Parking for all Merriweather events will be available to select within the next few weeks. Once parking is available, you will receive an e-mail with instructions on how to select your free parking.
“Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart — a writer who offered profound lyricism and fabulous self-deprecating humor, teller of tall tales and honest heartbreaker, he had an unmatched eye for the tiny details around which lives turn, shatter, and reform — and a voice to make those details indelible. His solo albums were defined by two special qualities: warmth, which was redemptive, and modesty, which was liberating. If ever any rocker chose the role of everyman and lived up to it, it was Rod Stewart.” –The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (1980)
Typical. You wait decades for a brand new Rod Stewart song to show up, and eleven come along all at once.
The world knows Stewart to be a man of many facets: the fully paid-up, card-carrying rock star; the father of eight; the full-time curator of one of history’s most famous haircuts; the tireless Celtic fan; the extremely handy soccer player and provider, even now, of a devilishly in-swinging corner from the left-hand side.
The world also knows Stewart to be a songwriter – though not so much in recent years. True, in this area, Stewart has already logged more than his share of keepers – songs that will be around for as long as people listen to pop music. He is the lyricist and melodist behind such staples as ‘Tonight’s The Night’, ‘You Wear It Well’, ‘You’re In My Heart’, ‘The Killing of Georgie’ and the indelible ‘Maggie May’ – all of them miniature masterpieces of story-telling.
Yet somewhere along the way, the source of those lyrical yet direct and instantly nerve-touching narratives appeared to dry up. To the point, even, where, at the beginning of this century, Stewart could look back at his own catalogue from a bemused and baffled distance. As he put it, ‘It was almost as if a person I didn’t know used to write those songs.’
The craft of songwriting lured Stewart from the beginning. As a young teenager, charged with minding his father’s London newspaper shop, Stewart would put up the ‘Closed’ sign, so as not to be disturbed, and sit out the back with an acoustic guitar, attempting to decode and master every track on the first Bob Dylan album. Yet, in the mid-Sixties, in the small, hot British blues clubs in which Stewart did his formal vocalist’s apprenticeship, first as a member of Long John Baldry’s Hoochie Coochie Men, and then in the group Steampacket, it wasn’t about writing your own songs. It was about wringing every drop of soul out of Ray Charles’s ‘The Night Time Is The Right Time’ while simultaneously wearing a sharp suit and keeping a carefully up-combed bouffant in perfect working order. The songwriting ambitions took a back seat.
Even the highly influential Jeff Beck Group, in which Stewart sang between 1967 and 1969, was largely a covers outfit. It’s a plausible argument, nevertheless, that, but for that lack of homegrown material, the Jeff Beck Group (who entirely blazed the trail for heavy rock as we know it) would have been Led Zeppelin before Led Zeppelin.
But then, perhaps, we wouldn’t have had The Faces, Stewart’s next outfit, whose liberal attitude to refreshment in the workplace and whose highly imaginative approach to the reconstruction of hotel rooms set the benchmark for rock’n’roll roistering from the 1970s onwards. It was for The Faces that Stewart, getting into his stride as a writer, came up with the eternal ‘Mandolin Wind’ and the band also saw the flowering of his collaboration with his former Jeff Beck Group cohort and lifetime pal Ronnie Wood. The pair started out unpromisingly, settling down one day in the tiny sitting room of Wood’s mum’s house in west London, armed only with a pad of blank paper and a cheap bottle of wine. The paper remained blank long after the bottle was empty. But the partnership would eventually yield, among others, ‘Stay With Me’, ‘Miss Judy’s Farm’, ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’, ‘Gasoline Alley’, ‘Cindy Incidentally’ (with Ian McLagan) and ‘Had Me A Real Good Time’ (with Ronnie Lane).
Meanwhile Stewart’s solo star had begin its vertiginous rise, substantially propelled by his own writings – a trail of international smash hits across two and half decades, from the era-defining ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’, via ‘Infatuation’, ‘Baby Jane’ and ‘Hot Legs’, to the anthemic and ubiquitous ‘Forever Young’.
After which, somewhat abruptly, the muse abandoned him.
Stewart contributed the title track to the album ‘When We Were The New Boys’ in 1998, and (not for the want of trying) nothing thereafter, and was soon obliged to conclude that he was in the grip of a terminal case of writer’s block.
