523. ‘Baby Jane’, by Rod Stewart

Following on from The Police, another superstar act returns for a final bow atop the UK singles charts…

Baby Jane, by Rod Stewart (his 6th and final #1)

3 weeks, 26th June – 17th July 1983

And if we might continue the comparison for a few moments more… This record isn’t as ‘good’, or as well-regarded, as ‘Every Breath You Take’. But it’s a lot more fun to listen to…

Baby Jane, Don’t leave me hangin’ on the line… I knew you when you had no one to talk to… Lyrically, it’s a throwback to Rod’s earliest hits – ‘Maggie May’ and ‘You Wear It Well’ – in that he’s singing about an old flame. One who loved him and left him, and who now moves in ‘high society’. Musically, though, he’s slap-bang in 1983, with a synth riff and an outrageous saxophone solo (I’m often quite down on sax solos, but this one’s a belter.)

Actually, it’s not completely given over to the sounds of the day. The beat that drives this song along, and that makes it such a fun listen, is decidedly disco. (I miss disco…) Rod’s last #1 had come almost five years before – ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’ – and ‘Baby Jane’ was a bit of a comeback hit for him (he’d only had one Top 10 single between these two chart-toppers.) It was a wise decision to keep the disco guitars and drums, for me, and not to go completely electronic.

I mentioned it in an earlier post, but it’s interesting that the run of huge eighties hits we are on have largely been released by established stars, or those on the comeback trail: Michael Jackson, Bonnie Tyler, Bowie, now Rod Stewart. Bowie is perhaps the most obvious comparison for Rod, and his performance on ‘Let’s Dance’, while iconic nowadays, wasn’t typical of a dance record. I’m not sure he enjoyed making ‘Let’s Dance’, as much as Rod enjoyed ‘Baby Jane’. Just listen to the Yeah! before the final chorus.

Fans of Rod the Mod, who enjoyed his work with the Faces, and his earlier, acoustic, solo hits, are probably as down on ‘Baby Jane’ as they are on ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’. And I can understand, to an extent. Sir Rod hasn’t always exercised the greatest quality control over his work. But then again, I think most people could find it in themselves to enjoy this big, dumb puppy dog of a song; while recognising that it’s not among his very best.

This may be the end of Rod Stewart’s chart-topping career, but he’d go on scoring big hits well into the 1990s. Which is in itself very impressive: he was thirty-eight when ‘Baby Jane’ made #1, and has a twelve year span between his first and last number ones – a longevity that not many acts can boast of. His most recent album made #5 last Christmas, while he has also branched out into model railwaying, and drunken Scottish cup draws. Here’s to Sir Rod, then, a true legend, in more ways than one…

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22 thoughts on “523. ‘Baby Jane’, by Rod Stewart

  1. Rod Stewart is one of those acts that people often forget how long he was able to make hits. In the US, it’d be 15 years after “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” til he got back to #1 with Sting and Bryan Adams on “All For Love” in 1994 but in that time he was still a big charting presence with a bunch of Top 10 hits including a song from an MTV Unplugged session though “Baby Jane” peaked here at #14. For someone of his age, he adapted very well to the MTV era considering he was an early adopter to music videos to the point where early on MTV were playing a lot of Rod Stewart videos.

    • Same in the UK, he had Top 10 hits well into the 1990s, and then transitioned to huge-selling albums when he started doing his ‘Great American Songbook’ series. I like him – he seems to genuinely enjoy being a famous singer, and while his output hasn’t been consistently great, he certainly doesn’t take himself too seriously.

      • Yeah I feel like a big theme through his whole career, Rod Stewart has always had a very shameless streak to him even in his early authentic period. He’s never afraid to try out new styles regardless of how silly it makes him look. And you’re right he just seems like a fun guy that likes what he does. Tom Breihan also makes a hilarious joke about his personal life in his “All For Love” review, “(Stewart’s Wikipedia page notes that Stewart is “a model railway enthusiast.” I’d add that Stewart is also noteworthy for enthusiastically railing models.) (I’m sorry. Couldn’t resist.)”

  2. This song isn’t as well known over here. It got to #14 on Billboard’s 100 the week of July 30, though but, it is rarely played:
    https://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100/1983-07-30/

    If you ask the average American about Baby Jane, you will most likely get a blank stare. “Don’t recall that song…” It is one of my absolute favorites of his.

