Redeeming Rod: “Twistin’ the Night Away” (1987)

Hollywood, 1986. Fade in. The scene is an executive’s office.

Exec: So what’s the pitch?
Producer: Okay, Martin Short is this bumbling dude, okay? And somehow, he gets stuck with this needle, only the needle has Dennis Quaid in a tiny spaceship in it, ’cause he’s been shrunk down as part of this government experiment. Now Dennis Quaid is inside of Martin Short, and now the bad guys who want to…
Exec: Hold on. Hold on!…You had me at “Martin Short gets stuck with a needle”! Now, all we need is a happening song. Something to push the soundtrack tie-in and get the kids into the theaters.
Producer: I was thinking of having Rod Stewart do a new version of a Sam Cooke song that he originally covered fourteen years ago.
Exec: Son…..you’re a money-making machine!

They bow. Fin.

At that, good friends, must be the sequence of events that ended with Rod covering his own 1972 version of Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away” for the movie Innerspace. It has to be. Doesn’t it?

And yet, it’s an admirable performance, if not one that was made easier by having a personal blueprint to follow (in the middle of the new version, he even incorporates the same “I don’t know” ad-lib that appeared in the fadeout of his first version). It’s not quite as good as the earlier version, but is still performed much, much better than anything on Still the Same…., his rock covers album from 2006, which was as paint-by-numbers as you can get.

And this is probably what makes it the most amazing: That, considering Rod’s track record for the past quarter-century, it’s so easy to imagine him going through the motions. But he doesn’t. I thought about it, and the best parallel example I came up with was Sean Connery returning as Bond for a one-off in Never Say Never Again, itself a remake of a Bond film he’d made 18 years before, Thunderball. He could have embarrassed himself quite easily, what with the inescapable comparisons to the earlier film, and his advanced age. But you know what? He did all right. And that’s the same thing with Rod. He could have just taken the paycheck and been done with it, not giving a crap about whether or not he actually turned in a decent performance. But listening to the song, you’ve got to say he did more.

First of all, while he uses the old version as a blueprint, he doesn’t copy it. The 1972 version goes Verse 1, Verse 2, Solo, Verse 3, Chorus, Chorus, Fadeout on Verse 4 (which is a repeat of the last two lines of Verse 1 and the first two of Verse 2). The 1987 version goes Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 3 (with the last line actually the last line from Verse 2), Chorus, Chorus, Solo, Verse 2, Chorus, Chorus, and further vamping over the an instrumental repeat of the chorus. Whether these changes were the work of Rod or (more likely) the track’s producer doesn’t really matter, as much as the fact that Rod went along with it, rather than keeping consistent with the previous version.

More importantly, he seems to be having fun, and is into it — perhaps (gasp!) even more than he was in 1972: He runs up and down the notes in his delivery, especially the second verse; gives a wink and a nod to Sinatra with the way he delivers the line “that chick’s moving up and back”; and gives some extra “yeah”s and “woo”s for good measure. Nothing, it seems, brings out Rod’s pleasure in the studio more than Sam Cooke. If he had any sense, he’d get Ron Wood, Booker T and the MG’s, the Memphis Horns, meet at Keef’s home studio for a couple of days, and knock out an album of live takes of Cooke songs (sort of like Paul McCartney’s Run Devil Run, but with a singular purpose and focus). Of course, as we have learned from the last quarter-century of Rodness, the man has no sense. So, please, stop salivating, and forget what I just wrote, okay?

* * * * *

Special bonus: Go here if you want to see the video for the song (sorry, no embedding with this clip), which proves that, even when putting in a good vocal performance, Rod’s not above wearing a shiny suit, ogling female buttocks, or getting down with Martin Short.




  • http://solarprestige.blogspot.com Johnny Bacardi

    Nah, gimme the first cover every time. Not as slick.

    He covered “himself” at some point close to t his, by redoing his cover of “This Old Heart of Mine” that originally appeared on Atlantic Crossing. It was slicker, too, and not nearly as good.

  • TheMod

    I think some people need to get past the media's perspective of the majority of Rod's 80s/90s work , because there are a lot of vocal gems there. I mean I think a lot of music sucked after the 70s, believe it or not technology really killed it. I honestly don't think there is one artist who has 40 years of complete greats…They just managed to get away with their flubs better.

    I mean most people only like 60/70s Stones, 60s Dylan, 70s Elton etc. Sure they might have not varied as far out as Rod did, but people still don't want to hear a lot of their 80s on catalog.
    Don't get me started on Mick's solo career aside from one album the rest is pretty bad, showing perhaps Mick needs people behind him too.

    Did one stop to think aside from the obvious factors, maybe Rod's voice out of his peers truly allowed him to do whatever. I mean if he had a limited voice like Dylan, he wouldn't be so genre jumping. I think there is a positive here and that is Rod is a truly great singer no matter if it is an amazing song or a crap song., and his ability to do different genre's and have people buy into it and enjoy it , proves what an important vocalist he has always been.

    Maybe his taking chances weren't always “good” but at least he took them. And gave his fans variety.

