Rod Stewart, Decade by Decade #1 – “Handbags and Gladrags”

I find it hard to believe I have been bashing out my musical memories in this blog for nearly three years now, yet haven’t really included much at all by Mr, or Sir as he is now, Rod Stewart. Today sees the release of his 30th studio album called “Blood Red Roses”, so inevitably he was on the radio this morning performing songs from it. Fair play to him, he still has the voice, and has really enjoyed his song-writing of late, delving deep into his past coming up with autobiographical tales about the people and places encountered on the way. Always a bit of a dandy, he still seems to be in great shape and still always looks dapper, with the trademark spiky “Rod the Mod” hairstyle laboriously coiffed into shape.


Rod Stewart is another of these artists who has had such longevity that I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t around. He was born towards the tail end of the war, in Highgate, North London, the last son to a Scottish father and English mother. The baby of the family by eight years, he admits to having been thoroughly spoiled and had a wonderful childhood. Not being particularly academic, he left school aged 15 planning to pursue one of his two great loves, football or music. Despite trials with a few clubs the football didn’t work out, so thankfully for us, the world of music beckoned.

I remember trying to find out a bit more about early Rod Stewart a few years ago, ahead of going to see him perform at our local stadium, and found he’d first joined a band in 1959. This makes him one of the few artists still performing today, to have had a career that at a push, spans seven decades. I can’t seem to find where I got that info now but whatever, he certainly has had a long and colourful career. A few changes in direction along the way means he probably lost a few original fans, but then gained a whole set of new fans. I think it would be churlish for any of us now however, to look back at his career with anything other than awe. In his back catalogue, there is most definitely something for everyone.


I’m going to keep this post relatively short as it’s going to be the first in a Rod Stewart series covering each decade of his recording career. The 1960s saw Rod masquerading first as a Beatnik, then a Mod, singing with bands such as Long John Baldry’s Hoochie Coochie Men, and then Steampacket. Towards the end of the decade he had joined the Jeff Beck Group which was when he first played with long-term friend Ronnie Wood. At the same time however he was pursuing a solo career, and in 1969 released his first album, “An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down”. I’m afraid I don’t remember Rod from this era at all, as he just didn’t fall into the category of artist a pre-teen would have been aware of (basically he wasn’t an Osmond or a Jackson), but in later years the song Handbags and Gladrags, written by Mike D’Abo of Manfred Mann, has become one of my favourites. This song was covered by Rod on his debut album and it still sends shivers down my spine when I hear it.

Handbags and Gladrags (Live version) by Rod Stewart:

The song was apparently about the futility of fashion and the irrelevance of outward appearances, which is a bit ironic considering how much of a dandy Rod has been over the years. For me though, it still kind of smarts when I listen to it, as the memories come back of the times I was probably less than grateful as a youngster. My granny was a fantastically talented knitter, and loved making me jumpers and “tank tops” (remember them?). Sadly, these home-knitted affairs were just not appreciated, and never worn, as by the time you reach your teenage years the only “duds” you want to wear are those identical to your peers. Acrylic V-necks from Chelsea Girl I seem to remember, rather than those lovingly crafted Aran sweaters. Likewise, the annual trek to buy new school shoes and winter boots usually ended in tears. Who wanted fur-lined leather boots from Clarks, when True Form and Dolcis had all those lovely synthetic boots with platform soles? A familiar tale back then, and probably now, but this song always reminds me of those battles. All these years later and I still feel bad about those gorgeous Aran sweaters that mouldered at the back of the wardrobe.

So, my first Rod Stewart post is at an end, but I already have a good idea of which songs I’m going to cover in this series. It was lovely hearing him chat and sing on the radio this morning. Long may he continue.

Until next time….

Handbags and Gladrags Lyrics
(Song by Mike D’Abo)

Ever seen a blind man cross the road
Trying to make the other side?
Ever seen a young girl growing old
Trying to make herself a bride?

So what becomes of you my love
When they have finally stripped you of
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you

Once I was a young man
And all I thought I had to do was smile
Well you are still a young girl
And you’ve bought everything in style

So once you think you’re in you’re out
‘Cause you don’t mean a single thing without
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you

Sing a song of six-pence for your sake
And drink a bottle full of rye
Four and twenty blackbirds in a cake
And bake ’em all in a pie

They told me you missed school today
So what I suggest you just throw them all away
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy

They told me you missed school today
So what I suggest you just throw them all away
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days. I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 57 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team, Bacharach and David. The opening line to that song was, "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

19 thoughts on “Rod Stewart, Decade by Decade #1 – “Handbags and Gladrags””

    1. Thanks for the heads up about that one. Just checked it out – Wow, a lot on there, inevitably I suppose because of the span of years. Might well be worth a purchase for the anecdotes (I do love a good rock and pop anecdote!).

      Thanks for dropping by.


  1. I think Rod’s version of “Handbags & Gladrags” won out over the earlier version by Chris Farlowe and Rod’s first 3 solo albums and his work with The Faces should be must-haves for any record collection. “Gasoline Alley” is my favourite of those 3 and although there are some lovely ballads, for me the standout tracks are a cover of “It’s All Over Now” which ends with Ian McLagan playing the intro to the Stones “We Love You” (written after the Mick’n Keef drugs bust when everyone thought they were going to jail) and the full tilt 1950’s rocker “Cut Across Shorty” originally done by Eddie Cochran. I feel Rod’s “one of the lads” routine got a bit wearing but he’s got a great voice and knows how to put on a show. Missed seeing him in Steampacket, cos I was too young but I got to see him at Dundee Caird Hall in the early 1970’s during which a bunch of seats collapsed and Rod ended the show by kicking a load of footballs into the crowd. Look forward to the rest of your Rod Stewart series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it is really great isn’t it although a post about 1960s Rod should really have featured something from earlier but H and G just snuck in there by a year. This series is kind of going to be a bit ridiculous really, because all the great songs are probably from the early 1970s, but I suppose that will be the challenge, to find something that has stood the test of time from all the other decades. He popped up on the Graham Norton show last night as well, so I was immersed in Rod Stewart all day yesterday. At 73, he still comes across as “a bit of a lad” though and he still loves his fancy jackets, trousers and shoes.

