May 07

ROD STEWART – “You Wear It Well”

FT + Popular29 comments • 9,825 views

#318, 2nd September 1972

“You Wear It Well” reuses a few of the tricks that “Maggie May” employed so well – the eavesdropped lyrics, addressed to an older lover; the doubled drumbeats that keep the track moving – and Martin Quittenton’s songs also share a soft, sunny prettiness that makes a great partner for Rod’s rough but warm vocals. It’s a pleasure to listen to this, but does it have the emotional kick of “Maggie”?

Unlike its predecessor, there’s a chorus of sorts, or at least the progressively more joyful phrasings of “you wear it well” work that way, as staging posts in Rod’s realisation that he’s still in love with his ex. “Maggie May” was a snapshot of a decision being made, too, but somehow this one isn’t quite as convincing. Maybe it’s just that the scene for “Maggie” – early morning, kick the blankets off, realise it’s time to MOVE ON – was set so quickly and well, or maybe it’s just that “You Wear It Well” is a little too clever to convince: Rod’s writing a song during a break (on tour?), and falls in love along the way. “Wrote that lyric without even trying” is a great line but it throws me out of the song a little, makes me think, oh really? And shouldn’t that “I love ya I love ya I love ya” on the coda be a bit more fiery and less comfortable?

Maybe it’s unfair to compare the songs at all – on its own merits this is a fine and friendly track stuffed with good lines, and even if I can see through Rod he’s so charismatic that I want to be charmed anyway. But I can’t hear it without hearing the earlier, more iconic hit reducing it to echo.




  1. 1
    Tom on 21 May 2007 #

    I’m thinking of losing the polls, by the way – I almost always find myself forgetting to code them and then going back, and I wonder if there are some people polling who might otherwise be commenting (to complain of some huge injustive). Not decided yet, really.

  2. 2
    Rosie on 21 May 2007 #

    I always liked this more than Maggie May, and for that matter more than anything else Rod Stewart did. I think others remarked in the earlier discussion that it was all downhill from here for everything about Rod bar his ego!

    Apropos the polls – most of the time I don’t pay them too much attention. Sometimes – Without You being a case in point, the fallout is interesting and I was very gratified to see that I was far from alone in wanting to give it a 10. The polls are more interesting for me when there’s a big discrepancy between the mark you give and the one I’d give, and that doesn’t happen too often. I’d like to have seen polls for the earlier ones, mind, the ones we’re all coming to fresh.

  3. 3
    jeff w on 21 May 2007 #

    What Rosie said about the polls. In addition, I tend not to vote because displaying the results f*cks up the page view in the browser I use at work.

    As to “You Wear It Well”, I like clumsy rhymes and pop culture references that litter the lyric – e.g. “them basement parties, your brother’s karate” (ouch!) and the “Madame Onassis got nothing on you” line. Or rather, I like the fact that Rod carries them off with some style.

  4. 4
    wwolfe on 21 May 2007 #

    I always liked “Think of me and try not to laugh” – it’s a pleasant little irony that Rod’s best quality was self-deprecation.

    VH1 Classics (that has to be an oxymoron) shows something called “BBC Crown Jewels,” 30- or 60-minute concerts from the first half of the 1970s that (presumably) first aired on BBC. I saw one not long ago featuring the Faces from right around the time of this single. I was amazed what a great live band they were. From everything I’d read, and from the evidence of their one official live album, they seemed to be a shambling, semi-drunk band who managed a certain kind of sheepish charm despite any shortcomings. But – in this performance, at least – they were both tight and loose, very powerful, yet understated. It was an eye-opening discovery for me.

    Not that I’d wish this on him, but I wonder what Rod’s reputation would be now if he’d met an untimely end shortly after “Never a Dull Moment.”

  5. 5
    Waldo on 21 May 2007 #

    This was a nice litle effort from Rod. Unlike Rosie I peferred “Maggie May” but this was a more than acceptable aftermath. To be honest, perhaps trumping both was “In a Broken Dream”, which Stewart released under the name “Python Lee Jackson” at about this time but didn’t of course top the charts.

