Looking at the fall release schedule and seeing memoirs slated from Pete Townshend and Neil Young, who would have tipped Rod Stewart as being the rock graybeard most likely to produce the best book? But he did. Rod: The Autobiography (Crown), is a warm, roguish reminiscence. More playful than Townshend's at times ponderous Who I Am and far more insightful than Young's numbing Waging Heavy Peace, Stewart's memoir has much of the joyful, big-hearted raffishness of the singer's classic early '70s recordings. (It's more "Mandolin Wind" than "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" — or anything else of his from the last 35 years or so). The book is a fun, rollicking read, and these are my picks for Rod's most irreverent moments.
Stewart shows a propensity for rascally behavior from an early age, sharing the secret of the "Fake Sick" trick he would use in school in order to get out of — of all things — music class. "For the fake sick trick you will need: one Shipham's meat-paste pot, empty; a small quantity of mashed potato, scraped from the side of your school lunch; a small quantity of carrots, ditto; and some water." Stir, then surreptitiously dump the resulting goo in the schoolyard. "Hey presto," vouches Stewart, "you're off music for the afternoon and on your way home."
Tonight's the Night
The former Faces frontman got doubly lucky the first time he did the deed. Though it wasn't exactly a romantic encounter for the then 16-year-old. In 1961 at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival in London, recalls Stewart, "I lose my by then not remotely prized virginity to an older (and larger) woman who has come on to me very strongly in the beer tent...Elements of this encounter, much altered and enhanced, later filtered into the song 'Maggie May.'"
I Can't Get Started
Even when recounting his various extravagances, Stewart comes off as down-to-earth and, especially when it comes to his physical attributes, humble. Describing his and Faces bandmate Ron Wood's run-in with the famous Plaster Casters, known for making paper-mache molds of rock star penises, Stewart demurs. "They came to our hotel," he writes about the groupies, "bringing with them, in a bag, autographed samples of previously cast appendages...plaster phalluses of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Burdon...Obviously it would have been a pleasure and an honor. However, Woody and I took a look at the rather challengingly splendid specimens on the table before us, considered for a moment the slightly more modest scale of our own endowments, and said, 'Hmm. Nah, I don't think so, thank you."
I Can Feel the Fire
Worried about the effects of cocaine on his nasal passages, and thus his voice, Stewart partakes of the drug in an unorthodox manner. "So we started buying anticold capsules from the chemist's, separating the two halves of the capsules, replacing their contents with a pinch of cocaine, and then taking the capsules anally, where, of course, the human body being a wonderful thing, they would dissolve effortlessly into the system."
It's All Over Now
For years, Stewart has been subject of a lascivious urban legend: that he had his stomach pumped after ingesting too much semen. Stewart explains that Tony Toon, his former publicist, started the rumor as payback for being fired. "[Toon] fed the press a story in which, as a consequence of an evening spent orally servicing a gang of sailors in a gay bar in San Diego, I had been required to check into a hospital emergency room to have my stomach pumped." Stewart clarifies that "I have never orally pleasured even a solitary sailor...And I have never had my stomach pumped, either of naval-issue semen nor of any other kind of semen."