In October of 1981, only two songs would top the Billboard Hot 100: Diana Ross and Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love,” and “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” by Christopher Cross. Both were powered by movies--Endless Love and Arthur, respectively--and both were maudlin, piano-powered ballads built to tug at the heartstrings and incite waterworks much like the movies they were promoting.
Rod Stewart, however, had something different in mind. Fresh from successfully mining disco and the dance-floor throughout the late ‘70s for inspiration, “Rod the Mod” turned to the then-burgeoning New Wave sound to introduce his latest album--Tonight I’m Yours--to America.
"Rod was always trying to be on the cutting edge at that time, so we did drum machine stuff,” drummer Carmine Appice told SongFacts about the creation of the album’s lead single in the States (internationally, the title track was the first single). “(Keyboardist) Duane (Hitchings) had just gotten a sequencer, so we started screwing around and came up with the chords and melodies. We presented it to Rod. This one was easy, because we used the whole concept that we came up with. We just transferred it from the 8-track that Duane had going right onto the 24-track. We used the drum machine and everything. Once we gave Rod the music, he wrote the lyrics."
"I started the idea because Devo was real big and one of my favorite groups, thus the fast pulsing synth groove,” added Hitchings. “And of course Rod did a great job! Got a bit of help with a nice instrumental line from (fellow Stewart keyboardist) Kevin Savigar also."
For his part, Stewart penned the story of star-crossed young lovers Billy and Patti who run away from their parents to “run free, be free, live free,” with their story captured in the song’s cinematic music video. Directed by Russell Mulcahy, the clip was filmed in downtown Los Angeles, with actress E.G. Daily in the role of Patti.
"The videos were cutting edge. He had top-of-the line people. When I first joined him, the first video we did was for 'Hot Legs,' and that was a great video,” Appice explained of Stewart’s approach to music videos. “It was played all over the world. For every album we did with Rod, we did two or three videos. There were a lot of stations that would play videos. There were video outlets in Australia and England. Top Of The Pops would play the videos all the time."
The “Young Turks” video is also famous for being the first time breakdancing was shown on MTV. Cast among the dancers was Paul "Cool Pockets" Guzman-Sanchez from the ‘70s dance crew, Chain Reaction, featured prominently throughout the clip.