  6. 6
    intothefireuk on 21 May 2007 #

    I would concur that ‘Broken Dream’ & Rod’s Faces work was infinitely preferable to this or indeed any other of his solo singles. It’s a pleasant tune though I would peg it at about 6.

    I also have trouble with pages once I’ve voted so I don’t.

  7. 7
    Doctor Casino on 22 May 2007 #

    I don’t have anything to say about “You Wear It Well,” but as far as the polls go, I wouldn’t miss them too much if they were gone. Neat idea and worth trying, but I don’t think they’ve really added much to the conversation, and they focus extra attention on the numbered ratings, which are probably the least interesting thing about what you do here, Tom. Just my two cents anyhow!

  8. 8
    Marcello Carlin on 22 May 2007 #

    There’s a kind of “nyah nyah you’re still stuck in the shit over there and I’m a superstar over here” smugness about both song and delivery that I find hard to stomach.

  9. 9
    Tom on 22 May 2007 #

    Well like “Maggie May” it’s much much more interested in Rod than in the lady, and there’s clearly never a moment of doubt in his mind that she’ll get back with him (which is a weakness in the song actually – there’s nothing really at stake in it), but I don’t think its smugness is as toxic as that.

  10. 10
    Daniel_Rf on 22 May 2007 #

    The “I love you I love you” bit imo is just Rod *thinking to himself* about the woman (as it’s pretty unlikely he’d actually write it down as part of the letter.) So it’s dreamy and smitten, no need for fieryness.

    One thing that makes my view of this song diferent from most of the ones expressed here (and I suppose Marcello’s in particular) is that, for some reason, I never thought the song was autobiographical, or at least from the perspective of Rod Stewart, rockstar. I thought the narrator was just some average dude, and that removes a whole lot of the smugness. Don’t really know how I came to think that, tho – I guess it’s the “gotta get back to work” line, and the whole mundane scenario of letter writing and coffee getting cold, so uncommon in rock star songs that I just assumed the song’s character had a less glamorous vocation. This changes a lot – “since you’ve been gone it’s hard to carry on”, “you made me feel a millionaire”…”I don’t object if you call collect” gets a certain desperate tinge.

    Looking over the lyrics now tho, the line about Minnesotta means it probably *is* written from the pov of a rock star.

  11. 11
    Tom on 22 May 2007 #

    and the fact it’s a LYRIC he’s writing!

  12. 12
    Erithian on 22 May 2007 #

    Tom – where do you get this about it being a lyric he’s writing? Isn’t the line “but I blew it without even trying”? I think Daniel’s first call was right and that the song’s written from the viewpoint of yer average dude rather than yer average rock star (Average Dude could well be working in Minnesota, which isn’t the most glamorous place to namedrop and doesn’t even serve a proper rhyme). And I don’t at all see it as assuming that she’ll get back with him, or indeed get back to him.

    For a similar sentiment definitely expressed from the pov of a rock star, try this from Springsteen’s “Bobby Jean”: “Maybe you’ll be out there on that road somewhere / In some bus or train travelling along / In some motel room there’ll be a radio playing / And you’ll hear me sing this song / Well if you do you’ll know I’m thinking of you and all the miles in between / And I’m just calling one last time not to change your mind / But just to say I miss you baby, good luck goodbye, Bobby Jean…”

    Oh, and I wouldn’t miss the polls at all – I hardly ever look at them and the discussion’s far more interesting.

