Bits of Books - Books by Title

Rod: The Autobiography

Rod Stewart

(London Times)

In 1964 Rod Stewart spotted Ronnie Wood - 'a bloke with backcombed hair and a big nose a lot like mine' - in a Soho pub. They got talking and three years later joined the same band, the Jeff Beck Group. The band was musically talented but had no original material, so they decided to come up with some songs.

Equipped with a pad of foolscap paper apiece, they met at Wood's house and waited for inspiration. 'An hour later: nothing. Not a syllable,' Stewart recalls. 'We drank a bottle of wine. Still nothing. After about 2 hours, Ronnie's mum came in and found us lying on our backs. 'Well,' she said, 'you two aren't much of a threat to the Beatles, are you?'

Little did she know: more than 40 years later Stewart and Wood - who went on to join the Rolling Stones - are still close friends. Rod the Mod, as he was back then, has sold more than 100m records. The failed attempt at songwriting is just one of many self-deprecating stories recounted in Stewart's just published and highly entertaining autobiography. As befitting the tight-trousered one, it is a story of excess: eight children, three wives, blonde, leggy girlfriends, fast cars, drugs, champagne, private jets . . . and more girls.

If there is a dream of the rock star lifestyle, Stewart, 67, lives it. His main home (called Celtic House after his favourite football team) is an Italianate mansion in Beverly Park, a gated community in Los Angeles where his neighbours are Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy. A visitor described it as 'a place of swags and sofas, marble and gilt and leather-bound books reaching to the sky - the sort of home tourists expect Buckingham Palace to be, before getting disappointed with the tatty carpets'. One floor is given over to a model railway based on the New York central and Pennsylvania railroads during the 1940s. The house also has a bar, a private cinema and a disco.

In Britain Stewart and his wife, the (blonde, leggy) former photographer Penny Lancaster, have a 100-year-old pile in Epping, Essex, with 180 acres and a football pitch. Stewart has a Ferrari and a Porsche and a fortune estimated to be at least £115m. He has married or had affairs with some of the world's most glamorous women: Alana Hamilton, Britt Ekland, Kelly Emberg and Rachel Hunter.

Some think he lost his musical soul along the way - specifically around the time he pulled on leopard print leggings and swapped ballads such as Reason to Believe and Maggie May for Do Ya Think I'm Sexy in the late 1970s - but no one can deny that Stewart has taken some smart career decisions.

'He's the George Best of pop music,' said Mark Edwards, The Sunday Times's pop music critic, an analogy the football-mad Stewart would surely appreciate. 'Rod Stewart's got an amazing voice, I'd like to see him do what Tom Jones has done and reinvent himself, singing blues and gospel,' he added. 'But if you told him that, he'd probably smile and point at the champagne glass.'

Or the Rembrandt. Stewart's memoir also chronicles his long friendship with Elton John, to whom he was so close that Long John Baldry, Stewart's mentor, nicknamed them Phyllis and Sharon.

One Christmas, Stewart 'thought long and hard' about what to give 'Sharon' and came up with a £300 novelty fridge. At the touch of a switch its door opened and up rose a bottle in a cloud of vapour. 'Elton's present to me that year: a Rembrandt,' he recalls. 'A drawing, the Adoration of the Shepherds. A f****** Rembrandt! I felt pretty small - although not as small as Elton wanted me to feel when he later referred tartly to my present as an 'ice bucket'.

For John's 50th birthday Stewart bought him a full-size, sit-under women's hairdryer while John marked Stewart's marriage to Hunter (another blonde, leggy model), with a £10 voucher from Boots. It was accompanied by a card that said, 'Get yourself something nice for the house.'

Over the years the pair have vied with each other about record and ticket sales. When Stewart was appearing at Earl's Court in London in the 1980s, a bunch of massive blow-up footballs was tethered to the roof. Elton hired a marksman to shoot them down with an air rifle. On Stewart's Blondes Have More Fun tour at the same venue, Elton stuck a banner on the opposite building that read 'but brunettes make more money'.

Getting to Earl's Court by Tube - let alone by limo - would have seemed a stretch when Stewart was growing up in Archway, north London, the youngest of five children. His father, a former builder, ran a newsagent's shop and worked long hours. Stewart, born eight years after his nearest sibling, was largely brought up by his mother and his teenage sister Mary.

The Stewart family, of Scottish descent, were all football fans. When Stewart left school at 15, he joined Brentford FC briefly as an apprentice but hated his daily task of cleaning the first team's boots. He said later that 'I had the skill but not the enthusiasm', but he never got stuck into the drink and drugs side of rock'n'roll because he wanted to get up to play football on a Sunday morning. He still plays for the Exiles, an expat team in Los Angeles. 'Most of the guys are around 50,” said a follower. 'Rod's faster than any of them. He does not play like a 67-year-old.'

The Stewart family were also great fans of Al Jolson. Stewart's father bought him a guitar when he was 14 years old. While working at a string of jobs - helping in the newsagent's, digging graves at Highgate cemetery, building fences and sign-writing - Stewart got involved with London's emerging music scene and sang with a number of bands, including the Ray Davies Quartet, later the Kinks.