As he tells it, with characteristic self-effacement, “My assumption was that I was finished as a songwriter. It had always been difficult, and then, at some point in the 1990s, my confidence took a knock and it became impossible. I was thinking too hard about what people expected from me. And I was thinking about whether I felt comfortable any more, delivering whatever it was people expected from me… I was trapped down all sorts of unhelpful mental alleys, basically. And eventually I convinced myself that I had made the best of the little bit of talent for songwriting that I had been given. But now it was over – time to move on.”
Not that this left him idle, of course. There were plenty of other songs around. And Stewart always had the uncanny gift to inhabit anything he put his voice to. This, after all, is a man who can sing ‘Happy Birthday To You’ and make it sound like the number was written especially for him. He spent the first decade of the new century cutting his own path through the Great American Songbook, realizing a long-held ambition to put perhaps popular music’s least boundary-hindered voice to the classic ballads and swing tunes he heard glowing from the radiogram in his childhood London home. At an age when most of his peers were just happy to be hanging on in there, Stewart sold more records than in any other decade of his career.
And then, when least expected, the muse returned. One weekend, at home in Epping, England, Stewart’s old friend, the guitarist Jim Cregan, proposed a casual writing session. The host’s reaction wasn’t exactly eager. “To be perfectly frank,” Stewart says, “I was rather looking forward to a Sunday afternoon post-lunch snooze.”
Still, Cregan strummed and Stewart hummed and la’d. Nothing was concluded. A couple of days later, though, Cregan sent Stewart a recording of their efforts, slightly smartened up. Says Stewart, “And I played it, and the title Brighton Beach’ dropped into my head – from nowhere, as titles always used to and for no reason I could put my finger on. And right then I started writing a lyric: about taking the train down to the south coast of England as a young, beatnik kid with an acoustic guitar, and sleeping on the beach and falling in love and the sheer romance of that time.”
“And very quickly – much quicker than I was used to – I found myself with a finished song.”
This happened to be a period in which Stewart was working on what would become his internationally best-selling autobiography, ‘Rod’, published in October 2012. “Something about that process of reviewing my life for the book reconnected me,” he says. “And that was it: I was away. Suddenly ideas for lyrics were piling up in my head. Next thing I knew, I had a song called ‘It’s Over’, about divorce and separation. And now I was getting up in the middle of the night and scrambling for a pen to write things down, which has never happened to me. I finished seven or eight songs very quickly and I still wasn’t done and it became apparent that I would eventually have a whole album of material to record, which had never happened before. It’s tended to be four or five songs per album at most.”
On “Another Country” recordings, that rekindled energy is audible straight away in the mandolin-spangled, fiddle-flecked, guitar-driven burst of optimism of the album’s opener, ‘She Makes Me Happy’. And it’s there again in the skirling bagpipes and huge tune of the fist-pumping ‘Can’t Stop Me Now’, which channels memories of Stewart’s early days in search of a break before opening out into a fervent letter of gratitude to the singer’s father for his unceasing belief.
Then comes ‘It’s Over’, an unsparing vision of the mess of a disintegrated marriage, and that tale of formative days and early love which is ‘Brighton Beach’. ‘Beautiful Morning’ is a four-minute package of supercharged pop, with a Motown backbeat and a chorus which appears to be running on pure bliss. ‘Live The Live’ opens with a time-dissolving mandolin figure, and if Stewart has a manifesto to offer, you will find it just past the beautiful descending chords of that song’s bridge, in the clinching lines: ‘Live the life you love, and love the life you live.’ There’s old-school, raunchy blues-rock on ‘Finest Woman’, while the ballad ‘Time’, with its winding electric piano figure, could have come swaying off a Faces album with a pint in its hand. ‘Sexual Religion’, an irresistibly alluring song about irresistible allure, contains echoes of disco-era Stewart, but effortlessly spun forwards into the present (no leopard-print Lycra this time). Stewart’s fabled knack for an easily unfolding narrative is revived on ‘Make Love To Me Tonight’, the timeless story of a troubled working man seeking escape in his lover’s arms, and the album’s closer, ‘Pure Love’, is a father’s experience-scolded hymn of advice to his children which is so tender that it all but wraps the listener in its arms.
