14
Aug 08

ROD STEWART – “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

FT + Popular65 comments • 5,058 views

#429, 2nd December 1978

HAHAHA “Do ya think I’m sexy?” heh heh well the answer to that Rod is…..

NO!

AHAHAHAHAHA!

It’s the gag no pop show talking head can resist, but the title line doesn’t actually show up in this admittedly odd record, and Rod isn’t singing about himself. This is a character piece, a study of disco pick-ups and their awkwardness. In fact Rod lays the awkwardness on very thick indeed – it’s a wonder the pair of shy mumblers he describes ever get down to it – and the song doesn’t quite convince because Rod obviously is, well, not sexy exactly maybe but sexually confident, and what’s he doing here anyhow? In the video the girl seems to be being chatted up by a TV with Rod’s face on it, and then has sex with a Rod lookalike while being watched by TV Rod: it’s an unintentionally fine illustration of how weirdly intrusive Rod’s shaggy presence in his own song feels.

The awkwardness isn’t confined to the narrative, of course: Rod is one of a number of big 70s figures gritting their teeth and ‘going disco’, and at least the song’s nightlife setting gives him an excuse. The results are musically mixed: that keyboard riff is imperious in its swagger, but the groove is woefully lumpy and the song has chugged into inertia well before it reaches the morning after. It’s a game try at a rock-disco crossover, and deserves more than a cheap laugh – but not much more.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    Mark G on 14 Aug 2008 #

    and of course, the “girls from FHM Magazine” did this, possibly low on the intended irony factor.

  2. 32
    Erithian on 14 Aug 2008 #

    Waldo – no worries mate, it was just that Betty Robinson story for your interest.

  3. 33
    katstevens on 14 Aug 2008 #

    I like this one! The riff is just brilliant, dur-nur-nur-NUR-nur, widdle-iddle-iddle-ooooo, widdle-iddle-iddle-ooooo… The bassline is proper pounding disco (techno even?) and I even quite like Rod’s vocal on this (I can’t stand his voice usually, esp on Maggie May) and I would quite happy bop away to it on a dancefloor crowded or empty. Tom’s right about the N-Trance version though – that’s even better!

  4. 34
    LondonLee on 14 Aug 2008 #

    Take away the cringe factor of dirty old lech Rod + the lyrics and this is sort of alright, the drumming is the best thing about it – really crisp and snappy (is it Carmine Appiche?)

    Though that Xmas my mum wanted a copy of his ‘Blondes Have More Fun’ album and I had to go into my local Our Price with the old “it’s not for me, really” line. Oh the shame.

    I’ve never really understood how this (and ‘Miss You’) were considered Disco records though.

  5. 35
    Jungman Jansson on 14 Aug 2008 #

    I genuinely like this song, without even a hint of contrarian posturing. As several others have already said, it’s the combination of bassline and synth riff that does it for me.

    I think I first heard it in 1990-91 sometime, on MTV’s Greatest Hits. I used to love that show. Even though I was just beginning to properly become interested in music at the time, I was already intrigued by trying to find out what I had missed before. The songs that were featured on Greatest Hits at the time were usually from the late ’70s and early ’80s – to me they already seemed ancient (ten years is a long time when you’re twelve years old). Ancient, but interesting.

    I think that not being a native English speaker protects me from the worst awkwardness of the lyrics as well. Hearing something in a second language automatically filters it, makes it slightly more detached (which can be both good and bad, obviously). And, to be frank, I’ve never actually bothered to listen very closely to the lyrics of this song – at least not the verses. I’m not much of a lyrics person anyway; I generally go for rhythms and melodies.

    From that perspective, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” works pretty well. But it’s an anomaly, I usually can’t stand Rod Stewart.

  6. 36
    Snif on 14 Aug 2008 #

    It’s at this point that the Rutles were indeed bigger than Rod.

  7. 37
    Alan Connor on 14 Aug 2008 #

    A full Resurrection Watch on this would be a hoot. (Whatever happened to RW, anyway?) Yet could any version top Ned Flanders’ bowdlerised serenade in I Love Lisa?

    “If you think I’m cuddly / And you want my comp’ny / Come on, wifey, let me know-ow-ow-ow…”

    All things considered, Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil doing that grandmother-whine-hum trick (not 100% sure that’s the musicological term) in the “original” Taj Mahal is going to be the one I reach for more often. (Is there a Jonathan King thing going on here in terms of Swiping Much-Loved Foreign Hit For Domestic Consumption?)