    Rod's induction:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7usZTvGd49k

    Rod Reflects
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AOaghzPEmA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=789wzDXBvps&feat

  • JonCummings

    An interesting little colloquy about artists covering themselves followed my John Hughes piece yesterday, and this track offers another example of the pitfalls of doing so. Of course, I was so disgusted by Rod at this point that the video for this merited no more than an eye roll and a quick hit on the remote. At least this isn't as bad as his previous soundtrack atrocity, “Love Touch.”

    I look forward to the next post, because 1988 is where Rod really WAS redeemed, at least for a few years. By the way, have you looked into the Sut Jhally documentary “Dreamworlds” from 1990, which was most unkind to poor misogynist Rod?

  • Ravel

    Let's remember that even if Stewart has chosen to modify his own standards of excellency to go to classic pop songs (something that he is very much criticized for), he is stil around to sing and entertain us.
    I don't believe that many of those new big great successes of today will still be there after more than 40 years to sing…

  • TheMod

    Ravel,
    I agree.
    How many artist that came out in the 60s/70s are still singing, pulling in people on tours, and selling records today? Even if he isn't doing top notch stuff anymore, it isn't like he could be blamed for riding any waves to get him on the top of the charts, considering any oldie won't be seen on top 40 radio anymore.
    Obviously he has done something right, in a business that is fickled and done with most in a 5 year period.

  • fsdafsd
  • billy budapest

    Never was a greater talent so thoroughly squandered. The day this guy got rich was the last day he ever sung a note worth capturing.

  • The Mod

    Yawn, I am so tired of people running their mouths off without real knowledge in which they are running their mouths for.

    I understand the whole concept of “Trend Jumping Rod” and I know he loves money, women, and fame…But I've also heard all his recordings from 63 to 07, followed him for 16 years, and have seen many interviews and pieces on him. I think one can only have a true comment worth standing on if they have actually heard his work and understand him better than just going with the media's perception of him.

    Right now all I'm seeing is erroneous facts and media programmed negative perception, without any first hand knowledge. I don't mind being objective or negative on Rod, but I can't stand it coming out of people who only know some of his work.

    Rod's foundation in music was Folk and Soul. Rock N Roll was just a vehicle for him to become noticed and make money. And a lot of his 80s stuff leans towars pop/soul than rock n roll for a reason.

    Probably the most amazing vocal to come out of Rod in the 80s, and that is this live number, that I'm sure you wouldn't know.

    Fun 80s fact : Lost in you has a mandolin in it. Just like Maggie May. His “A Spanner in the works” album is a well round modern version of what he's always done folk, soul, rock, and pop. People should check this out mates.

    If loving you is wrong:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYf9qYk6QSc

  • The Mod

    Yawn, I am so tired of people running their mouths off without real knowledge in which they are running their mouths for.

    I understand the whole concept of “Trend Jumping Rod” and I know he loves money, women, and fame…But I've also heard all his recordings from 63 to 07, followed him for 16 years, and have seen many interviews and pieces on him. I think one can only have a true comment worth standing on if they have actually heard his work and understand him better than just going with the media's perception of him.

    Right now all I'm seeing is erroneous facts and media programmed negative perception, without any first hand knowledge. I don't mind being objective or negative on Rod, but I can't stand it coming out of people who only know some of his work.

    Rod's foundation in music was Folk and Soul. Rock N Roll was just a vehicle for him to become noticed and make money. And a lot of his 80s stuff leans towars pop/soul than rock n roll for a reason.

    Probably the most amazing vocal to come out of Rod in the 80s, and that is this live number, that I'm sure you wouldn't know.

    Fun 80s fact : Lost in you has a mandolin in it. Just like Maggie May. His “A Spanner in the works” album is a well round modern version of what he's always done folk, soul, rock, and pop. People should check this out mates.

    If loving you is wrong:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYf9qYk6QSc

  • billy budapest

    Never was a greater talent so thoroughly squandered. The day this guy got rich was the last day he ever sung a note worth capturing.

  • The Mod

    Yawn, I am so tired of people running their mouths off without real knowledge in which they are running their mouths for.

    I understand the whole concept of “Trend Jumping Rod” and I know he loves money, women, and fame…But I've also heard all his recordings from 63 to 07, followed him for 16 years, and have seen many interviews and pieces on him. I think one can only have a true comment worth standing on if they have actually heard his work and understand him better than just going with the media's perception of him.

    Right now all I'm seeing is erroneous facts and media programmed negative perception, without any first hand knowledge. I don't mind being objective or negative on Rod, but I can't stand it coming out of people who only know some of his work.

    Rod's foundation in music was Folk and Soul. Rock N Roll was just a vehicle for him to become noticed and make money. And a lot of his 80s stuff leans towars pop/soul than rock n roll for a reason.

    Probably the most amazing vocal to come out of Rod in the 80s, and that is this live number, that I'm sure you wouldn't know.

    Fun 80s fact : Lost in you has a mandolin in it. Just like Maggie May. His “A Spanner in the works” album is a well round modern version of what he's always done folk, soul, rock, and pop. People should check this out mates.

    If loving you is wrong:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYf9qYk6QSc