One night Long John Baldry came across him at a railway station, playing the blues number Smokestack Lightnin' on his harmonica, and asked him to join his band. 'He's always had tremendous luck,' said Tim Ewbank, co-author of a biography of Stewart, 'and that's where it started.'

Baldry paid Stewart £35 a week. He had a residency at the Marquee club and helped Rod get over his shyness and nerves. While working with him, Stewart also launched a solo career. The initial response from record companies was that his voice was too rough for commercial success. There was also anxiety about whether he was conventionally 'pretty' enough to make it.

'It's amazing when you think of the smooth performer he is now,' said Ewbank. 'The first time he went to America he was so terrified he hid behind the amplifiers.'

Stewart's first taste of pop stardom - and the fun that might go with it - was with the Faces. Tight budgets meant he and Wood shared a room on tour and they would build a wall between their beds with suitcases and furniture to give themselves privacy with the girls they brought back. They liked to play doctors and wear toy stethoscopes and white gowns and offer girls an examination. 'Many girls ran a mile in the other direction at this suggestion,' Stewart writes. 'Many, however, didn't.'

It has not all been laughs; in 2000 he discovered he was suffering from thyroid cancer and the malignant growth was close to his vocal cords. For a few months after the operation he was unable to sing and had to face the prospect that his career was over. Eventually, his voice came back. Some critics think it has never recovered but Stewart has found renewed success with The Great American Songbook, four albums of standards by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George and Ira Gershwin.

He also reveals in the book his struggles to create a relationship with his eldest daughter, Sarah, whom he fathered as a 19-year-old. She was given up for adoption and he has begun to know her only in recent years, since her adoptive parents died.

Stewart's love life as he describes it has been a complex interplay of laddish womanising and slavish devotion. When Hunter, the New Zealand-born model and mother of two of Stewart's children, Renee and Liam, announced she was leaving him, he was devastated. 'It was like some kind of 19th-century romantic fever,' he writes. 'I lost 12lb in weight. I felt cold all the time. I took to lying on the sofa in the day, with a blanket over me and holding a hot water bottle to my chest. I knew then why they call it heartbroken: you can feel it in your heart.'

'Talk to his girlfriends and they all tell you Rod is romantic and has impeccable manners,' said Ewbank. 'He'll stand when you come into the room, pull out your chair as you are sitting down to dinner. When he was young it was all about 'pulling birds', but actually he has a great affinity with women.'

It is Lancaster, the mother of his two youngest sons Alastair, 6, and Aiden, 1, who has drawn the threads of his life together. Described by a friend as a proper Essex girl, very family-oriented, she managed to get all the ex-wives (Hamilton, Emberg and Hunter) and children under one roof during one Christmas. Stewart, with characteristic humour, described the event as three blondes and a turkey.

(London Times 2)

Rod Stewart is the quintessential lad who never grew up. He has lived every schoolboy's dream - fast cars, private planes, limitless blondes, pranks and, of course, the money to sustain them. He has his own football pitch in Essex and his own model railway in Los Angeles. He takes his modelling kit with him everywhere so he can work on his railway buildings, and studies photographs to learn the way rust lies on corrugated iron.

Born in north London in 1945, he was an afterthought child who was spoilt ­rotten not only by his parents but by his four much older siblings - his eldest ­sister was 17 when he was born. They were a tight-knit clan, living in Archway Road, Dad a plumber then a newsagent, and a mad-keen football supporter who ran a weekend team. He was also Scottish - which is why Stewart has always ­supported Scotland.

Stewart left secondary modern school at 15, and did various dead-end jobs. He now admits he no more signed with Brentford than Gordon Ramsay played for Rangers, though he always used to say he did. For a while he was a beatnik and went on Aldermaston marches and read the Daily Worker, then he became a mod and that's when the hair started. He devotes a whole chapter to his hair and boasts that, like the Queen, he has had the same hairdo for 45 years. At first he tried bouffant, which meant using sugar water and borrowing his sister's hairdryer, but it always blew apart in the wind. So then he went for a spiky top like his best friend Ronnie Wood - they often helped each other do their hair when they were in the Faces, and always knew when they were ill because the spikes refused to stick up.

Stewart was hanging round clubs and getting the odd singing spot when Long John Baldry spotted him playing the ­harmonica on Twickenham station and asked if he'd like to join his band. So he was in an established group by the time he was 19 and earning £35 a week. He thought if he was careful he might save enough money to buy an MG Midget.

Stewart says that he was smart with money from the very start, but his idea of smart sounds like most people's idea of excruciatingly mean. He boasts that he has never paid for cocaine ever, though he consumed tonnes of it for years. When touring America with the Faces, he devised a cunning plan for avoiding buying his round - he would hold the door open for the others so they reached the bar first. He also went home with groupies so that he could use their phones to ring England.

