429. ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’, by Rod Stewart

And so we come to one of the most misunderstood chart-toppers. This record has been parodied, mocked, hated…

Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?, by Rod Stewart (his 5th of six #1s)

1 week, from 26th November – 3rd December 1978

But more on that in a bit. For a moment, let’s just enjoy the disco drums, and that well-known synth riff. Let’s enjoy the bass line. Let’s enjoy the fact that Rod Stewart’s 5th number one single is not an acoustic ballad. She sits alone, Waiting for suggestions… He’s so nervous, Avoidin’ all the questions… It’s a song about two shy people hooking up in a bar. At least, wanting to hook up in a bar. What should they say to break the ice? Luckily, Rod has a not-so-subtle suggestion…

If you want my body, And you really need me, Come on sugar let me know… It works. She calls her mother, and they’re back off to his place for a night of passion. Problem is… nobody seems to realise that that’s what this song is about. People know the chorus, and think that Rod Stewart’s singing about himself. They think he’s full of it, he’s disappeared up himself, he’s ridiculous… And it would be ridiculous, to write a song like this, about yourself. But that’s not what’s happening.

I say this as someone who knew the chorus and little else before writing this post. I assumed that Rod had let himself be swept up in the hedonism of disco. I pictured him singing this to himself in a nightclub of mirrors, coked off his tits. But no. He’s telling a story, as he does in so many of his songs. The line about them waking up the next morning and being out of milk and coffee is an observation straight out of ‘Maggie May’. And the middle eight is glorious: Relax baby, Now we’re all alone…

Of course, it’s not hard to see why this is seen as something of a novelty. The title, for a start. Plus, Rod made the dubious decision to play the song’s male protagonist in the video, frolicking on a bed with a gorgeous blonde. (Well, why not?) Then there’s the album from which it’s the lead track: ‘Blondes Have More Fun’, and its cover featuring Rod in a clinch with a leopard-print wearing woman. And then there’s the B-side, ‘Dirty Weekend’ – a song I love but not one that could ever be described as ‘classy’…

There is one other reason why some don’t like this disc. It is, pretty unashamedly, disco. Rock stars shouldn’t do disco! Disco, as many would start to claim around the time this hit #1, sucks! (These people were idiots; but their opinions stuck. Disco is heading for one final, glorious swansong, before crashing and burning.) At least this song not boring, or earnest, or acoustic… It’s not perfect. The sax solo is extravagantly long. In fact, the whole song is extravagantly long, as the age of the disco 12” demanded.

In my mind, ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ exists first and foremost as a Eurodance remix, by N-Trance, which was a #7 hit when I was twelve or so (I had it on cassette…) And as a sketch by the late Kenny Everett, a good friend of Rod, in which he prances around as Rod to this song, with a ridiculously oversized arse. It has left a cultural legacy, this record, for better or worse. Which means it’s still a famous chart-topper and, underneath it all, a pretty darn good one!


14 thoughts on “429. ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’, by Rod Stewart

  1. Wait… people didn’t know what the song was actually about? wow…. Do people actually know that Maxwell’s Silver Hammer by the Beatles is not just some silly pop song?
    Is it common for people to not pay attention to lyrics? Am I an anomoly?

    • I think people – me included – know the chorus and assume Rod’s singing about himself. I’m not sure this gets too much radio play these days, and only lives on in the silly chorus…

      • I’ve heard it on the radio many times. But it’s funny, a lot of people just don’t pay attention to the lyrics. They want to tap their toes and because the chorus is repeated more than once, that’s all they ever learn. I always care more about the words than the song. If I don’t like the words, even if it’s an extremely popular song, I don’t like it. If the words are ok but the song itself is catchy, I’ll enjoy it tremendously. But I’m more a fan of lyrics such as Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, or Metallica. The sound can vary, but the words must bring me in at least a little.

  2. It’s an easy song to poke fun of from the shameless sell out nature to the stupid title to Rod Stewart blatantly stealing from two songs to make his own. But Tom Breihan makes a good point that despite this, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” makes a lot of sense considering Rod Stewart’s shameless and partying nature, “If Rod Stewart could make a big hit song about partying and fucking, he was going to do it, and he wasn’t going to worry too much about what his old fans thought of it.” Notably, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” was written as a way for Stewart to create his own version of the Rolling Stones’ disco hit “Miss You” in trying to be a combination of disco and rock with his drummer Carmine Appice formerly of Vanilla Fudge doing most of the work. On that level, it fails in terms of sounding rock. And the lyrics don’t have a lot of cohesion in the story of this couple having sex and Stewart’s raspy voice can be annoying. But I do like some aspects like the walking bass, the sliding guitars, and the “owww” before the sax solo. Like what Briehan’s review says, “This is a cheap, sticky, deeply artificial piece of music, and it never aims to be anything but that. It does the job.”

    Notably US wise, this would be Rod Stewart’s last #1 for 15 years until he teamed up with Sting and Bryan Adams for the Three Musketeers cut “All For Love.” But he remained a big chart presence in that time and was a big early adapter to music videos that on MTV’s first day in 1981 most of the videos played were from Rod Stewart which the MTV people always like to point out. He even had the first performance at the first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 with “Infatuation” just before being overshadowed by Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” set.

  3. Glad you mentioned Kenny Everett sketch, it is a classic – most Rock stars were usually in on the gag and having a laugh at themselves 🙂 This record? I’m a fan, I bought it at the time, it’s a great creation, it throbs, the bassline is fab, the sax is terrific and it’s a great tune. Like most of his best records, it’s not a cover. Since his previous chart-topper he’d had one of his best ballads (You’re In My Heart, self-written) and then this sudden about-turn was the best thing he’d done since Killing Of Georgie, and best-non-ballad since..errr he was in The Faces.

  4. With me… I hear Mod the Rod and the Faces and then… this? Every Picture Tells a Story to this? It’s not fair but I think… Rod oh Rod how the hell did you get here? Also I’m not a huge disco fan so that kills the joy for me. The Stones got by with Miss Me because they did catch some rock in it… but it’s not in my top 50 Stone songs.

  5. I’m glad you mentioned Kenny Everett as his parody is what comes to mind when I hear this song! Up there with his best, alongside his DIY Bee Gees kit 😊

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