Reporter: Charles Wooley
Producer: Sandra Cleary
He describes himself as a simple man who got lucky.
But luck alone doesn't sell 200 million albums or keep you at the top of the music game for four decades.
No, Rod Stewart has lashings of talent and an appetite for hard work, as well.
At 66, he's still belting out his greatest hits all over the world, and bringing his show to Australia.
And if all that's not impressive enough, he's just become a dad for the eighth time with wife Penny.
Recently, Charles Wooley caught up with him at his home in London.
For more information about Rod Stewart's Hits Tour of Australia early next year, visit www.frontiertouring.com
CHARLES WOOLEY: It’s not every day you get a private coaching lesson with Rod Stewart – let alone in the grounds of his English mansion on his private pitch. At 66, Rod still kicks like a pro, runs his own amateur team and plays home games here every Sunday. I was asking you about eight kids and your terrific physical shape as well – what we’re talking about here is survival of the fittest.
ROD: Oh, absolutely, yeah. Yeah…what the fuck’s he talking about?
CHARLES WOOLEY: Soccer has always been his second love and when you’ve kicked as many career goals as Rod, you can afford to indulge your passions.
ROD: All I’ve done is do what most guys would have done if they got lucky – own a lot of cars, go out shagging and drinking, you know, most blokes would do that. And you know, I’ve grown up now, I don’t do one of those things.
CHARLES WOOLEY: It’s a wonder that most blokes don’t hate you.
ROD: No, I don’t feel any hate because again, it’s more of a ‘good on you Rod, well done. You know, got yourself out of your working class surroundings and you made the most of it.’
CHARLES WOOLEY: He may have lived every bloke’s dream, but these days, at home with wife Penny and little Aiden, the youngest of his eight children, Rod’s every bit the doting dad.
PENNY: Our little miracle.
ROD: I have to – you know all the children, especially the two the two younger ones, him and Alistair – I have to have a fix of them every day, you know until I get out in the morning, I go I’ve got to find them and just go, ‘oochy koochy.’ It’s priceless.
CHARLES WOOLEY: I think my favourite bit is the smell from that little scent gland on the top of the head, just there. What a softie you are.
ROD: Oh absolute softie.
PENNY: And he’s so mild mannered this little one, not that one.
CHARLES WOOLEY: There was nothing mild about Rod’s wild youth. As lead singer of The Faces alongside the legendary Ronnie Wood, he helped define what rock-and-roll excess was all about. Can I rummage around in your remote past a little more?
ROD: Behave yourself.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Have I got it confused or did you blokes chuck the furniture out of the hotel window?
ROD: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. And it seems foolish nowadays but the reason we did it is because you know, especially in the Holiday Inns we’d get no respect, you know, they didn’t want to serve us, they just thought we were loud, smelly rock stars you know….
CHARLES WOOLEY: Oh I know I know what it’s like.
ROD: So we just took our revenge. Televisions, we’d empty the rooms out of furniture and put it in the elevator and send all the furniture down to the lobby, in fact we were still doing that in the 80s. I actually did it in Perth and we got a huge bill of $11,000 in the 80s.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Tell me about the wonderful song Maggie May.
ROD: Yeah. She was my first shag.
CHARLES WOOLEY: And you wrote about it.
ROD: Yeah I did, she was a she was an older woman, I think she probably was in her late 30s and I was 17 and that’s all there is to it. Just a few little things added to make it a story.
CHARLES WOOLEY: And have you immortalised many of your, as you charmingly put it, your shags in into songs?
ROD: My shags, no. No I think that’s the only one, yeah it’s the only one
CHARLES WOOLEY: After Maggie May came a long roll call of beautiful women who succumbed to the Rod Stewart charm. Among others, Joanna Lumley, Britt Ekland, Alana Hamilton, Kelly Emberg. How did you do it? What do, what have you got?
ROD: I’m embarrassed, I don’t know, I mean I’m not a standardly good-looking bloke, I’m just I don’t know, I don’t know what it is.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Oh you’re a very attractive man but…
ROD: Yeah I suppose so but I mean, I’m not Brad Pitt am I?
CHARLES WOOLEY: …But to pull that rollcall of birds yeah…
ROD: Yeah I used to do alright even before I was in the music business, you know, probably a good chat-up line and…
CHARLES WOOLEY: Putting in the effort.
ROD: I think I can be when I want to fairly charming and well-mannered.
CHARLES WOOLEY: I think of the line, ‘some guys have all the luck’.
ROD: Oh that’s very true, yeah that’s very true.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Rod seemed to move effortlessly from one leggy blonde to the next. But the one who broke his heart was New Zealander, Rachel Hunter. Rachel walked away from their marriage along with their two young children.
ROD: I was very much in love with her and I didn’t see it coming. You know, it wasn’t her fault, there was nobody else involved on both sides, she just felt, you know, she hadn’t grown. You know, women are like trees, eh they go through their 20s and into their 30s and they grow and tentacles come out, not literally, but they’re still enjoying their life.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Oh I’ve known a girl like that.