  8. 38
    The Intl on 15 Aug 2008 #

    Hated it’s guts back then; now it’s just easily ignorable.

    It’s funny: back then I couldn’t for the life of me understand how anyone could do ANYTHING but punk/new wave. I felt those genres made everything else so archaic. Looking back, a LOT of that safety pin stuff makes me embarrassed for the perpetrators. And nowadays too, it’s Rod I’m really embarrassed for. Why the hell doesn’t he release an lp of soul “standards”?

  9. 39
    jamesf on 15 Aug 2008 #

    Hate the original, but somehow the Revolting Cocks cover has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. might be embarassing, but it’s true.

    Anyhow, that cover (along with the Olivia Newton-John one) sort of feeds into my vastly unpopular “Ministry are gay” theory…

    think about it; they’re sort of Coil-gay, but also sort of Human League-gay, and a fair amount of Judas Priest-gay. Does anyone else see it? No?

  10. 40
    DJ Punctum on 15 Aug 2008 #

    The best thing Rod could do right now is a cover version of Wayne Marshall’s “Weed Bag.”

  11. 41
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 15 Aug 2008 #

    all that was revea’ed of DJP’s comment in “recent comments” was:
    “The best thing Rod could do right now is a cover version of Wayne…”

    so i wrongly but delightedly guessed he was proposin that Rod cover “If you want to fvck me, fvck off” by wayne county and the electric chairs

  12. 42
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 15 Aug 2008 #

    (oops weird apostrophe watch back at me there)

  13. 43
    DJ Punctum on 15 Aug 2008 #

    Well that’s a pretty fine idea as well but this is actually what I meant.

  14. 44
    Raw Patrick on 15 Aug 2008 #

    “All things considered, Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil doing that grandmother-whine-hum trick (not 100% sure that’s the musicological term) in the “original” Taj Mahal is going to be the one I reach for more often. (Is there a Jonathan King thing going on here in terms of Swiping Much-Loved Foreign Hit For Domestic Consumption?)”

    Jorge Ben had to sue to get a writer credit/royalties from Rod, so not exactly.

  15. 45
    Brian on 15 Aug 2008 #

    Concert Watch : I saw Rod with this Band ( and yes it was Carmine Appice on drums – who was great in Beck, Bogart & Appice ) and although they were touring under the strength of DYTIS – they dragged out all the catalogue and gave it alot of punch. I can’t remember if Jim Creager was with that band but the bass player was an Asian guy and the band cooked and gave alot of muscle to Rod’s hits. Tight as a frog’s asshole.

  16. 46
    Brian on 15 Aug 2008 #

    ……and that’s waterproof

  17. 47

    bassist = Tetsu Yamauchi? (he was the faces bass-player after ronnie laine left)

  18. 48
    DJ Punctum on 15 Aug 2008 #

    Bass was played by Phil Chen.

  19. 49
    lex on 15 Aug 2008 #

    The Paris Hilton version is something of a miracle in that it raises the song from “aural horror” (both Stewart and N-Trance versions) to “pleasant wisp of nothing”; respect to her for that, but it’s a woefully substandard ending to her otherwise-perfect album.

  20. 50
    Brian on 15 Aug 2008 #

    Yup , bassist was Phil Chen. didn’t know this though…

    “Shortly after the dawn of 1981, Chen and other members of Stewart’s band were fired, after they allegedly refused to fly from London to Los Angeles to appear on the American Music Awards.”

    Rod had proobably run out of 1st class upgrade coupons and wanted thme to fly in back…..arghhhhhh

  21. 51
    Malice Cooper on 15 Aug 2008 #

    The best thing about this is when you find someone who hates Rod Stewart, this will be the song they hate the most and you can justify playing it to them as it was so popular. Only he could get away with it and he did.

