Rod sells out… well sort of
By the late ‘70s, Rod Stewart was becoming ever marginalised by popular music. Punk, disco, and all that electronic warfare known as New Wave, were beginning to take their toll on many an aging rocker, and Stewart, in this respect, was no exception. Yet unlike the majority of rock musicians from the ‘50s, the ‘60s generation of performers were far better at adapting to the latest trends in technology and fashion, thus not only remaining relevant, but also as a way of keeping the money rolling in.
1978’s Blondes Have More Fun was Rod’s most mediocre effort to date, however thanks to the disco-rock single “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?,” the album sold in the millions, despite the complaints of some longtime fans who thought the singer had sold out. But hey, if The Rolling Stones could get away with disco (“Miss You”), so could Rod. And that he did, in spades.
Now, with the likes of Nicky Hopkins and Duane Hitchings (piano), plus Gary Grainger (guitar), Carmine Appice (drums), along with Tom Dowd and Andy Johns behind the mixing desk, one would have thought that Stewart could have produced something a little more substantial. But this is a pop record after all, and ought to be taken as such.
Logically the album opens with “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy,” the song which finally put Rod on dancefloors around the world, making him a multi-millionaire in the process. To be fair, the tune is intelligently constructed, even if it ultimately fails to put much of a permanent dent on the listener’s memory.
He phones it in on “Dirty Weekend,” a bit of fun but forgettable smut-rock that’s about the closest to his earlier years as lead singer of The Faces, before crooning over past loves on the feel-good “Ain’t Love A Bitch.”
While Stewart was never truly one to take himself too seriously, on Blondes Have More Fun he seems little more than a parody of his former self as a Faces member, a band that really knew how to have fun. “The Best Days Of My Life” is a gentle, relaxing love ballad in the vein of “You’re In My Heart,” until a sweeping string arrangement steps in and ruins much of the song’s seemingly genuine sentiment. “Is That The Thanks I Get?” limps along, not really knowing what it wants to be – gentle rocker, soul-ballad, who can say.
Rod jumps on the reggae bandwagon with “Attractive Female Wanted.” And in spite of a superb vocal performance, reggae was just never his forte. Better is the title number, an upbeat, enjoyable rocker that is probably the best thing on here, and where throughout it actually sounds as though Rod is finally having fun. “Last Summer,” with its slight calypso vibe, is pleasant enough, in a Love Boat kind of way, while Stewart’s cover of The Four Tops’ “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” somehow fails to inspire as it might have had he recorded it in 1973. Which isn’t to say that the song doesn’t have its moments: his vocals are as strong as ever, and even the band manages to perspire a little.
“Scarred And Scared” is the final track, with a world weary Stewart reminiscing on his many trials and tribulations (i.e. women) far more convincingly than Mick Jagger. True, Mick can croon in that ‘girl-done-me-wrong’ manner all he wants, except that no-one is yet to believe him – but when Stewart sings, he is believable, even if it is mere acting in the end.
While it’s fair to say that this is hardly his best album, it is certainly a long way from being his worst, thanks to a string of deplorable albums in the ‘80s, some of which are so pedestrian that they make Blondes Have More Fun seem like a classic in comparison.