And because it wouldn’t be a proper Rod Stewart album without a cover version, this collection also includes a beautifully understated reading of ‘Picture In A Frame’, extending Stewart’s distinguished line of Tom Waits interpretations (‘Downtown Train, ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues’).
Of the overdue return of his muse, Stewart says,
“It was clean out of the blue. Something clicked and I realized I had things to write about again and things I wanted to sing about. A whole life’s worth of topics, in fact.”
With a global tour to follow through the year, this is Rod Stewart, 2013 version: still singing, still reaching people, still on a mission to go down in the record books as the world’s oldest practicing soccer player. And once again, most definitely, a songwriter.
“Combining a love for British guitar pop songcraft with crunching power chords and a flair for the absurd, Cheap Trick provided the necessary links between ’60s pop, heavy metal, and punk. Led by guitarist Rick Nielsen, the band’s early albums were filled with highly melodic, well-written songs that drew equally from the crafted pop of the Beatles, the sonic assault of the Who, and the tongue-in-cheek musical eclecticism and humor of the Move. A canny student of ’60s rock, Nielsen first worked with bassist Tom Petersson in the band Fuse, who released one album in 1969 before dissolving. Nielsen and Petersson continued working together in several formats until they teamed with drummer Bun E. Carlos and vocalist Robin Zander to form the definitive lineup of Cheap Trick in 1975. After developing a cult following after three outstanding albums — 1977’s Cheap Trick and In Color and 1978’s Heaven Tonight — and relentless touring, Cheap Trick scored an unexpected hit with 1978’s At Budokan, a live album originally issued only in Japan that became their international breakthrough. Glossier production and fuzzy creative direction sapped the band’s spirit on most of their work of the ’80s, despite the commercial success of 1988’s Lap of Luxury and its Number One single “The Flame.” However, after leaving the major labels behind with 1997’s Cheap Trick, the band enjoyed a creative second wind, reaffirming the strength of their formula on-stage and in the studio, and 2006’s Rockford demonstrated they were far from a spent force. They later signed with the successful country label Big Machine and released 2016’s Bang, Zoom, Crazy … Hello within months of being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, kicking off a productive streak that saw them release three albums within 18 months. Their sound provided a blueprint for both power pop and arena rock; it also had a surprisingly long-lived effect on both alternative and heavy metal bands of the ’80s and ’90s, who often relied on the same combination of loud riffs and catchy melodies.
Cheap Trick‘s roots lie in Fuse, a late-’60s band formed by Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson in Rockford, Illinois. The group released an album on Epic in 1969; after it failed to gain any attention, the band relocated to Philadelphia and changed their name to Sick Man of Europe. The group toured Europe unsuccessfully in 1972 and returned to Illinois in 1973. Not long after their return to Rockford, Nielsen and Petersson changed their band’s name once more — this time to Cheap Trick — and added drummer Bun E. Carlos and vocalist Randy “Xeno” Hogan to the lineup. Hogan was fired the following year, making room for ex-folksinger Robin Zander to join the group. Between 1975 and the band’s first album in 1977, Cheap Trick toured constantly, playing over 200 concerts a year while occasionally opening for the likes of the Kinks, Kiss, Santana, AC/DC, and Queen. During this time, the band built up a solid catalog of original songs that would eventually comprise their first three albums; they also perfected their kinetic live show.
Cheap Trick signed with Epic in 1976 and released their self-titled debut early the following year. The record sold well in America, yet it failed to chart. However, the group became a massive success in Japan, and the album went gold upon release. Later that year, the band released their second album, In Color. It backed away from the harder-rocking side of Cheap Trick, featuring slicker production and quieter arrangements that spotlighted the band’s melodic skills instead. Due to their constant touring, the record made it into the U.S. charts, peaking at number 73. It became another gold-seller in Japan, however, where the musicians had become virtual superstars. Their Japanese concerts began selling out within two hours, and they packed the sizable Budokan Arena.
Cheap Trick‘s concerts at Budokan were recorded for possible release, although the live album didn’t appear until the band’s third album, 1978’s Heaven Tonight. That third album captured both the loud, raucous energy of Cheap Trick‘s debut and the hook-laden songcraft of In Color, leading to their first Top 100 single, “Surrender,” which peaked at number 62. However, the live performances on At Budokan (1979) captured the band’s energetic, infectious live show, resulting in their commercial breakthrough in America. The album stayed on the charts for over a year, peaking at number four and eventually selling over three million copies. Meanwhile, a live version of “I Want You to Want Me” became their first Top Ten hit. Later that year, the group released their fourth studio album, Dream Police, which followed the same stylistic approach as Heaven Tonight. It also followed At Budokan into the Top Ten, selling over a million copies and launching the Top 40 hit singles “Voices” and “Dream Police.” In the summer of 1980, the group released an EP of tracks recorded between 1976-1979 called Found All the Parts.
