Talk about having a full life. Rod Stewart has five children by three women. He's made more than 20 albums, many of them best sellers. He's in the Rock Hall of Fame. And he owns several homes around the world, including one in Palm Beach, Fla., from where he recently telephoned on a beautiful, 85-degree day.
"Life is good. It couldn't be better," said Stewart, who plans to have a sixth child, the third one with his wife, actress-model Rachel Hunter.Here's the biggest news for his fans, though: Stewart, now 53, is rocking again.
And his new album, "When We Were the New Boys," should open some eyes. It looks to the present through cover versions of songs by modern bands such as Oasis, Superstar and Primal Scream. But it also comes full circle to Stewart's ear-crunching roots in the Faces, the early British band that raised rowdy blues-rock and hotel-room trashing into art forms.
"Yeah, it didn't cost any money then," Stewart recalls of the band's room-wrecking sprees. "We'd always find some sort of humble excuses like `I'm sorry, I slipped and the television went into the swimming pool.' But nowadays, you can't get away with it quite so easily. You have to put your credit card down before you check in." (In the early '70s, the Faces would also sign into hotels as members of Fleetwood Mac: "Both bands weren't particularly well-known then. And people in the middle of America would fall for it," said Stewart.
The new album aims to recapture some of the feel of his well-liked solo disc, "Every Picture Tells a Story" (1973), which contained the No. 1 hit, "Maggie May."
"Maybe we captured the spirit of it, but the playing is more polished," said Stewart, who expects to perform at Great Woods this summer. "This is not a sloppy album, and `Every Picture Tells a Story' was a sloppy album, which was half of its appeal."
Stewart enlisted two new and excellent guitarists in Oliver Leiber (son of Elvis Presley songwriter Jerry Leiber) and John Shanks, whom he said he "stole" from Melissa Etheridge's band.
"This is the first time I've had two American guitarists," he said. "I think there's some of the best guitar work on this album than on anything since I was with Jeff Beck."
Stewart dared to reach high after a nonmusical career start. "I was a professional footballer," he recalled of his soccer days. "About the same time, as I left school, I started to understand music and started to listen to more of it. I did a spot of grave digging and then went straight into music."
And he still fondly recalls the Faces. His new version of "Ooh La La," which has been released as a single, is a tribute to its songwriter, Ronnie Lane of the Faces, who died in the past year.
"Obviously there are some wonderful memories of the Faces days. But the band really fell apart when Ronnie Lane left. He was the heart of the group, although Ronnie Wood (current guitarist with the Rolling Stones) and I got most of the attention. But Ronnie Lane was really the engine of the band."
There are enough rock tracks on the new album to suggest that Stewart may finally get some up-tempo airplay and "stop the flow of all the ballads" he's had in the past few years. The new album reclaims his turf as a rocker.
These days, Stewart is not pandering to anyone. His confidence has risen - and so has his sense of playfulness. He's even delayed his tour to attend the World Cup soccer tournament in France. (Hey, he's got his priorities straight, right?) After his summer tour, Stewart plans another "Unplugged" album with longtime buddy Ron Wood, though he'll keep his ears open for his next musical move.
"The kids keep me tuned in as well. They listen to a lot of music," Stewart said of his offspring, who range from 3 years old to 18. "But I'm just going to keep singing and doing what I want to do."
Need we add that some guys have all the luck?