Rod Stewart Forgets Lovers, Pete Townshend Fumes in Bios

'Rod: The Autobiography'
"Rod: The Autobiography," by Rod Stewart. Source: Crown Archetype via Bloomberg

Rod Stewart has lost track of the women he’s slept with, but he can recall every car he’s ever owned.

There’s been a Marcos, a Porsche and many Lamborghinis, he writes proudly in “Rod: The Autobiography” (Crown Archetype, $27).

Stewart gets credit for being candid, but many of these stories don’t make him look very good.

The singer, who’s fathered eight children and been married three times, put his first daughter up for adoption when he was 18. He explains that he didn’t have any money or a regular job.

Eighteen years later, she turned up at his home, along with a tabloid reporter. Stewart was shocked but agreed to see her -- without the reporter in tow -- and they are now close, he says.

Revelations on the day job are few and far between. Stewart discloses that he first had an idea of doing an album of standards way back in 1983 and was advised to put it on ice for a while. Now his “Great American Songbook” series has made this past decade his most commercially successful.

Stewart includes photos of his toy train set, saying “a man should always have a hobby to be well rounded. Don’t snigger.”

He’s in good company: Neil Young also has a mini railroad, which we learn about in his memoir, “Waging Heavy Peace” (Blue Rider, $30). Young spends a lot of time chronicling his green obsessions, such as an electric car which caught fire when it was left plugged in too long while it was still in development.

There is some music here. Young says he has to write when he’s moved by events, such as the Kent State University shootings in 1970. He wrote “Ohio” when he heard the news, recorded it the next day and it was on the radio within a week.

Pete Townshend

The Who’s Pete Townshend spends a lot of time in “Who I Am” (Harper, $32.50) trying to explain some Internet browsing that attracted police attention. He acknowledges registering on a site that advertised child pornography, but says he was doing research, pointing out that he was publicly campaigning against such images in reaction to his unhappy childhood.

He’s an articulate author who doesn’t need a ghost, though his book took about 16 years to write. For the first time we learn that his musical inspiration came on a boat trip on the River Thames when he was 11.

He heard “extraordinary music” in his head, with violins, cellos, horns, harps and voices. It became his “personal musical ambition” to recreate that “sublime experience.”

Willie Nelson

In “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” (Morrow, $22.99), Willie Nelson writes of his four marriages and seven children, including a daughter he had with “an old and dear friend” whom he didn’t learn about until much later. He even finds space for a few musical musings: “With me, writing songs is not a choice. It’s like labor pains, and they have to get out.”

For true musical insights, look to David Byrne’s “How Music Works” (McSweeney’s, $32). He draws on his work with Talking Heads and Brian Eno, then broadens out to music as heard anywhere: opera houses, African villages.

Byrne says the way we’re listening to recordings is changing: “There have never been more opportunities for a musician to reach an audience.”

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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