Interview: Rod Stewart
More than 40 years after he made his Norwich debut in a damp and dingy cellar, Rob Stewart is returning to the city — this time ready to rock Carrow Road. DEREK JAMES spoke to him about music, football and family.
He's a pensioner.
He's a new dad.
He's a showman.
He's a great character.
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And to readers of a certain age he will always be 'Rod the Mod.'
There's no one else like Rod Stewart. Once a cheeky chappie, always a cheeky chappie. He may be extremely wealthy and one of the best known faces in the fickle world of pop but he is still a real man of the people – a man who loves his country, loves his job and loves his football.
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And when he says he is looking forward to coming to Norwich, you can tell he really means it. Already thousands of people have bought tickets to join him, Listening to some of the best pop songs ever made in our very own theatre of dreams...
Can't get much better, can it?
Rod hopes to do what the Canaries have been doing all season – play for a full house and get Carrow Road buzzing with excitement.
'I just love touring. That's what it's all about,' said Rod, now aged 66. He became a father of eight when baby Aiden was born in February. 'Of course it's great but that's it now. No more children,' he said.
When we spoke he was now about to get together with his band to start rehearsals for the American leg of his 2011 Heart & Soul Tour which kicked off in America in March. 'I have got a fabulous band, we have been together, for a long time, and we all get along so well,' he said.
Then returned to Britain where the show has played Newbury Racecourse and football grounds at Swansea, Leeds and Aberdeen before heading to Norwich.
'I can promise the people of Norwich and Norfolk a high energy night of classic rock 'n' roll with all the old favourites.
'It's going to be a great night,' said Rod. 'I'll be singing all the old favourites and I may be doing some numbers of my new American Songbook series.'
He may be a pensioner he shows no sign of slowing up and is looking forward to the year ahead.
'I love performing just as much as I always did - and it's much easier now than it was in the old days,' he laughed. 'We get looked after better nowadays.'
Rod is a real survivor, a legendary showman who is still a big star all over the world – who still has a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
Unlike so many of the 'stars' who emerge from the TV talent shows today, Rod has worked hard over the decades, polishing his act.
He is an expert at working an audience, reaching out to them, making feel part of the show, making them feel special.
And that's the kind of atmosphere he will create at Carrow Road – just the way he did at the Orford Cellar all those years ago in the 1960s. A place where artists appeared before they hit the big time.
Roderick David Stewart was born in war-torn London in January 1945.
His dad came from Scotland and he has been a lifelong supporter of Celtic FC.
He was one of the generation of skiffle kids playing Lonnie Donegan hits but while most packed away their washboards and tea chests and 'grew-up' young Rod kept on going.
Rod said later there were only two things he could do – play football and sing.
He dabbled at being a pro-footballer with Brentford before packing it up, but he carried on singing.
There was work in the family shop as a newspaper delivery boy and he went on to put up fences and dig graves – all the time music was the love of his life.
In 1962 he joined the Ray Davies Quartet for a while, then formed his own band but it was a big fella by the name of Long John Baldry who spotted the potential of this skinny rather shy boy with an unusual voice.
He became Rod the Mod in the Hoochie Coochie Men and later Steampacket – a bunch of talented musicians tour-ing up and down the land.
Howard Platt and others attracted many of them to The Orford along with Cream, Jimi Hendrix and many more.
'We were doing our apprenticeship. Up and down the country, every day of the week, it was real hard work. You name the place, the chances are we played it,' said Rod.
Steampacket toured with The Rolling Stones and this gave Rod his first real taste of life in the fast lane.
He moved on to work with Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac fame and then the guitar ace Jeff Beck.
By the time the Faces came along in the early 1970s Rod was an accomplished musician and front man – a show-man.
Maggie May and a string of other top songs followed, hits which have been passed down from one generation to the next. The Faces were good.
Rod was turning into a world class rocker without losing his 'lad next door' image who enjoyed the good life.
And while others faded away and ended up on golden oldie tours, Rod kept turning out the hits – most of us have own our favourites... from the patriotic Sailing to the brilliant and moving The Killing of Georgie.
You don't forget songs like that.
Later this month Rod will get back to rehearsals with his band – they have all been together for many years – decide which songs to sing, work out a running order, and head out on another hectic tour, first of the States and Canada with Stevie Nicks.
When they come back to this country he will play Newbury Racecourse, football stadiums at Swansea, Leeds and Aberdeen before heading to Carrow Road in June.
'I've got a fabulous band and we love working together and touring – that's what it's all about. I love playing to an audience. We change the songs around depending where we are.
'Some were hits in America and not in this country and the other way around.'
'I really am looking forward to coming to Norwich. We played Ipswich a while ago so we thought it was time to come to Norwich,' said Rod.
'What sort of gates do they get?' asked Rod.
'Around 24,000 maybe 25,000,' I said. 'Almost a full house.'
He was impressed. He was also impressed, as devoted Celtic supporter, with how former Hoops captain Paul Lambert is shaping up as City manager.
'He's a good man for the job,' said Rod. 'Your team is doing really well at the moment and they have got a good man in charge. He was a good player and he is a good manager. I'm pleased to see Norwich winning.'
And he said he would also like to see some local bands sharing the stage with him.
So let's see... Norwich in the Premiership while Rod sings his heart out to a full house on a balmy summer evening in The Fine City.
We can all dream — and some dreams do come true.
l Rod Stewart will be performing at Carrow Road on June 8. Tickets at various prices are available from the Evening News Office, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, 01603 772175 visit: www.en24.co.uk