318. ‘You Wear It Well’, by Rod Stewart

In which Rod Stewart scores his second number one single, by releasing a song that sounds suspiciously like his first. I mean, ‘Maggie May’ had been such a huge hit, his now-signature song, that you can’t blame him for trying to re-bottle lightning.

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You Wear It Well, by Rod Stewart (his 2nd of six #1s)

1 week, from 27th August – 3rd September 1972

Not that it’s a rip-off (can you even rip-off your own song?), but it’s similar enough to sound like an off-cut from the same recording session. The intro meanders, as it did in ‘Maggie May’, before two drumbeats – dun dun – signify that we’re ready for the song proper to get underway.

I had nothing to do, On this hot afternoon, But to settle down and write you a line… Rod’s reminiscing about a woman he once loved. Who knows, maybe it’s Maggie…? He’s been meaning to call her, but thinks a handwritten letter would tug the old heartstrings a bit more effectively. You wear it well, A little old fashioned but that’s alright…

He reminisces about basement parties, her radical views, a birthday gown he bought her in town… Then he lays on the charm: Madame Onassis got nothing on you… It’s another wordy ballad, a little more electric than acoustic this time, while the fiddle from ‘Reason to Believe’ – the flip-side of his first #1 – makes another appearance to add some homespun charm. To be honest, I’m struggling to get into ‘You Wear It Well’. It’s a bit plodding, and the words sometimes get lost in the mix.

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When you look the lyrics up, though, you see that there are some nice touches. The fact that he didn’t call because he’s in Minnesota and, y’know, that’d be a bit pricey, and the line: My coffee’s gone cold and I’m getting told, That I gotta go back to work… While at the end Rod hopes that she’s still at the same address. It’s not a record without charm; you just have to give it a few listens and dig a little deeper to find it.

But, you’d have to admit that if he had been trying to recapture the magic of his debut chart-topper then he’s not quite managed it. It’s strange to think that of all Rod Stewart’s big seventies hits which didn’t make the top of the charts – ‘You’re In My Heart’, ‘Tonight’s the Night’, ‘Hot Legs’ – ‘You Wear It Well’ did.

A short post, then. A nice enough song, and a nice enough addition to 1972’s parade of chart-toppers. It seems that to hit #1 in the summer of ’72 your record either had to be glammed up to the eyeballs, soppy teenybopper fluff, or an acoustic ballad. Let’s spin the tombola and see what pops up next…!

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9 thoughts on “318. ‘You Wear It Well’, by Rod Stewart

  1. You capture it well, I think. When Rod was at his artistic peak (IMHO the Mercury label years), he was 50% devil-may-care boozy pub rock’n’roller and 50% semi-acoustic folk rocker. ‘You Wear It Well’ was obviously never going to have the same trailblazing impact as ‘Maggie May’, but it’s almost as good, and also remains that little bit fresher as you hear it much less often on the radio. (Compare Procol Harum, ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ and the equally irresistible ‘Homburg’). I always loved Rod’s slightly conversational way with lyrics, rather as if you’re sitting down chatting to him over a pint or two, and also that gorgeous homespun feel he got from using acoustic guitars, fiddle and mandolin. ‘Farewell’, a seriously underrated record two years later, pulled it off as well. What was it about the Stewart-Quittenton partnership? Give me those, and ‘Mandolin Wind’, instead of ‘Sailing’, any day!

  2. agree, Rod was at his best from Maggie through to Farewell, and including The Faces tracks, had a charm to his songs, I still love this one much prefer it to Maggie, and also love Farewell and his cover of Oh No Not My Baby – his subsequent covers were overblown and self-indulgent.

  3. Pingback: Recap: #301 – #330 – The UK Number Ones Blog

  4. Pingback: 377. ‘Sailing’, by Rod Stewart – The UK Number Ones Blog

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