But after Maggie May in 1971 he didn't have to worry about saving for an MG Midget - he had Lamborghinis coming out of his ears. He used to carry a model of one to impress the girls - apparently it worked with his first girlfriend, Dee ­Harrington. He bought a 36-roomed mansion near Windsor and lived there with her for four years. The furniture from his previous house barely filled one room so he devoted two of them to his model trains. Harrington eschewed the rock-star lifestyle, so when he went up the road to Elton's or into town to Tramp she stayed behind, with predictable results. Eventually she found him having dinner with Britt Ekland and stormed off - a pattern that would be repeated all his life. He says he is too much of a coward ever to break with anyone - he just waits for them to catch him with someone else.

Ekland was already famous as a Bond girl, two years older than Stewart and miles ahead of him in sophistication - but apparently she liked nothing better than doing housework in her Marigolds. Stewart, inevitably, strayed and after two years together she threatened to sue him for $12.5m palimony (they settled ­privately) so that was the end of her.

After Ekland, it's hard to keep track of all the wives and girlfriends because they seem so interchangeable. All leggy blonde supermodels - though often of the Playboy rather than Vogue variety - they are all 'sweet' when he meets them but tend to go sour. His first wife Alana took to spiritualism and numerology. She was the same age as him, but after that it was younger all the way. Rachel Hunter was only 21 (to his 45) when he married her and he now believes she was too young. He claims he was faithful to her for eight years (surely not?), but she eventually left him, saying she wanted to make her own life. He was so upset he actually tried yoga and therapy until he met Penny Lancaster, 27, his present wife. He has two children by her, and six more by earlier relationships, though his firstborn, Sarah, was given away for adoption and only re-entered his life when she turned 18. He also has a grandchild just six months younger than his youngest child.

He is 67 and says he has given up cocaine. The Faces used to have lines of it laid out in the wings so they could take a quick toot during concerts, and the cruellest prank anyone ever played was to cover them with cling film. When Wood discovered that he could see daylight through his nose he invented a new way of taking cocaine anally, in capsules. Stewart was never that hooked, he says, but he did start losing his voice in the late 1980s, so then he took steroids that made him fat and aggressive, and led eventually to him collapsing on stage. And in 2000 he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer that stopped him singing for almost a year - though at least he didn't need chemo, which might have imperilled his hair.

He loves performing, and says he gets jittery if he goes more than a month between concerts. But now he has a residency in Las Vegas, and an album of original songs coming out next year, so he doesn't have to face retirement. A more immediate worry is that his knees are shot and he might have to stop playing football. He says he quite fancies dressing for golf — the jazzy knitwear, the plus fours - but he can't actually stand the game.

This book doesn't have a byline but the acknowledgments include Giles Smith 'my wonderful editor and confidant' who presumably wrote it. It's a brisk romp of a read but I, being a whole year older than Rod, found it a teensy bit puerile. Great for elderly lads though.

When Rod Stewart first met his second wife, Rachel Hunter, he was about to propose to Kelly Emberg, mother of his daughter Ruby. Stewart was immediately smitten by Hunter, but because of America's Labor Day holiday he couldn't stop his elaborate proposal to Emberg (a plane with the words 'Kelly - will you marry me? RS' trailing behind it) from happening. Luckily for him, Emberg didn't see the message.

(The Daily Beast) extracts

The rock 'n' roll hall of famer writes about his life with self-deprecating wit in his new memoir, from how he seduced women with Ronnie Wood to snorting cocaine with Elton John. We speed read it for 11 great revelations.

The son of a Scottish plumber and raised in North London, Rod Stewart was obsessed with two things: football and R&B. Discovered by singer Long John Baldry on a train platform playing 'Smokestack Lightning' on the harmonica, Stewart went on to front the Jeff Beck Group and Faces and launched a successful solo career with hits like “Maggie May.” With genial wit and entertaining energy, Stewart writes about how he seduced women with Ronnie Wood and how the rumor of him 'orally servicing a gang of sailors' started.

'Events Most Grave'

In 1963, Stewart met an art student named Susannah Boffey. The two of them were 18, and Boffey, to their surprise, got pregnant, 'and certainly not in bed,' Stewart said. Abortion was illegal until 1967, and anyway neither of them ever suggested it, and she decided to give the baby up for adoption. He never saw the girl who became Sarah Streeter.

Meeting Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck

Stewart had been singing clubs in the London scene for a few years when in 1966 he saw a guitarist who recently flew in from the U.S. play. He was Jimi Hendrix. The next year, in the same club, the Cromwellian, he would meet another shredder, Jeff Beck. Stewart recalled that the first conversation started like this: 'Me: 'Are you a taxi driver? Him: 'No, I'm a guitarist. Are you a bouncer?' Me: 'No, I'm a singer.' Beck, who was considered as hot or hotter than Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page, had left the Yardbirds to start his own group. Stewart joined him, and the band took off.

Meeting Janis Joplin

Stewart first toured the U.S. with the Jeff Beck Group in 1968. There he met Janis Joplin, who was by 'no means a shy or retiring kind of woman' and 'was always chasing us around the place, trying to shag one or the other of us, though without success. We were terrified of her.'

