When Rod Stewart Stripped Down for MTV's 'Unplugged'

'Unplugged...and Seated'
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Warner Records

Sometimes all it takes to help revive both a musician’s career and his rock ‘n’ roll spirit is to take a trip back to the good old days and revisit how much fun it can be to just hang out with a mate, playing music and singing songs. When Rod Stewart taped a special and live album for MTV Unplugged, he did just that.

In his 1999 book Rod Stewart: Every Picture Tells a Story, Bradley writes about how, in the interviews with Rod for the six or seven years prior to the release of Unplugged...and Seated, “there’s very little real conversation about music. Although at the end of the day both parties were there because Rod Stewart was a famous musician, the interviewers tended to ask questions about his lifestyle rather than his talent. And Rod was happy to let them.”

All that changed with Unplugged...and Seated. At long last, music took center stage for Rod again, and he didn’t hesitate to launch into discussions about how much enjoyment he’d gotten out of joining forces with his old mucker Ronnie Wood again...not that journalists needed him to tell them:  if they’d seen the video of the performance, it was obvious.

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As Tim Ewbank and Stafford Hildred wrote in their 2005 biography of Stewart, “It was not hard to spot how comfortable Rod seemed to be with Ronnie Wood on guitar alongside him. They swapped good-natured banter all the way through, and Rod could not resist a dig or two at Ronnie’s membership of The Rolling Stones. ‘Here’s a song we used to do before you went and joined that other band,’ he jibed. And when he introduced ‘It’s All Over Now’ he fixed Ron with a grin and observed, ‘You lot did a version of this, if my memory serves.’”

Not everyone can have as much fun doing their job as Rod and Ronnie did on Unplugged...and Seated while also end up scoring significant chart success. But this dynamic duo certainly did: the album hit No. 2 on both the U.K. and U.S. album charts, going platinum in the U.K. and triple-platinum in America. Not half-bad for a couple of old mates having a party...

In addition, Rod also found himself back in the Top 5 of both the U.K. and U.S. singles charts, thanks to a live version of Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately.” But that wasn’t the album’s only hit: he also hit No. 19 with his live version of Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe.” (Ironically, the studio version of "Reason" was passed over by radio programmers decades before in favor of its B-side, "Maggie May."). Beyond that, the album's closing cover of Sam Cooke's “Having a Party” ended up being a Top 40 hit in America.

What’s this?  Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve just been handed this breaking news, and...why, it seems that Rod’s got a new album coming out soon: it’s entitled The Tears of Hercules (his 31st),  and it’s due out in November.

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