How Rod Stewart Harnessed New Wave on ‘Tonight I’m Yours’
Rod Stewart has often been savvy about incorporating the latest trends into his music, be it hard rock in the late ’60s, folksy ballads in the singer-songwriter era or disco beats in the late ’70s. With 1981's Tonight I'm Yours, the 36-year-old singer was incorporating a new sound into his music: keyboard-driven new wave.
Membership in Stewart’s band was fluid when Rod and company were working on Tonight I’m Yours, which would become the star’s 11th solo record when it was released on Nov. 6, 1981. In the course of four months spent recording the LP, drummer Carmine Appice departed after a four-year tenure as Stewart’s drummer, while keyboardist Duane Hitchings joined up during the sessions only to depart before the subsequent tour.
Before moving on, Appice and Hitchings made significant contributions to the LP, playing on the synthesizer-heavy title track as well as co-writing and playing on “Young Turks.” The latter, with its contemporary (for 1981) sound, would become one of Rod’s biggest hits.
“Rod was always trying to be on the cutting edge at that time, so we did drum machine stuff,” Appice told Songfacts about “Young Turks.” “Duane had just gotten a sequencer, so we started screwing around and came up with the chords and melodies.”
Hitchings had said the hit came about from his love of one of the big new wave groups at the time.
“I started the idea because Devo was real big and one of my favorite groups,” the keyboardist said, “thus the fast pulsing synth groove.”
After creating the music – with assistance from another keyboardist, Kevin Savigar – the musicians handed the track over to Stewart to write the lyrics. The raspy-voiced singer claimed that the phrase “Young Turks” had stuck in his brain at some point before, and he expounded upon the concept to write a story about young lovers, Billy and Patti. As Tonight I’m Yours was released, Stewart praised “Young Turks,” even in comparison to other songs on the album.
“It’s the better song,” he said. “‘Tonight I’m Yours’ is just a ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’-type song, whereas ‘Young Turks,’ I think, has a bit more depth to it.”
Rod’s fans agreed, pushing “Young Turks” to No. 5 on the U.S. chart (not to mention No. 1 in Canada, No. 3 in Australia and No. 11 in the U.K.), certainly aided by a glossy video that played often on the brand-new MTV. Stewart scored a smaller, follow-up hit with a slick and soulful versions of Ace’s “How Long?” – one of three cover tunes on the record. He also took on rockabilly with Johnny Burnette’s “Tear it Up” and recorded Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” with Jeff “Skunk” Baxter on pedal steel guitar.
At the time of the album’s release, Stewart credited friends and a member of his road crew for encouraging him to add some cover songs to the LP before admitting, “I do cover versions real well” – perhaps a forecast of what was to come decades later with his “American Songbook” albums.
Looking back, many of Stewart’s fans and the rock press consider Tonight I’m Yours to be one of Rod’s better albums, especially of the late ’70s and ’80s. One critic wrote that it was “one of the last records that makes Rod sound like he’s hip.” Stewart himself never disparaged the album (unlike some that came before and after it) and continues to sing “Young Turks” in concert.
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