  13. 13
    Seanw on 22 May 2007 #

    I’ve always gone for the ordinary joe in an office interpretation. I took the the ‘Minnesota’ bit to mean ‘Whenever I’ve thought about phoning you, I always pictured myself having finally made it – that I’d be on the road in America, Minnesota maybe. Then you’d be impressed (God I screwed up.) But as it is, I have to bloody get back to work. That was a lie about the ‘nothing to do’ earlier on, by the way. My boss wants me to… (etc)’

  14. 14
    Mark M on 22 May 2007 #

    All the versions of the lyrics I can find back Erithian’s interpretation. I’m as post-structuralist as the next chap and happy to regard all (mis)hearings as equally valid, but I’m fairly sure it’s about a guy (of no specified occupation) writing a letter, not a Paul Simon/Robbie-esque songwriter-telling-what-he’s-writing job.

  15. 15
    Marcello Carlin on 23 May 2007 #

    The trouble is that Rod “progressed” from “Bobby Jean” to “Baby Jane.”

  16. 16
    Tom on 23 May 2007 #

    NOES well I’ve always heard the meta version, and will continue to do so. MY GAFF MY RULES *goes and sobs in corner*

  17. 17
    Marcello Carlin on 23 May 2007 #

    This demonstrates why we need polls.

  18. 18
    Tom on 23 May 2007 #

    Would’ve got the same score either way!

  19. 19
    Brian on 24 May 2007 #

    After long abscemce , I’m back. Not that I expect that you’d give a shit.

    Dylanesque song. Hibbings, Minnesota – Zimmerman’s birthplace.

    Has Doc Mod returned to the fold ?

    Brian in Canada

  20. 20
    Erithian on 1 Jun 2007 #

    Brian – sadly not, which is a pity as her contributions were always well-informed and enlightening, although she did say her particular interest was 60s music. Maybe Tom could try to persuade her to make a comeback! Welcome back yourself though Brian, and yes we do give a, er, monkeys.

  21. 21
    Brian on 6 Jun 2007 #

    thanks, E

  22. 22
    SteveIson on 20 Jul 2008 #

    Its just got such a magical sunny life-affirming quality..I’ve never really considered the lyrics much..I just love the FEEL and vibe of it..Thats the magic of pop for me-To evoke a mood or atmosphere-and this does it beautifully..You could play this song in your head all day and it’ll always make you feel good..Prefer it to Maggie Mae too-tho like that too..

  23. 23
    punctum on 12 Jan 2011 #

    I’ve changed my mind about this song; as ever, listening to it in its original context lends it a lot more colour and depth – http://nobilliards.blogspot.com/2011/01/rod-stewart-never-dull-moment.html

  24. 24
    wichita lineman on 19 Jan 2011 #

    No, not THAT Hornby, the proper one…

    The attention to detail in Rod’s best lyrics always suggested his home life might be just as much about these kind of models as the pencil-thin, leggy ones.

    And I know for a fact he has the legendarily rare Subbuteo Munich set – he’s presented with it in Birmingham at a Warner Brothers convention on the 1976 Tonight’s The Night documentary. Lucky bastard.

  25. 25
    lonepilgrim on 10 Mar 2011 #

    this seems as good a place as any to draw attention to Jonathan Bogarts wonderful extended hymn of praise to the Faces that can be found here:

    It begins here: http://oneweekoneband.tumblr.com/post/3701112532/hey-there-everybody-my-name-is-jonathan-bogart

  26. 26
    punctum on 21 Jul 2011 #

    TPL gets back to Rod with that first example of a compilation album with one bonus track to hook the non-random punters, and since I’ve already written about seven of its songs the piece is comparatively brief:


  27. 27
    Mark G on 22 Jul 2011 #

    I guess that’s a first example of one that made Number1. “A collection of Beatles Oldies (but goldies)” had a similar bonus in “Bad Boy”…

  28. 28
    hectorthebat on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Blender (USA) – Standout Tracks from the 500 CDs You Must Own (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 24
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1970s (2001) 101
    Elvis Costello – The Best Songs from the 500 Best Albums Ever (2000)

  29. 29
    Gareth Parker on 10 May 2021 #

    Same mark as Maggie May for me (5/10). A perfectly acceptable single from Rod, in my opinion.

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