Once upon a time, long before R. Kelly or Michael Jackson was accused of a sex crime, before entire careers were demolished by scandalous quotes or pictures or footage, rock critics were actually able to hang out with the subjects they were writing about. Believe it or not, writers would get backstage passes, would travel with the artists on the tour bus, would follow them to their hotel rooms and out to dinner — all so they could actually observe them outside of their public personas and maybe, if lucky, get behind the walls that fame erects so quickly and sturdily.
Those days are long behind us.
Case in point: Rod Stewart is coming to town. He'll be here on Wednesday, Aug. 11, at the Chronicle Pavilion in Concord, touring in support of his latest mortgage-paying, double-platinum-selling suite of oldies-but-goodies, As Time Goes By…: The Great American Songbook, Vol. 2 (on which we finally get to hear the sweet, peanut-butter-and-jelly blend that is the voices of Stewart and Queen Latifah singing the title track). Used to be with this kind of thing that if you were writing a story about the tour and Stewart, you'd expect a little face time with the guy, and you'd get it. Then face time turned into phone time, and phone time usually came with a paranoid publicist listening in, her itchy trigger finger hovering over the receiver, ready to cut off any call that got too invasive, too personal, too … real. Nowadays, we don't even get that.
Because Rod is a busy guy. In addition to touring he's working on Vol. 3, so he and his publicists handle the demand for interviews in what is now a time-honored tradition practiced by actors and rock stars alike: the reporter conference (i.e., cattle) call, in which literally dozens of scribes get a chance to ask Stewart one single, solitary question. And as if that weren't restrictive enough, the publicists require that your question pertain to certain topics (i.e., his new tour/album — duh), and that you only be allowed a small amount of time.
There is one thing, however, that these crack PR peeps have yet to rule out: They do not forbid calling your mom in Orange County, who is a HUGE Rod Stewart fan, and asking her if she'd like to interview him. And because they make no mention of this rule, this is what you do, and because your mom is not a real journalist but a substitute teacher in her early 50s, she cares little about staying on topic or sticking to only one question. Unlike every other dispassionate pundit on the line, Mom is absolutely thrilled to be talking to one of her favorite singers of all time, and she's gonna ask him whatever the hell she wants. Let's listen in:
Operator: And we have Pam Kamps with SF Weekly.
Pam Kamps: Hi, Rod.
Rod Stewart: Hi, Pam.
Pam Kamps: What a pleasure to talk to you. I go back a few years, and you actually struck a very strong chord in my heart back in the “Maggie May” days. I hate to say it.
Rod Stewart: Oh, my.
Pam Kamps: Way back then. And I just have wondered: Was there ever really a Maggie May?
Rod Stewart: Yes, there was, and that wasn't her name. She was my first sexual encounter when I was I think either 16 or 17. So I wasn't a late starter. It was a very, very quick romantic situation at a jazz festival in the south of England.
Pam Kamps: Yes.
Rod Stewart: And she took me into her tent and threw me aside.
Pam Kamps: Oh.
Rod Stewart: [Her] name wasn't Maggie May. And there's also — there's a few embellishments along the way in the song. But basically that's who it was about.
Pam Kamps: Yes. Do you have any idea where she is now?
Rod Stewart: No. But I imagine she must be about — you know, 68 or 70 now, because she was a lot older than me.
Pam Kamps: Just a young chick.
Rod Stewart: Yes, I was just a little virgin, and she took advantage of me.
Pam Kamps: Oh. Well, that was — that was a song that held deep memory for me. And I actually hate to say it, but it was responsible for my first divorce.
Rod Stewart: Oh my God.
Pam Kamps: Oh my. But it was good. It was all good.
Rod Stewart: That's the first time — so if you ever come to the show, just put your earmuffs in and don't listen to that one.
Pam Kamps: Oh, OK, OK. No, I have to. I'll sing along.
Rod Stewart: Oh, thank you very much.
Pam Kamps: Yes.