We bloggers are often getting asked to review things. It's part of the territory, and I'm happy to oblige most of the time. (I have, in the past, drawn the line at certain female depilatory products and incontinence pants.) The deal is they send something, sometimes to keep, and I write about it... if I like it. Simple, really. If I don't, I won't. That's the policy.
Even so, I sometimes worry that the largesse of certain PR companies might inadvertently sway my ruthlessly impartial judgement, from time-to-time. I mean, the offer of a couple of cartons of cream crackers, gratis, or a tube or three of Deep Heat and (it is well known) I'm anybody's.
Anyway, to ring the changes I thought I'd review some stuff I'd either got (i.e. as a present) or else read (without being sent free for the purpose, thereof) over the next few weeks and I'm starting with a book I never thought I'd read, by a man I didn't think I liked, in whose songs and life I've only previously had the most passing of interests. Rod Stewart.
Yes, Rod the Mod. Do-Ya-Think-I'm-Sexy Hot-Legs Stewart.
I can pretty much guarantee that, if you were to ask anyone who knows me and my normally cerebral reading habits they'd have placed this book last on their list of Christmas reading predictions for yours truly.
Anyone who knows my taste in music, too, might be forgiven at this point for wondering if I've somehow OD-ed on the sherry trifle or had an extreme reaction to a seasonal glut of John Rutter (incidentally, the best comment I heard about 'Mr Christmas's' newly-commissioned carol, premiered at the King's Nine Lessons service on Christmas Eve this Christmas was 'I thought it was by Andrew Lloyd-Webber!' Priceless.)
But I digress. Back to Rod. It all started way back in October when I inadvertently caught Mr Stewart being interviewed by Kirsty Lang on BBC Radio Four's Front Row. I think I was driving. Certainly only half-listening. But I found my attention gradually increasing, my interest slowly rising rather like the gravity-defying barnet of the man himself (and about as unbelievably). In short, by the end of the item, I began to think of Mr Rod Stewart in a somewhat different light, and there began a small but undeniable fascination and desire to get hold of the book he was discussing.
Here it is:
I bought a copy thinking it'd be the perfect light-read over Christmas and - do you know what? - it was. In fact, it was slightly better than that. Well written (by him? I do hope so) and by turns honest and intriguing (as well as shocking and a little bit mocking) it is, in short, something of a revelation.
At this point I have to confess a sneaking regard for the eponymous biographer's musical talents, especially when accompanied by his erstwhile backing group The Faces. (I'm especially partial to the anthemic energy of the song 'Stay with Me', and have an especial fondness for Mr Stewart's solo classic, Maggie May.)
But the man himself? The gravity-defying hair and Viagra-shaming tumescence? The bottom wiggling, stage strutting, tight-trouser-wearing posing and posturing? The frankly exhausting, super-human philandering? No. I confess (at the risk of sounding like a Victorian patriarch) to being rather 'put off' by such exhibitionist behaviour. (Ok, and a tad jealous too!) Yes, I know the guy's a rock star and a bloody brilliant singer, but...
My Damascus Road experience actually occurred on page 271 with Rod describing the arrangements for flying a succession of models in to Cannes (where our hero is shooting a video) in order to, er... keep him warm at night. I think it deserves an extended quotation:
The arrangements had the rigour and precision of a military operation. Don Archell would drive the outgoing girl to Nice Airport, drop her at departures, then head round to arrivals to collect the incoming replacement. I reckon the logistics for the 2012 Olympics were only slightly more complex than those involved in the smooth running of 'the long hot summer'.
Elsewhere, Rod had tips aplenty for parents (which include packing - in addition to sandwich, apple etc. - random items such as a screwdriver in your child's school lunch box) and, of course, descriptions aplenty of the high-jinks enjoyed by rock bands on tour along with the consumption of infeasible quantities of cocaine.
But none of them has quite the same blinding revelatory effect as that moment on page 271, with (at the time) twice-married (and many many more times entwined) Rod searching in his little black book - yes, little black book! - for past conquests to fly in (and out) of France on a nightly basis during a summer spent making a pop video.
Because in that moment, it suddenly hit me. It's Don Giovanni! The man is the living, breathing, singing, womanising, carousing, hell-raising embodiment of literature's (and music's) greatest-ever villain. And safe in that knowledge, you can (almost) forgive the man anything.
If you're going to sin, you might as well sin big - be hung for a sheep (FOR, I said!) as a lamb, as the saying goes. The Don of legend (and an especially magnificent Mozart opera which I review here) notched enough conquests on the bedpost to leave it resembling an overlarge twiglet I suppose, but, but...
Did Don Giovanni have a train-set? Yes, a train-set?
Because Rod Stewart does.
And do you think that's sexy?