Today’s song is another I associate with fall because I picked up a CD collection of The Faces’ output (Good Boys . . . When They’re Asleep, released in 1999) in September, 2010, before this “vinyl fever” took over. Most of the songs on there I was hearing for the first time. Not sure why I suddenly was struck by interest, except that there were some CD remasters of early Rod Stewart albums that drew me in. As I’ve said, I’m a fan of Rod in the period 1971-72, and earlier, and that means I should know his stint as lead vocals for The Faces.
Rod became pretty insufferable by the mid-Seventies, so much so that it might color how one looks back on his presence in The Faces and his early solo work. But I’ll stand by Every Picture Tells a Story (1971) forever, and I like the way The Faces play together. None of the songs are great songs, from a composition standpoint, but there’s a distinctive sound there—Ian McLagen’s keyboards especially, mixing with Ronnie Wood’s riffs—he always has a nice prickly sound that occasionally licks sweet. And Rod is just one of those unmistakable vocalists. If it’s not clear from most of my comments, I’ll just come out and say it: lots of times it is the singer, not the song. It’s vocalists that get me into the music I listen to, with the exceptions of instrumental jazz and classical. In fact, hip-hop and opera have something in common that keeps me from being a fan of either: I can’t sing ’em or mimic ’em. Almost any rock or folk vocalist can be imitated, for personal purposes.
|Rod 'n' Ron|
And today’s song, the title track of The Faces’ 1973 album (their last one), was written by Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood and is sung by Wood, not Mod Rod or Lane. That makes it a rara avis in Faces Land. It’s one of my favorite Faces songs—so there, Rod. It’s that strumming and fingering from Wood, mostly. And, though it isn’t a great vocal in terms of singing, it is a great vocal in terms of how it feels. Wood’s rasp isn’t quite like Stewart’s, but it sounds authentic, a shrug of a singer holding forth about his old grandpa. It’s a cute song too, with the old man trying to tell the young’un to beware of women’s ways: “They’ll trap you, then they’ll use you / Before you even know.” The boy laughs at his warnings—“I thought he was a bitter man.”
And, sure, Gramps probably is a bit bitter, but, on the other hand, it seems he’s hung out at the Can Can and backstage with the girls. He’s put in some time, but still finds himself singing the old refrain, “I wish that I knew what I know now / When I was younger . . . When I was stronger.” That may be laughable, but, picking up the song not long after turning 50, I could easily enough grasp his point. “Love is blind and you soon will find / You’re just a boy again.” That’s something a young man, who finds women to be the means to his sense of his own manhood, might not see so clearly. Even if rueful about what he suffered for a woman’s sake, he might reflect “I was a fool.” It takes age, I suppose, to see that what it’s really about is trying to assert age over youth only to find, in the end, that age is no excuse, and no aid. An aged man is twice a child? Yeah. Being a boy again is about being enthusiastic and maybe even unguarded. It’s about bravado. And a feeling that the world, no matter how old and jaded we might be, is still fresh with promise. No wonders Gramps is shaking his head.
Poor young grandson / There’s nothing I can say / You’ll have to learn just like me / And that’s the hardest way. The kind of lesson that any young man worth his salt would discount, of course. How could I ever become a bitter old fart like you? And, anyway, what is it I’m bound to learn but . . . the costs, the consolations, the que sera sera of la femme. Ooh la la, indeed.
And grand-dad does give a helpful hint in the “battle of the sexes”:
For love is blind and you’re far too kind / Don’t ever let it show