Womanizing With Ronnie Wood

His best friend at the time was the guitarist of the group, Ronnie Wood, who'd go on to be a member of the Rolling Stones. The two of them would seduce groupies, but they had to share a hotel room. So they built a wall between the beds with suitcases and furniture. 'But then, in the dark, behind the screen, going about our fumbly business, the schoolboy gene would kick in and Woody would make a ridiculous noise, and I would make an even more ridiculous noise, and then an escalating 'ridiculous noise' war would break out, culminating, frequently, in one or the other of us knocking down the barrier and burying the adjacent couple in a mound of luggage and chair legs. The extent to which our companions for the night found this as amusing as we did tended, I suppose, to vary. Frankly, in retrospect, to be a groupie attached to me or Woody on those nights, you would have needed the patience of a saint. Very often we got more pleasure out of each other than we did out of the girls.'


In 1969, Beck fired Wood for 'complaining too much,' and soon Stewart followed his friend to join a new band called Faces. 'I hadn't touched cocaine before the Faces, but on tour it became freely available. Mac (Ian McLagan, the keyboard player) had a fake carnation in his buttonhole, which he'd sprinkle with cocaine before a show, thus enabling him to inhale a reviving draught of powder during the performance.' Faces were 'bloody awful' some nights, Stewart said. 'To give us the necessary courage to go on, slightly under-rehearsed, we used alcohol. We were the first band to have a bar on stage.'

'Maggie May'

In 1971, Stewart struck out on his own with the solo album Every Picture Tells a Story. On it was a little song called 'Maggie May.' 'Maggie May was a nice enough song but it went on a bit: I even wondered about leaving it off the album. Good thing I didn't.' The single shot to No. 1 on the charts in Britain and in the U.S., as did the album, a feat that Stewart said not even Elvis and the Beatles could do.

Friendship With Elton John and Freddie Mercury

In the early 1970s, Stewart lived down the street from Elton John, and the two became best of friends. They called each other Phyllis and Sharon, or just 'Dear.' 'Whether it was drink or cocaine, he could see me right under the table every time. One night at his house, we were applying ourselves to the medicinal powders and it got to six in the morning, at which point I tendered a short letter of resignation,' Stewart wrote. He felt like he 'had been run over from a number of different directions by a number of different traction engines,' found a bed to sleep in, but four hours later his friend was thumping at the door, 'bright of cheek and white of smile,' telling him they've got a football match to go see. Stewart even wanted to form a supergroup with John and Freddie Mercury, whom they liked very much also. 'The name we had in mind was Nose, Teeth & Hair, a tribute to each of our remarked-upon physical attributes. The general idea was that we could appear dressed like the Beverley Sisters. Somehow this project never came to anything.'

Stomach-Pump Rumor

Ever since the 1980s, a vicious rumor has been circulating that Stewart had to have his stomach pumped for performing oral sex on a group of sailors. Stewart says the man who started the lie was Tony Toon, his late assistant and publicist, who Stewart said was a great publicist because he made so much stuff up. By 1982, Stewart was married to actress Alana Hamilton, ex-wife of actor George Hamilton. They went on vacation in Hawaii, and Toon came along. The hotel was overbooked, so Toon and Alana's son Ashley, who was 7, shared a room. 'Toon, of course, couldn't resist pulling some bloke in the bar that evening and taking him back to the room. I fired him in the morning. Toon's revenge was absolutely inspired. He fed the press a story in which, as a consequence of an evening spent orally servicing a gang of sailors in a gay bar in San Diego, I had been required to check into a hospital emergency room to have my stomach pumped ... I have never orally pleasured even a solitary sailor, let alone a ship's worth in one evening. And I have never had my stomach pumped, either of naval-issue semen or of any other kind of semen. With minor variations ... this story has stayed with me ever since. Say what you like about Tony Toon - and God rest his soul - but he was good at his job.”

Meeting Rachel Hunter

In the summer of 1990, six years after divorcing Hamilton, Stewart found himself addicted to a commercial for a fitness video that starred the model Rachel Hunter. So when Stewart ran into her at the Roxbury Club one Saturday night, what did he do? Instead of using his usual icebreaker, 'Hello darlin' - what you got in that handbag?” he actually mimed one of the exercises she'd done on the video. 'Rachel attempted a sympathetic smile as a cold wind whistled and a ball of tumbleweed blew through the club. Still, at least she didn't turn away.' The two soon married - she was 21; he was 45. They had two children, but separated in 1999.


The separation with Hunter left Stewart emotionally broken. 'I tried therapy. This had never appealed to me. For me, it was a bit like a Chinese meal: very filling at the time, but then an hour later you're hungry again. Plus, of course, I'm British: we don't do therapy. We do strong cups of tea, a couple of ginger nuts and a stiff upper lip.' He's now married to model Penny Lancaster.


'As I was attempting to master a beginner's level 'balancing table' position, I fell over into the fireplace. Surely if God had meant us to do yoga, he would have put our heads behind our knees.'

