Now Playing: Rod Stewart ‘Where I Started From’ Superstars 1971

by | Apr 1, 2018 | 0 comments

Pushing play on old DVD boot in the ‘rock room’ today up popped a
German television series called Sympathy
for the Devil;
which ran for 13 episodes in 1971 and 1972. The series
concentrated on youth culture, music and fashion. The episode I am enjoying is
titled ‘Superstars’ and contains a number of vignettes involving the Stones, Kinks, Paul
Simon, Bowie, Faces and the subject of this entry, Rod Stewart.
Filmed in September 1970
(airing in April 1971) following the release of his summer 1970 solo LP Gasoline Alley the aforementioned
footage finds Rod singing acapella versions of two songs from the album. Mixed
in with some interview clips and a featurette of Stewart’s band mates in Faces
these short musical moments are worthy of your time and attention.
Rod, dressed in his typically stylish fashion with a soft
pink trousers and jacket, and orange shirt and shoes pops in contrast to his dreary
surroundings. Rod stands in the alcove of a worn down and war ravaged apartment
district of Germany. ‘Gasoline Alley’, a lyric and melody of homesickness and reflection aesthetically fits the real world stage of Stewart’s
performance.  
A ‘warts and all’ rendition in which Stewart stomps time with his
feet using the shattered concrete and debris filled ground as his natural
metronome. On a small balcony over Stewart’s right shoulder a woman watches, with a worthy story all of her own, while a
floor higher another person witnesses the private concert, trying to stay out of sight
of the television eye. The closer woman stands in period lower middle class
dress stoically, wondering, I am sure, what the raspy throated alien mod and accompaning
film crew is doing outside her home.
Stewart sings naturally and easily without competition from an
audience, leaning way far back, perpendicular to the sky above for the hearty notes he is reaching for. Rod’s sharp dress is a flower pushing through the concrete, while his
voice a wonderful recipient of the natural echo of the surrounding concrete
towers. Joining randomly yet well placed is the percussive melodies of the surrounding birds.
Rod slowly sways to
the transparent one, standing amidst the rubble, defeated branches and deconstructed
construction materials. In stark contrast, his vocals soar in a venue that only
increases the magic and viability of his show. Concluding his solo run through
‘Gasoline Alley’ Stewart bashfully takes a quick bow and tosses a stone from
the ground out of the frame.
The second performance of the day begins with Stewart in
front of a towering wall where the opening stanza of ‘Lady Day’ has been scrawled
akimbo in chalk. He stands slightly ajar to the dark barrier and begins to sing the
lyrics scribbled onto the building. This time a distant soundtrack of children
playing acts as a bed to Stewart’s singing. ‘Lady Day’ has a more impromptu
feel than ‘Gasoline Alley’ as Stewart also uses a piece of paper to reference
the lyrics as he sways in time. Rod is again deeply invested in the song, opening his
arms wide and exuding a heartfelt musicality using only his voice and breath.   
After working his way through the stirring
verses Rod sings a series of wordless melodies reflecting the songs recorded arrangement
to which the children off camera reply to with gentle mimicking. A beautiful moment
thankfully captured and excitedly enjoyed. Concluding his performance Stewart playfully replies to the
children before yodeling to them humorously and closing out the scene.
While the entire series of episodes hailing from Sympathy For the Devil are available for
those who search, the segment featuring Rod Stewart (and Faces) is a must see and is admittedly an all time
favorite of the ‘rock room’.  The allure
of the footage is the uniqueness of setting and the strength of the
performance. For many this is Stewart’s most prolific era and to witness the
vocal talent in a cinema verite’ setting is just a tremendous stroke of luck
for his fans. When contrasted with current recording artists the difference is obviously
striking. There is no auto tune here folks, just Rod the Mod singing his ass off joined by a few innocent
bystanders.

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