      As for the footballs, yes he did that at the stadium concert I was at – I think it’s pretty much become part of his act now and it wouldn’t be a RS concert without the footballs being kicked out into the audience.

      Thanks as ever for dropping by with your memories – Great for others who can then read them here.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew you guys would say that – I will delve through the archives and try and find something “good” from each decade.
      (Others of course might chose to disagree).


  2. And a young Julie Driscoll in the Steampacket line-up too (I’m a fan!)
    Handbags and Gladrags is a great choice and, as CC says, from when Rod was good – I’m not into his later output but as I think I once mentioned in a post over at my place, his cover of ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’ is forever associated with my first kiss – seems apt somehow for someone like Rod!
    Haha, love that about the hand-knitted clothes! I do remember, however, that my dear old nan once knitted a tank top for my big sister that she really didn’t mind wearing… it was bright purple and had the words ‘GEORGE BEST’ lovingly incorporated into the pattern….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well spotted – To be honest it wasn’t until I tried to find a picture of Steampacket that I discovered Julie Driscoll was part of it all. Always something new to learn. (She was great, wasn’t she.) Yes the best songs are definitely the early ones but if you take away all the paraphernalia that went along with Rod’s image in the late ’70s, those songs like First Cut Is The Deepest are just great. A apt association – Funnily enough my memories of this song also revolve around a first kiss, as I was seeing the same person at the time who had been “my first kiss” a few years earlier. Needless to say he didn’t turn into Mr WIAA.

      I think my granny knitted me a purple tank top (with pink edging) but it didn’t have George Best on it – No it had David Cassidy! JOKE!! I do remember embroidering the names of my pop idols onto my jeans though, along with hearts and butterflies. So time-consuming but a real work of art. As for the beautiful jumpers, you would pay a fortune for them nowadays but at the time I just wouldn’t be seen dead in them – So sad.


  3. I hope I’m not taking the wind out of your sails Alyson, but this , for me, is vintage Rod. And, so the story goes, he didn’t do it for a percentage of the royalties, nor a flat fee; he just wanted a new set of floor mats for his Jag!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember that song well and it popped up in this post of mine which you will probably remember:
      About two thirds of the way down I show a pic of the album that contained most of the featured songs from the post, and also finally solved the mystery as to why the person on the album cover calling himself Python Lee Jackson sounded so like Rod Stewart. Yes vintage Rod as you say – Those floor mats turned out to be a great investment.


  4. Back when I wore a younger man’s clothes, a slightly older work colleague was obsessed with Rod. In other ways, our musical tastes were quite similar (he loved Springsteen and was the first to try to get me into Steely Dan…though that took a while). Beyond the obvious hits, I never really got into Rod though, but I’m glad he’s still around, doing his thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think you were probably just a bit too young to experience Rod “when he was good” as some of the guys around here say.

      He is popping up everywhere at the moment because of this new album, which seems to be quite good, and he certainly seems to be enjoying life at the moment. 50 years on from recording his first album though, not many of that generation still around and making decent records.


  5. Entertaining post Alyson! I’d be lying if I said Rod Stewart was one of my favourites…but I do like musical genealogy. Never saw him live but I remember seeing a Faces concert on TV circa 75/76 and it was brilliant…totally chaotic but brilliant. I also remember Python Lee Jackson – a single I think – but can’t remember what it was called. I’m sure I knew at the time it was Rod Stewart but it was so long ago I can’t recall how…probably through Sounds or NME. But that is advancing age for you…dodgy recollections 🙂 .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ken – Welcome aboard and thanks for your kind comment. I’ve just had a look through your blog and it seems you started it for much the same reason I started this one a few years back. I’m just a tad younger than you so the music that’s formed the “tracks of my years” will be a little different, but still a lot of overlap I suspect. I too visited the Rip It Up exhibition back in August and wrote a post about it here.

      You will notice there are a few comments above from other bloggers who write about music and there are many more on my sidebar – A fair few of them come from Scotland too, so that’s been fun. I would encourage you to pay their blogs a visit – Always something new to learn and it’s truly been an education for someone like me who is mainly an enthusiast who loves the facts, figures and trivia side of rock and pop.

      Yes, back in the day, we all thought Python Lee Jackson’s In A Broken Dream sounded awfully like Rod Stewart, but very little info available back then, so it wasn’t until recently I discovered PLJ were actually an Australian band who had asked Rod to do a guest vocal for them. It was originally recorded in ’69 I think but then released as a single in ’73 when he was riding high after all those great solo albums and his stint with the Faces. As John Medd above said, his fee was a new set of mats for his Jag!

      Thanks again for dropping by.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the welcome Alyson…greatly appreciated! When I saw your about page I realised that you were a few years in front of me with the same idea. Tackling music in “138 Stirling Street” is a bit of a departure for me, having run a previous blog a number of years ago on a totally different subject. Starting (almost) from scratch has been a bit daunting and it wasn’t until I started typing in Scottish band names into the Reader search that I started to come up with similar blogs to drop in on. I will most gratefully take up your suggestion to check your comments and sidebar for other blogs to visit – thank you.
        I’ll have to check on your post for Rip it Up – curious to see what you made of it…I really enjoyed it…but I do like my music trivia.

        Thoroughly enjoying your blog – keep it up!


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