(another extract)

Long ago, I discovered that if you wanted to open a conversation with a woman in a club, you simply had to go up to her and say, in your best cockney accent - and in a tone of genuine curiosity - 'Hello, darlin', what you got in that handbag?'

It worked for me every time - and never better, indeed, than when the woman in question didn't actually have a handbag. But on the night I first spotted Rachel Hunter - at an LA nightclub - reason deserted me. Smoothing my jacket, checking the knot on my tie and gathering all the immense quantities of suavity in my possession, I went across to her and  did the naffest thing I could possibly have done. I actually mimed one of the exercises I'd seen her doing in a television commercial for a fitness video. What was I playing at? Why didn't I just use my usual ice-breaker?

Needless to say, it didn't work: Rachel attempted a sympathetic smile as a cold wind whistled and a ball of tumbleweed blew through the club. Still, at least she didn't turn away. Extraordinary to think that this less than promising start led to a romance that redefined the term 'whirlwind' and then to an eight-year-marriage that would eventually leave me as emotionally broken as I have ever been.

That summer of 1990, I'd become so addicted to watching Rachel's commercial for a fitness video that promised 'eight weeks to a better body' that life had to stop whenever it came on TV.

The advert also starred Elle Macpherson and Cheryl Tiegs, but the model who'd caught my attention was the Lycra-clad girl with the gorgeous shock of curls who promised to 'tighten up those frustrating areas that won't go away'. I thought I'd seen a goddess. So when, by a sensational fluke, I came across Rachel in the Roxbury Club that night, she was literally my video dream made flesh. I had that weird, double-take feeling: 'It's her. Off the telly.' I told her and the friend she was with that I was having a little gathering at my place later, if they fancied coming along. And when they finally arrived, I dropped, rather shamefully, the woman I'd been warmly chatting up - TV actress and Playboy model Teri Copley - like a hot brick.

Coming through the front door, Rachel had tripped and gone sliding across the slippery hall floor - her grand entrance. So now at least we'd both embarrassed ourselves.

There was a connection straight away. She was extremely beautiful, but there was something no-nonsense about her as well. It was there in her New Zealand accent, but also in her face, which was open and smart. Not only was she as far removed as could be from the stereotype of the flaky model, but she already had money and fame. That was a relief. In my position, that suspicion was always there: does this woman really like me, or just the stuff that surrounds me? And there was a naivety about Rachel, too - of course there was. After all, she was just shy of her 21st birthday. I was 45, so there were nearly 25 years between us. But it wasn't that she was too young for me. She was, quite simply, too young: too young to get married, too young to become caught up in another person's life, which is what happened.

I was totally faithful to Rachel - a first for me. So I didn't have the faintest idea she'd leave. Christ, she'd barely lived. But I didn't see it. I just sailed on. I really must have been in love. When she flew to New York the next morning, I sent two dozen red roses to her model agency. Then I flew to New York, on no pretext at all, so that I could see her again. I persuaded her to have dinner with me, a meal during which we didn't so much talk as gabble, covering a lot of ground in a big hurry. Back at her hotel that night, we shared a bed for the first time. She wore a T-shirt that came down to her ankles – a T-shirt that said 'Not tonight, thank you' as efficiently as if she had come clanking out of the bathroom in a deep-sea diving outfit. Bit of a shame, of course, but a sign that maybe we were at the beginning of something serious.

The following Sunday was September 9: Rachel's birthday. We made a plan to celebrate lavishly - both her big day and our new relationship. And maybe (if I was lucky) have sex, which we hadn't got round to yet. Not that I was desperate or anything.

But the celebrations didn't happen. There was a phone call from my sister Mary. 'Roddy, Dad's died,' she said. Just a few hours before, I'd spoken on the phone to my father, who was 86, about the Scottish and English football results. Apparently, not long after that, he said he felt tired and went upstairs to bed. And then he was gone. I don't need to say how much his death crushed me. I wept, and Rachel held me. And it was an extraordinary situation all round because here I was, full of new love and now in mourning. I think one refers to this as 'mixed emotions'. But Rachel was amazing, full of comfort and support.

Suddenly, it wasn't me who was the senior half of the relationship, it was Rachel. She took control and helped me through. And although she'd never met him, which was a huge additional sadness, she flew back to London with me for the funeral, staying behind while I went to the service. Most of all, I was worried about my mum, who was finding the world to be a confusing place by then. But in fact she was fine. She seemed to assume, for the most part, that Dad had just popped up to the bookies. Is there a bookies in Heaven? I'll know where to find Dad if there is.

My father's death may have had the effect of speeding things up even further between Rachel and me. After the funeral, we flew to New York to pack up her apartment and then she moved into my house in LA.

Almost immediately, though, she had a shoot for Sports Illustrated with Elle Macpherson, in Puerto Rico, which meant she'd be away for three weeks while I was recording in LA. During that time, we were hardly ever off the phone to each other. Rachel's phone bill at the end of the trip was $10,000.