  22. 52
    o sobek! on 15 Aug 2008 #

    love love love ‘taj mahal’, moderately like this – there’s much much much better old rocker gone disco moves (yoko, roxy music) and much much better post-sellout rod (another ‘young turks’ shoutout) out there but this is far far from the worst example of either. even after i’d gone back and discovered all the old stewart/small faces stuff that really is pretty great and helps you understand just why corny old rock fuxxors really do detest stewarts pop stuff this still sounded fine to me, not nearly as regrettable as say elton john’s disco move (rivals merman for bad disco). i know there’s the old ‘ah but actually’ w/ the lyrics a la ‘born in the usa’ or ‘memphis’ but his voice and delivery work better w/ the straightforward reading, if barry gibb provided the ideal for straight, white suburban discos than rod stewart (to this day even) embodied its reality – horny, hairy, relentless, clueless. ‘4’ seems about right.

  23. 53
    wichita lineman on 16 Aug 2008 #

    I wonder if this would cause such strength of feeling if it had a different title. The storyline is its strongest point for me – when they first arrive there I imagine the gent’s apartment has blinds like the sleek pad in American Gigolo, yet by the morning it sounds more Brooklyn boho (out of milk and coffee, the slob). The title, then, doesn’t seem like anything either character would say, or even think, and does spoil the effect. I’d guess it was an in-joke, or Rod knew exactly the kind of fuss it would cause and shoehorned it in.

    Not coincidentally, the highly atmospheric Young Turks – I’m very pleased we’re all in agreement on its greatness! – is another story song, as almost all of Rod’s best songs are. It’s denouement is hilarious and touching at the same time, and somehow passed me by when the single came out. Is that “YEAH!” a warning, genuine joy at the birth, or a mocking laugh at the characters’ youth instantly evaporating?

  24. 54
    Nate P. on 17 Aug 2008 #

    Something that’s been kind of overlooked in all the Jorge-got-robbed discussion around this song (not just here, but in general) is that there’s another blatant lift in DYTIS — the keyboard riff came directly from the strings in Bobby Womack’s “If You Want My Love Put Something Down on It”.

  25. 55

    wow, turner prize to womack for double entendre there i think!

  26. 56
    mike on 18 Aug 2008 #

    More unlikely covers: Macy Gray is currently performing this in her live set, along with covers of “Creep” and “Groove Is In The Heart”.

  27. 57
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 18 Aug 2008 #

    “creep” by the fall?

  28. 58
    DJ Punctum on 18 Aug 2008 #

    “Creep” by Radiohead?

    “Creep” by TLC?

  29. 59
    SteveM on 18 Aug 2008 #

    the Stone Temple Piliots ‘Creep’ surely

  30. 60
    Doctormod on 19 Aug 2008 #

    p^nk #41–

    Ah, Wayne/Jayne, “Man Enough to Be a Woman.” The cover sounds delightful, but while Rod’s at it he should do “Texas Chainsaw Manicure” as the b-side.

  31. 61
    mike on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Sorrysorry: “Creep” by Radiohead. I’ve also seen her covering Melanie’s “Brand New Key”, presumably unaware of its subsequent Wurzelisation…

  32. 62
    Chris Brown on 24 Aug 2008 #

    Obvious question we’ve touched on but not got to the bottom of – why “Da Ya”? As already established it can hardly be intended as a representation of how Rod pronounces the phrase, because he doesn’t. For me that spelling just adds to the atmosphere of tackiness, in a way that seems all the worse when it’s so inappropriate. It seems like Rod is almost challenging us in his most unpleasant show-offish way; and thus camoflaging everything that’s actually good about this record, such as it is. Obviously this has been in my life as far back as I can remember, but it was a bit of a jolt when I listened to the verse lyrics for the first time.

  33. 63
    Iron J on 7 Feb 2012 #

    The synth hook is so euphoric, I forgive my man Rod for submitting a lackluster vocal performance. The production doesn’t suit him well anyway.

  34. 64
    Brendan on 25 Sep 2012 #

    While it’s clear he’s already fallen into the self-parody trap by now he still sounds as if he believes in the song and there are enough elements to make it agreeable all the way through (especially the wonderful bassline which most of the best disco tunes had (I’m not saying this was one of them, just that at least it was a valid attempt to be). I’m happy to give it a 6.

  35. 65
    hectorthebat on 28 Jul 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 301
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 308
    Dave Thompson (UK) – 1000 Songs that Rock Your World (2011) 103
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 18
    Theater van het Sentiment, Radio 2 (NL) – Top 40 Songs by Year 1969-2000 (2013) 28
    Rolling Stone (Germany) – The 500 Best Songsof All Time (2004) 363
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

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