405. ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’ / ‘The First Cut Is the Deepest’, by Rod Stewart

The most interesting thing about this next number one is the song which could, maybe should, have replaced it at #1. More on that later. First, Rod’s got some ballads to sing…

I Don’t Want to Talk About It / The First Cut Is the Deepest, by Rod Stewart (his 4th of six #1s)

4 weeks, from 15th May – 12th June 1977

Actually, another interesting thing is that ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’ comes from the same album – ‘Atlantic Crossing’ – as Rod’s last chart-topper, ‘Sailing’, which reached the top almost two years ago! That’s a pretty rare feat, mining a LP for singles for that long.

Perhaps you can tell that I’m grasping for interesting things to write about this one, as I’m not finding the music all that gripping. It’s fine: Rod Stewart knows his way around an acoustic ballad like this in his sleep. And perhaps that’s the problem – it’s Rod on autopilot. It’s not got the novelty factor, or the drive, of ‘Maggie May’, or the ridiculous singalong chorus of ‘Sailing’. It’s simply pleasant.

I like the way the strings and guitars lift us to the chorus line: I don’t wanna, Talk about it… Which in itself is also a great line, sung with a lot of feeling. But it’s not enough to hang a whole, five-minute song on. (And that’s another thing – did nobody suggest a ‘single edit’ for this one?)

The guitars, fried and country, are cool, but especially towards the end the song does begin to meander. ‘I Don’t Want…’ was a cover of a 1971 song by Crazy Horse, Neil Young’s sometime band. Rod hasn’t strayed too far from the original, though his version is more polished… and that’s not a good thing. Anyway. What could we possibly need after that? Another heartfelt ballad, of course.

‘The First Cut Is the Deepest’ is another, probably more famous, cover, this time of a Cat Stevens original. It’s another acoustic, bittersweet love song. In fact, I’ll go further than that. It is a thoroughly miserable love song: If you want, I’ll try to love again… As declarations go, it’s certainly honest. He wants her by his side, but only to wipe the tears that he cries… Baby I know, The first cut is the deepest…

Hey, some people are into damaged goods. Again, this ticks all the classy ballad boxes, and Stewart’s voice is as smoky as ever. But, again, it washes over me. Maybe it’s not my thing. Or maybe it’s just dinner party background music. Plus, there’s always the earlier, superior version of ‘The First Cut…’, released by P.P Arnold a decade earlier.

The best double-‘A’ sides have a bit of yin and yang to them. Think of the most famous #2, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ / ‘Penny Lane’. Or Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’ / ‘Cabaret’. Even our most recent double-‘A’ #1 from David Cassidy had two very different sounding songs on each side. Interestingly – here I go again – ‘The First Cut…’ was from a more recent album, ‘A Night on the Town’, making this potentially the only double-‘A’ to feature songs from different LPs by the same artist. (I say ‘potentially’, I have neither the time nor the inclination to check.)

So, we are two thirds through Rod Stewart’s chart-topping career, and it’s been wall to wall ballads so far. Luckily, his last two #1s up the tempo quite a bit. Wahey! It’s not that these are bad songs, far from it; they just don’t scream ‘four weeks at #1!’ to me. But, of course, there’s a good chance that, during the last of those four weeks, Rod Stewart didn’t really have the best-selling single in the land. Controversy ahead, then. More to come…

8 thoughts on “405. ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’ / ‘The First Cut Is the Deepest’, by Rod Stewart

  1. I Don’t Want To…was just dull dull dull. The much better cover from Everything But The Girl showed what could be done with the song, while totally agree the wonderful P.P. Arnold (still making good music) is way better than Rod’s more mundane treatment – though that side of the single is the better of the two by some distance. I have a problem with Rod’s covers of songs, partly cos he sucks all the spark out of them by and large, and partly cos his own songs can be wonderful and he really doesn’t need to do covers. He’s said himself, he doesn’t like songwriting cos it’s a bit hard, but when he puts the effort in there’s gold in them thar hills, and that still applies in the 21st century: his recent album of self-written songs is worth more than all the Greatest Songbook albums put together.

    Cat Stevens once said he regretted turning down the right to use PP Arnold’s First Cut in a Prime-Era TV ad in the days when this particular jeans company made 60’s oldies into latter-day smashes all over again, mainly as it would have given PP a profile boost at a time she was doing guest vocals on House smash hits. That would have been great, she deserves to be better known.

    Too right about the next 2 Rod toppers as well, cheesy disco delight and stomping 80’s pop on non-covers, infinitely preferable to this one!

    1. I haven’t heard much of Rod’s more recent stuff, but I do slightly admire the idea that he just can’t be bothered writing songs. Why not bung out an album of cover versions to keep you in champagne and silk kimonos for another year? And yes, the Everything But the Girl version is much better.

  2. Rod’s early cover versions, like ‘Street Fighting Man’ and ‘Reasin to Believe’, frequently added something genuinely different to the originals, but by this time the law of demising returns has set in. I agree that by and large, given his own writing skills, he serves himself far better by getting off that wiggling backside and writing his own.

  3. badfinger20 (Max)

    See…I like these two songs a lot. Rod + Acoustic is usually really good. It’s when Rod goes disco is when I don’t like him.
    They are not his best but I do like them.

    1. I think it’s a double whammy of Rod’s chart toppers to this point all being ballads, and this long run of boring number ones we’re on… I just lost patience! I might appreciate them more in different circumstances

  4. Pingback: 406. ‘Lucille’, by Kenny Rogers – The UK Number Ones Blog

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