Afterwards, I took her by Learjet to the Bahamas, where I'd chartered a boat for the weekend. The plane hit some turbulence on the way, but we agreed that we were so happy that if we fell out of the sky, right there and then, we wouldn't care. That night, on the boat, our relationship was consummated.

I don't know about eight weeks to a better body, but we were five weeks to an engagement and three months to a wedding – startling even some of my closest friends, who clearly thought we should slow down and were quite willing to say so. But love won't listen to objections.

On December 15, 1990, a little over three months since I'd mimed to Rachel at the Roxbury nightclub, we were married at the Presbyterian Church in Beverly Hills.

The ushers were mostly the mates I played football with, and I got them to wear sunglasses and carry white canes, so that, as they showed the guests to their seats, they'd be performing an impression of the blind leading the blind. And when Rachel arrived at the altar, she gave me a thick, thumb-and-forefinger pinch on the bum.

It was only much later that I heard what my sister Mary had told the person sitting next to her at the reception: ‘That girl will break his heart one day.'

I certainly did my best not to break Rachel's: in the eight years we were together, I was entirely faithful. This was unprecedented for me - and, given my form, I don't think you'd have found too many wedding guests prepared to put money on that outcome.

Yet my desire to wander had simply evaporated. Rachel was everything I wanted; I became a devoted husband overnight. My happiness expanded with the birth in 1992 of our daughter, the beautiful Renee. Rachel was only 22; so young to be a mother. I have a photo of her leaving hospital with our baby in her arms and a look of pure terror on her face. Just over two years later, we had a wonderful son, Liam. Now, when I toured, we went as a family, lifting our sleeping children in and out of arenas and on to planes, and carrying them gently through hotel lobbies.

What also made me particularly happy was when we both dressed up for a formal dinner at home. To me, this represented order – a huge contrast to life on the road, where so much of my life was chaotic. Rachel and I would go upstairs to our separate dressing-rooms and then meet on the landing in our evening attire, pause to appreciate each other's outfits, and descend the stairs together.

I had no idea, until afterwards, when we talked about the reasons why the marriage ended, how oppressive Rachel found this, how much she wished she could have been in her jeans, eating poached eggs on toast, as girls in their 20s do. As the years went by, my career was doing well. In January 1993, I convened a band at a studio in Los Angeles for three weeks of rehearsals for an acoustic set. It was a bit of an old school reunion, and the first thing to notice was how many of us now seemed to need glasses - there were spectacles all over the stage.

I had big plans. I'd already sold my house in LA and was arranging the building of a brand-new mansion in Beverly Park. In England, meanwhile, I made an offer for Stargroves, a beautiful country mansion in Hampshire. It had once belonged to Mick Jagger and was now owned by Frank Williams, who ran the Williams Formula 1 team. Williams wanted to sell and we agreed a price. I was buzzing with enthusiasm. Then, one day, towards the end of 1998, I was showing Rachel pictures of some furniture that I'd ordered. And I noticed that she wasn't looking at them. She was looking at me.

And she said, very quietly: 'I don't think I'm going to be around.' I didn't know what she meant. She had to repeat it. 'I don't think I'm going to be around.' Then it all spilled out: that she was unhappy, that she'd been unhappy for a while - maybe for as much as a whole year; that she'd been trying to conceal her unhappiness, but that she couldn't any more and that she was going to leave me. It was like getting cracked across the back of the head with a cricket bat. I had no inkling this was coming. Not a solitary clue. I asked her whether she'd found someone else. She hadn't. She said it was all coming from inside her; that she was unhappy with her life. In fact, she didn't really feel like it was her life. She felt she'd entered my world as an unformed 21-year-old and been consumed by it, that she was merely trailing along in my wake. She'd reached the age of 29 and she could see 30 coming and yet felt she didn't even know who she was. She needed to go.

That conversation took days to digest. I was in a state of disbelief and I alternated between retreating into myself and pleading with her to change her mind. Finally, when I realised there was no difference I could make, I withdrew my offer for Stargroves. I cancelled furniture orders and called off designers. People were understanding, but it was a painful and humiliating process.

Meanwhile, Christmas was looming, so we decided for the sake of the children to spend the holiday together. In the interim, I had a run of British shows, including five nights at Earls Court, which were the most difficult performances I've ever done.

I felt like I was singing with a weight in my chest. In London, especially, I had a fantasy that Rachel would appear at the show and everything would be all right. I kept looking over to the wings, thinking: 'She'll come tonight.' When she didn't, it cut me to ribbons. It was only when I was back in LA, on my own in the house we'd shared, that misery really settled in. For four months, it was like some kind of 19th Century romantic fever.

I lost 12lb in weight. I felt cold all the time. I took to lying on the sofa in the day, with a blanket over me and holding a hot-water bottle against my chest. I knew then why they call it heartbroken: you can feel it in your heart. I was distracted, almost to the point of madness. I went to a bookstore and left with a bag full of books off the self-help shelves. Other methods of pulling myself out of the depths descended into farce.

