Midweek Music Moment: Rod Stewart

See the album pictured below? The one called Atlantic Crossing? It isn’t here because of its worthiness. To the contrary, it’s here because, to borrow a phrase, it may well represent the “start of the rot” in Rod Stewart’s career.

It’s this week’s Music Moment because on Dec. 19, 1975, the album was certified gold in the U.S. That same day, Stewart formally announced he was leaving Faces, a band he had performed in with Ron Wood since 1969.

No one was surprised Faces was splitting up. Ron Wood had toured with the Rolling Stones in the summer of 1975 and Stewart already had an highly acclaimed solo career thanks to a series of LPs released on Mercury Records between 1969 and 1974, including the incomparable Every Picture Tells a Story (1971) and the often underrated Never a Dull Moment (1972). Some, though, believe 1974’s Smiler was the first indication of Stewart’s artistic decline.

Stewart’s announcement he was leaving Faces came after the band completed a tour in support of a muddy sounding live album. While I wasn’t a huge Faces fan, I loved Every Picture and Never a Dull Moment so when someone suggesting seeing them perform at the Minneapolis Auditorium on November 1, 1975, I figured what the heck. I still remember the huge number of people, from hippies to guys in Marine uniforms, in the back of the auditorium actually doing the twist during “Twistin’ the Night Away.” Little did we know, this would be the last concert by Stewart and Faces, although there are now reports they will reunite for a tour next year. (Contrary to the explicit assertion in its title, a DVD claiming to be the “final concert” was actually filmed on December 23, 1974. It just wasn’t broadcast until late November 28, 1975.)

Before the last leg of the Faces tour began (and just after Wood completed touring with the Stones), Stewart released Atlantic Crossing. The title referred to the fact Stewart was relocating to the U.S. and, in fact, he recorded it here. Yet the glam look on the cover was a foreshadowing. Not only was Stewart’s focus now apparently on supermodels and celebrity status, he also relocated dislocated his musical sensibility. Stewart seemed to abandon the music styles that brought him to the top. It got worse as time went on and the public, for some reason, soaked up crap like the smarmy “Hot Legs,” the lecherous “Tonight’s the Night,” and the insipid “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.”

In his latest reinvention, Stewart is a top-selling artist of old American pop standards and even an album consisting exclusively of covers of classic rock songs. Atlantic Crossing represents one of the many Stewart facades over the last 33 years. Sadly, it also closed a door on what remains his best work.

Here they have a lot of fun
Puttin’ trouble on the run
Oh man you’ll find the old and young
Twistin’ the night away

“Twistin’ The Night Away,” Rod Stewart, Never a Dull Moment

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