Following the recording of the George Martin-produced All Shook Up, Petersson left the group in the summer of 1980 to form a group with his wife, Dagmar. He was replaced by Jon Brant. Released toward the end of 1980, All Shook Up performed respectably, peaking at number 24 and going gold, yet the single “Stop This Game” failed to crack the Top 40. One on One, the group’s seventh album and the first recorded with Brant, appeared in 1982. Although it peaked at number 39, the record was more successful than All Shook Up, eventually going platinum. Nevertheless, the group was entering a downhill commercial slide, despite the fact that its music was becoming increasingly polished. Next Position Please, released in 1983, failed to launch a hit single and spent only 11 weeks on the charts. Standing on the Edge (1985) and The Doctor (1986) suffered similar fates, as the group were slowly losing their creative spark.
Petersson rejoined the band in 1988 and the group began work on a new record with the help of several professional songwriters. The resulting effort, Lap of Luxury, was a platinum Top 20 hit, featuring the number one power ballad “The Flame” and a Top Ten version of Elvis Presley‘s “Don’t Be Cruel.” Busted, released in 1990, wasn’t as successful as Lap of Luxury, peaking at number 48 and effectively putting an end to the group’s commercial comeback.
Cheap Trick soldiered into the new decade by signing with Warner Bros. in 1994 and releasing Woke Up with a Monster, which peaked at number 123 and spent two weeks on the album chart. That same year, Epic released a sequel to At Budokan, aptly titled Budokan II. Compiled from the same shows as At Budokan, the record served as an an effective reminder of why the group had become so popular in the late ’70s.
In 1995, Cheap Trick asked to leave Warner’s roster after the label’s chief executives, Lenny Waronker and Mo Ostin, departed. The band then decided to go back to the basics, and several alt rock superstars who had been influenced by Cheap Trick gave the band opportunities to restore their reputation. The Smashing Pumpkins had them open their tour in 1995, and the group played several dates on the 1996 Lollapalooza Tour. That same year, the box set Sex, America, Cheap Trick appeared to positive reviews, and the band signed with the fledgling indie label Red Ant before setting to work on a new album. Early in 1997, the group released a Steve Albini-produced single on Sub Pop, which was followed by the eponymous Cheap Trick, their acclaimed debut for Red Ant, in the spring. Unfortunately, Red Ant filed for bankruptcy seven weeks after the album’s release, sadly putting a sudden halt on the group’s building momentum.
On April 30, 1998, the group launched a four-night residency in Chicago, devoting each show to reprising one of their first four albums in its entirety. Those shows later yielded a 1999 live LP, Music for Hangovers, which the musicians issued on their own Cheap Trick Unlimited label. A band-authorized hits collection followed in 2000. By the dawn of the new millennium, Cheap Trick were still without a label, but had retained their loyal following by continually touring the world. Appropriately, another live set saw the light of day in 2001. Entitled Silver, the double-disc album (and companion DVD) documented the band’s star-studded, career-spanning 25th anniversary show on August 28, 1999. The band also recorded another studio album, released in 2003 as Special One. It was followed in 2006 by Rockford, named in tribute to the band’s hometown, and then The Latest in 2009. Cheap Trick also maintained a heavy touring ethic, canvassing America that summer alongside Def Leppard and releasing their tribute to the Beatles with Sgt. Pepper Live. In late 2015, Cheap Trick signed with powerhouse country label Big Machine Records, and their first album for their new sponsors, Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello, was released in April 2016. It was the first Cheap Trick release since the departure of drummer Bun E. Carlos from the band. Daxx Nielsen, Rick‘s son, became the group’s new percussionist in 2010. Wasting no time, the band returned with their second album for Big Machine, the rollicking We’re All Alright!, in June 2017. They had barely caught their breath when they were back with their first holiday album, Christmas Christmas, in October 2017.” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AllMusic