I'd decided to take up yoga, so a man came to the house to teach me the fundamentals. As I was attempting to master a beginner's level 'balancing table' position, I fell over into the fireplace. (Surely, if God had meant us to do yoga, he'd have put our heads behind our knees.)

And I tried therapy. This had never appealed to me. For me, it was a bit like a Chinese meal: very filling at the time, but then an hour later you're hungry again. Plus, of course, I'm British: we don't do therapy. We do strong cups of tea, a couple of ginger nuts and a stiff upper lip. But I was in extremis, so I went. Indeed, I tried three different therapists. Therapist No 1 was a middle-aged woman, and what can I say? She came on to me. I'm sure there are one or two stern paragraphs advising against that kind of thing in the professional statutes for therapists. Anyway, no, I didn't respond to her interest. Instead, I got out pretty sharpish and moved on to . . . Therapist No 2, who suggested that I get a cat. I'm more of a dog person, it's true, but a cat would, I suppose, have given me something to look after and might perhaps have made a handy hot-water bottle substitute. However, 'get a cat' wasn't quite the heart-soothing advice I was hoping to hear at this time. And certainly not at $150 an hour. Then there was Therapist No 3, who said: ‘Don’t worry about it. You've seen one ****, you've seen them all.'

For Christ's sake. Put the kettle on and break out the ginger nuts. And the guy who really helped me? Big Al. I was lying listlessly on the sofa in front of the TV in the middle of the day, which is something I never normally do. The door opened and Alan Sewell, my old friend, an Ilford scrap dealer, came in like a ray of sunshine, unannounced and all the way from Essex, 11 hours away by plane, on his own – a man who absolutely hates travelling. I'll never forget that he did that for me. It was the beginning of getting over it.

I think of my marriage now as eight amazing years spent with someone I deeply loved. At the heart of those years was a girl who was too young, who hadn't grown up and who eventually needed to spread her wings – only to find by then that everything was locked in tightly around her. And even though it ruined me for a while when she left, I knew how brave of her that was. But I knew something else, too. Clearly, I'd never be happily married.

Some of the feedback from record labels was that my voice was too rough for big commercial success. There was also anxiety about whether I was conventionally pretty enough to make it. Essentially, in 1964, I was offering gravel and a big nose to a marketplace that wanted smooth and pretty. Ruthless old business, isn't it?

Yet somehow Decca were persuaded to let me make a single. After the recording, I went to a pub in Soho where I spotted a bloke with back-combed hair a bit like mine and a big nose a lot like mine. The single was fated to die a swift and brutal death, but that chance meeting was the start of my still-firm friendship with Ronnie Wood.

Three years later, we both joined the same band. The Jeff Beck Group could in due course have been Led Zeppelin, except for one crucial detail: we had no original material. So Ronnie and I decided to meet up at his house one day, each with a pad of yellow foolscap paper, and wait for inspiration.

An hour later: nothing. Not a syllable. We drank a bottle of wine. Still nothing. After about two-and-a-half hours, Ronnie's mum came in and found us both lying on our backs. 'Well,' she said, 'you two aren't much of a threat to The Beatles, are you?'

Still, in June 1968, we climbed aboard a BOAC plane at Heathrow and set off on our first tour of America. In fact, the group toured America five times. In New York, Woody and I would stay in the Gorham Hotel, which was then a rock 'n' roll haunt.

The rock singer Janis Joplin, who was by no means a shy or retiring kind of woman, was always chasing us around the place, trying to s**g one or the other of us, though without success. We were terrified of her. Janis aside, the American girls I met then struck me as more friendly, more open and more up for a laugh than girls in England, but not necessarily more promiscuous. They needed to be charmed and persuaded, though an English accent seemed to help. The problem was, the budgets for those Beck tours often ran to only a twin room for Ronnie and me. So we created a modicum of privacy by building a wall between the two beds out of suitcases and furniture such as dressing tables, chairs or wardrobes.

But then, in the dark, behind the screen, going about our fumbly business, the schoolboy gene would kick in and Woody would make a ridiculous noise, and I'd make an even more ridiculous noise and then an escalating ‘ridiculous-noise’ war would break out - culminating, frequently, in one of us knocking down the barrier and burying the adjacent couple in a mound of luggage and chair legs.

Another game we liked was entitled 'Wood & Stewart Operations', for the purposes of which our shared room became a surgery and we became doctors, complete with toy stethoscopes and white gowns, ready to offer girls an examination and possibly even an operation. Many girls ran a mile in the other direction at this suggestion. Many, however, didn't.

Meanwhile, we were sometimes starving because the tour manager had failed to give us our daily allowances. On one occasion, we nipped into a deli and stole some food.

These adventures were very bonding, so when Woody was kicked out of the band in 1969 for complaining too much, it seemed natural to reunite in the Faces, which consisted of the remnants of the Small Faces after they'd been deserted by the singer Steve Marriott.

