High Rise

Loving “Young Turks” isn’t revisionist in 2013. For the generation which knew Rod Stewart as the spandex-clad raspy wonder with the grasshopper legs prancing through video after video, it’s considered as indelible as “Maggie May.” I’d rescue quite a few of eighties Rod singles: “Tonight I’m Yours”; the Jeff Beck collaboration “People Get Ready” in which he gamely fails to outsing the gale force guitar noise; the oh-god-I-wish-I-was-still-a-folkie-tonight “Oh God I Wish I Was Home Tonight”; the Out of Order‘s “Crazy About You” and “Lost In You” (A-minus sleaze but the latter cowritten, of course, with Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor). I even treasure “This Old Heart of Mine” — better Christmas music than the competition.

“Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” still needs modest defenses. Eerily mimicking the feel of the Stones’ “Miss You,” Stewart’s band plays every extant disco signifier: four on the floor drums, locked-down bass, guitar fills too groove-conscious to do anything besides stay out of the way, sax solo. The key, though, is the amazing synth line, lumbering across the track, suggesting a scenario much colder and sleek than the one written by Stewart (noting the synth is one of my earliest memories). This is the second curious thing about “Sexy”: it’s a singer-songwriter narrative bedecked in polyester, which, thanks to the synth and rhythm section, intensifies the comedy. It boasts a handful of sharp lines too, with “She sits alone waiting for suggestions” and “Give me a dime so I can phone my mother” funnier than whatever singles bar denizen Bryan Ferry was yodeling that year. No wonder so many critics thought Stewart a joke: he’s so committed to the situation that they couldn’t help but see him as the loser in the high rise apartment. I wish the rest of the track measured up to the synth, or Rod wasn’t faffing around in a boa as if killing time for the limo to take him to Studio 54.

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