ROD: Oh you have, you dirty bugger.
CHARLES WOOLEY: But no I wasn’t I wasn’t prepared for it.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Meet the latest, and Rod assures me the last lady of the manor, his third wife Penny Lancaster. You succumbed. What is it, what is the charm, what is the attraction of the man?
PENNY: He has that old-fashioned charm, he’s a true gentleman but he’s a cheeky boy at the same time. He’s got that fantastic combination, you know. Youth and wisdom, all in one.
CHARLES WOOLEY: It must be an incredibly different life for you now.
PENNY: Yes well actually…
CHARLES WOOLEY: I mean it’s still rock-and-roll isn’t it?
PENNY: My mum and dad, where I was brought up, is just 10 minutes down the road, but my garden was a lot smaller than this one, very well manicured but a lot smaller.
CHARLES WOOLEY: He must be besotted by you because I’ve learned that each night from Vegas, he will jet back to LA in his own jet just to spend it with you?
PENNY: He’s a family man, he’s a family man, you know. And he wouldn’t feel comfortable going out on tour if myself and our two younger sons couldn’t join us. He does enjoy being with his family and it’s not so much fun out on the road by yourself.
CHARLES WOOLEY: You have tamed what might be rock-and-roll’s wildest man.
PENNY: I wouldn’t say tamed, he still has a very wild side to him.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Rod has certainly sewn his wild oats over the years – a paddock-full. Eight children with five different women. His eldest daughter is now 48, while little Aiden is just five months.
ROD: I’m very proud of my kids, very, very proud of them. The funny thing is with the little one – so many of them I can’t remember their names now – um, Alistair. When I’m around Als, I’m “dad” but when I’m on tour now if I’m away for a couple of nights, he calls me “Rod Stewart.” Isn’t that fantastic?
CHARLES WOOLEY: Oh isn’t that terrific.
CHARLES WOOLEY: How’s Rod with the nappies?
ROD: As long as it’s during the day I’m okay, I can’t seem to do the night things anymore.
CHARLES WOOLEY: But even though he’s an old hand at fatherhood, over five decades, things have changed.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Penny chose a water birth. That’s very trendy.
PENNY: Rod was in the water with me.
CHARLES WOOLEY: So you jumped into the bath as well?
PENNY: Yes, yes.
ROD: Yeah I was right behind her in her g-string and…
PENNY: Massaging my back.
ROD: … massaging her back and helping, and that’s why I’m sure he’s so mild mannered you know, cuddly.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Conception was also a little different this time. Aiden was an IVF baby.
ROD: We found the right doctor and the miracle worked.
CHARLES WOOLEY: And, the procuring of that successful sperm, how was it done?
ROD: Just you know, rush it down there in the Ferrari and give it and they put it in the fridge and wait for it to be used.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Did your missus go with you?
ROD: Of course, yeah.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Oh so it wasn’t cold…
ROD: She drove the Ferrari, I was too tired after the ejaculation.
CHARLES WOOLEY: In this charmed life, the only stroke of bad luck came 11 years ago. Thyroid cancer threatened to silence that distinctive voice.
ROD: If you’re going to have a cancer, thyroid cancer is probably the easiest one to get rid of in the early stages.
CHARLES WOOLEY: But not the best thing to have if you’re a singer, if you live by your voice.
ROD: Yeah, the operation could have gone terribly wrong and could’ve lost my voice, which I did, for quite a while.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Oh right, so you had to redevelop your voice?
ROD: Yeah because they cut right through the muscles. But it came back after about nine months.
CHARLES WOOLEY: And with his voice back in fine form, Rod made a career comeback – performing some of the greatest American songs ever written. It was ambitious and daring, but he more than got away with it.
ROD: I grew up with these songs and it’s amazing how they do enter the sub-conscious, these songs, cause even Penny knows them and she’s only 40. Some of them are written 60, 70 years ago but it was a big decision, you know. I felt like a bit of a rock-and-roll traitor the night before the album came out but you know, we’ve done 27 million…
CHARLES WOOLEY: But it’s his rock classics that fans still love to hear. We’ll get our chance next year, when Rod brings his ‘Greatest Hits’ world tour to Australia. With sales of 200 million albums, there’ll be no shortage of material and plenty to celebrate and probably no need to lock up your daughters. And you’re going to perform in a few wineries as well.
ROD: Yes, I like the wineries cause…
CHARLES WOOLEY: You have a fondness for them.
ROD: Yeah, everybody everyone’s pissed as a fart by the time you go on and it’s a great, it’s and they do behave themselves by the way. It doesn’t feel like work when I come down to Australia, I love the country and I’m not just saying that you know.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Now I’ve got a nine year old, I’ve got to keep going for a while but you’ve got one that’s not even 6 months, you’re going to be singing into your 80s.
ROD: Oh no, I can’t imagine that, but I would love to. I love singing, I really do, I love performing.
CHARLES WOOLEY: You’re out there doing it for the rest of us, mate.
ROD: Ah, bless you.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Thanks for your time.
ROD: Alright, okay.