By then I was nearly 25 - and even Paul McCartney had said he'd pack it in if he hadn't made it by 20. But, before joining the Faces, I was finally offered the chance to make a solo album.

Somehow, I wrote four songs. But, Christ, I found writing lyrics so hard. Even the prospect of slamming my fingers repeatedly in a filing cabinet would have seemed marginally preferable.Most times, I'd leave writing the lyrics until the last minute – the morning of the session, or even in the taxi on the way to the studio. And I'd feel fantastically self-conscious about anything that I came up with – an embarrassment that lasted for years.

The breakthrough, however, didn't come until my third album, in 1971, with the release of Maggie May - a loose recounting of the loss of my virginity ten years before in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it encounter with an older woman at a jazz festival. Maggie May was a nice enough song but it went on a bit: I even wondered about leaving it off the album. Good thing I didn't.

In October 1971, it went to No 1 in the UK and America. So did the album. It was like all the planets aligning. Nobody had ever done that: not even Presley, not even The Beatles. And suddenly it was raining fame and money. Despite my solo success, however, I still needed the comfort blanket of a band and on a good night, the Faces were something special. On a bad night, we were bloody awful.

To give us the necessary courage to go on, slightly under-rehearsed, we used alcohol. We were the first band to have a bar on stage, with a waiter serving us. It saved on time and energy hopping into the wings for refreshments. It also gave us somewhere to go during interminable drum solos.

In 1970, we celebrated the news that our American tour was a sell-out by drinking the bar dry and then, in the middle of the night, by storming our manager's hotel bedroom, turning the bed over, removing light bulbs and flooding the bathroom. Our manager, by the way, was in the bed at the time. Hotel demolition was something for which we became notorious. In our defence, I'd point out that a lot of what we got up to in this area wasn't so much wanton destruction as creative alteration.

The removal of furnishings from a room, say, would frequently be followed by the reassembling of said furnishings, in another location, such as the corridor, a balcony or the hotel garden. In our further defence, I'd say that we were often extremely bored. Somehow, one found that nothing passed a dull afternoon in Pittsburgh quite so efficiently as stuffing a lift full of mattresses and sending it down to the lobby. Paintings on hotel walls, of course, were vulnerable to alteration. Woody used to do a good aeroplane on any kind of reproduction 17th Century sylvan scene hung above a hotel bed. Nor were relations between the Faces and their hoteliers improved by our habit of inviting the entire audience back to our hotel after the show. Sometimes we'd have hundreds of people in the corridor, most of them behaving very respectfully, I should add. However, it can't be denied that, on some occasions, nudity in the swimming pool was a distinct possibility, and also, back up in the bedrooms, acts of a sexual nature.

Of course, none of these practices were astute from a financial point of view. The band was continually having to fork over large amounts of money to appease the managers of damaged hotels and dissuade them from involving the police. At check-out time, it wouldn't be, 'Anything from the mini-bar last night, sir?' It would be, 'Here's your bill for the future cost of redecorating the ninth floor.' This behaviour eventually lost our touring outfit the use of the Holiday Inn chain. After one bathroom flood too many, we were banned from all their establishments.

To beat this, we started booking ourselves in as Fleetwood Mac. When that was rumbled, we became the Grateful Dead. I hadn't touched cocaine before the Faces, but on tour it became freely available. Mac (Ian McLagan, the keyboard player) had a fake carnation in his buttonhole, which he'd sprinkle with cocaine before a show, thus enabling him to inhale a reviving draught of powder during the performance.

The rest of us used to pop round the back of the amps. A lot of the pleasure was bound up with the thrill of getting away with it. It didn't feel the way it later did, all shrouded with guilt and the feeling that you were part of the workings of some huge, monstrous, destructive industrial machine.

Then one day Woody pushed his face towards me, with his head slightly tipped back, and said: 'Here, have a look at this, would you?' And looking up his nose, I could make out a small ray of sunlight passing through his septum. It was time, clearly, to think again. One idea, clearly, would have been to stop taking cocaine. Another idea, though – and for some reason this seemed to appeal to us more - was to find another way to take it. So we started buying anti-cold capsules from the chemist's, replacing their contents with a pinch of cocaine and then using them as suppositories.

The high point of those years? For me it was in September 1971, when the Faces appeared at the Oval cricket ground, Kennington. That afternoon, I arrived in a white Lamborghini in a leopard-print coat and matching trousers that I'd bought from the Granny Takes A Trip boutique on the Kings Road. All of us musicians used to shop there. The assistants would see you pick something off the rail and gently say: 'Oh, Mick's got that one,' or 'You probably don't want that, because Bowie's just been in and bought it.'

Anyway, I remember swinging into the Oval car park, and climbing out of the Lambo, dressed as a leopard from head to toe, with my girlfriend, Dee Harrington, who was wearing a tiny skirt, legs up to her neck, and the two of us setting off for the dressing-room, arm in arm. As we walked, I had this overwhelming sensation of having arrived - and not just at the Oval. I was thinking to myself: 'Bloody hell - you're quite the rock star, aren't you, son?' More books on Music

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