    Summer before my senior year… There was a lot of good music back then. Eurythmics had exploded, Duran Duran, Madness, The Kinks, Men at Work, The Human League, Def Leppard (another personal favorite), The Fixx, Culture Club…even Elton was still rocking us.

    I am thankful I was a teen in the 80s. I was, literally, 13 in the summer of 1980…turned 14 in late August. What a great time…not so much for my parents, though. Inflation was bad in the US back then. Our sick leaders have now surpassed (like a bullet train) anything that was determined to be “bad financially” in the 80s.

  3. Yup! You’ have to count me as one of those you mention in the penultimate paragraph. Love all the early stuff, and love the guy – but the ’80s and Rod was another marriage of disaster for me. I d still play that stuff on the compilation albums i have, and yeah it id ‘OK.’ But not a patch on his earliier stuff .. tooo sickly sweet for me.
    He seems to have coma back around though with his more recent work. What I’ve heard of his latest album is well classy. 🙂

  4. I agree, this does seem to be overlooked a little as an oldie on the radio nowadays in view of the fact that it was No. 1. I have got bored with “Sailing’ and ‘D’Ya Think I’m Sexy’ is rather cheesy (but was probably meant to be). The may not be up there with ‘Maggie May’ or ‘You Wear It Well’, butit’s very likeable, and perhaps more importantly, not over-exposed to excess.

  5. I’d go so far as to say this is my fave Rod number one, great riffs all round, rousing rockdisco, and no sign of the mush cover versions he tends to fall back on when he’s not in the mood to write his own songs. I’ve said it before – Rod’s best records are those he writes himself, but he generally needs a kick up the arse to put in the effort, as it’s not a process he enjoys. I wouldnt argue that it’s as iconic as Maggie May, as tuneful as You Wear It Well or as clubby as Do Ya Think I’m Sexy – but I never get fed up with Baby Jane in the way that I’d overdosed on Sailing by it’s second top 5 visit in 1976, or following the 90’s remixes of Sexy. Tune!

    • Tune, indeed. It’s a great wedding disco, or karaoke number… Though forgotten enough that people probably wouldn’t ever think to sing or play it. I like that about Rod… I do get the feeling that being a rock star is just a job to him, and that he’d happily chuck out an album of covers if it keeps him in booze, supermodels, and model trains…

  6. Hard to believe this man fronted the Faces and was singing songs like Every Picture Tells a Story. I mean this is not Flock of Seagulls or anything…so yea it’s better than that no doubt and I would listen to it before I would Every Breath You Take…majority be damned.

    Still as a song by itself its alright but when I compare it to his other work…no. I know that is unfair but I’m being honest.

    • I do like it, but I get what you mean. I think the ’80s suited Rod more than some other acts. He got into the spirit of things, enough to stay relevant, without getting too self-indulgent with the techniques and styles of the time. Elton John too. Bowie not so much, Let’s Dance aside, as he didn’t feel comfortable with the fame that brought him… Then there’s Paul McCartney… : )

      • Paul dived WAY too far and tried too hard to stay relevant.
        I saw Rod in the early 80s when Young Turks came out and he was good. I did like some of those songs…but it’s unfair of me to compare them to his earlier work.

    • Hey. No throwing shade on Flock of Seagulls. The most iconic blond hairdo and a movement that had kids wearing trash bags. LOL!

      I have a thing for saxes (saxs?) in pop music, so I was all over this. 😁

      • LOL… Flock of Seagulls…you talk about a MTV creation…they were it!
        I like the saxophone also…it came back in the 80s…. but again…Every Picture Tells a Story…that is what I think of when I think of Rod the Mod.

      • I’d have to say that Stewart sticks out the most, in my mind, from the late 70s, on. I mean, I liked Reason to Believe, The First Cut Is The Deepest, Hot Legs, Tonight’s The Night (I’m sick of Maggie May)… I was aware of them but, he most definitely jumps into my mind with the performance on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve of Do Ya’ Think I’m Sexy. That is when he was more or less in my face at that point. And, his #1 Sailing…I don’t recall ever hearing that on the radio.

      • Yea but being sick of a song…and yes I’m guilty also….doesn’t mean it isn’t a great song. Damn radio…
        I like that stuff because it was my era…well except the Do Ya…no I’ll pass on that one…but after I heard his voice against that rocking acoustic guitar…I was hooked.

  7. Pingback: Recap: #511 – #540 | The UK Number Ones Blog

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