World’s Worst Songs: Rod Stewart’s “Hot Legs”

Lots of us—and I am a particularly big offender in this area—have praised Rod Stewart’s early solo work to the skies at the expense of what came later. By the end of the 1970s, the story goes, Rod had arrived. Because he no longer needed to work as hard as he did on the way up, his music became looser and more casual, sometimes bordering on sloppy. But it’s worth remembering that even while he was making his early 70s masterpieces, he was also recording with Faces—a band famed for its loose, casual-bordering-on-sloppy vibe. Somewhere in my archives I have a bootleg Faces show recorded in 1973, in which Rod is obviously ripped to the tits and everybody in the band is having a blast. Focusing meticulously on art is way down the band’s list, but it’s great music nevertheless.

So it should be possible to give Rod Stewart a pass for his 1977 hit “Hot Legs,” which comes from the Faces side of his musical personality. But I’m not gonna do it. “Hot Legs” is pretty clearly one of the World’s Worst Songs.

Start with the opening guitar lead, which has all the gentle subtlety of the brass in the David Rose chestnut “The Stripper.” Rod starts hooting immediately, and he squeals through the first lines like a Mississippi bluesman who’s unexpectedly been goosed: “Who’s that knockin’ on my doh-wah / It’s gotta be a quahtah to foh-wah.” From that, it’s pretty clear what we’re going to get here: “Hot Legs” is about an underage girl who’s come around looking for love, and Rod is happy to oblige, and to describe her while he does it: satin shoes, most persuasive tongue, and legs right up to her neck, all good for keeping his pencil sharp. (In the video, however, we don’t see the girl doing anything, or even a whole girl—mostly just legs and later, a backside—and never a female face at all. Which says a lot, actually.)

Rod does all of this not so much by singing as yelling, trying to make himself heard while the band bashes away behind him. He claims to be exhausted by the girl’s attentions, but he’s not half as exhausted as we are by the end of the record: by the relentless noise of it, and by its brain-dead sexism.

The net effect of “Hot Legs” is to make a person sorry he keeps making the effort to find something creditable in Rod Stewart’s late-70s work. Rod would do better at various points in the 80s and 90s, but “Hot Legs” represents the nadir of a 40-year career.

  • GayAtheistLeftHanded

    I’d nominate the obvious with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”. The answer is no, actually. That mop on your head ain’t doin’ it for me, Rodster.

  • FD13NYC

    I totally disagree. In fact, this was his last good rockin’ songs. After that,, his music went south six degrees from Sunday.

  • abyssgazer

    “Tonight’s the Night”–another piece of god-awful creepy pedo dreck from Rod Stewart. Who decided he was all Mr. Sessy-pants anyway?–I never got it.

  • jamesballenger

    I agree that it gets a pass because it rocks out, but his skeevy come-ons date the song immediately. I think the disco beats he would pursue next are much worse but this is a bad song.

  • Bill Altreuter

    This was the end of it for me. This or “You’re In My Heart”, I guess. Actually, pretty much anything after “Smiler”, and “Smiler” sucks.

  • Sean Gregory

    I, too, totally disagree. This song stills sounds good to me. Sexist? Sure but that term can take out countless songs over many years. This is an A-1 pop rocker to me. Rod’s selection of songs during this era was poor but he was likely a victim of his effortlessly engaging voice. I mean even “You’re in my Heart”, which is awful, still has that voice. The video, which looks poor now, was even top-drawer by the standards of the time.

  • DwDunphy

    I used to get this and “Rockin’ Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu” mixed up a lot.

  • Guy Smiley

    This song, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” and “Young Turks” all suck pretty bad. In fact, post- Every Picture Tells a Story you could devote an entire year’s worth of this column to Rod Stewart.

  • breadalbane

    Not 1977’s worst song; not even Rod Stewart’s worst song. Stoopid? Sure. Sexist? Yup. But not bad for all that … in fact, those factors are a big part of the song’s charm (if you can buy that it’s performed with a big helping of tongue-in-cheek spirit.)

  • Jason Hoffman

    I always thought Kim Carnes sang Hot Legs.

  • Russell Griswold

    Did it ever occur to you that the reason why the girl’s face isn’t shown is so that each person viewing the video can imagine their own fantasy girl? This is a common artistic theme, especially where one or more attributes of beauty are being singled out for celebration. You seem to disparage the practice for some reason. Oh, and one of the worsts songs of all time? I don’t consider you a music critic, only an internet troll.

  • Pico

    This only sounds bad compared to the Gasoline Alley/Every Picture Tells A Story era. Compared to what followed, this sounds pretty damned good.

  • Pettis & Silver

    Amateurish music snobbery: one of the most tedious bits of the www.