Rod Stewart never wanted to be a professional footballer. He dreamt about singing.

He took trials at Brentford FC to keep his dad happy. But he’s still got football on the brain, not least because he’ll be only the second musician to perform at Brighton and Hove Albion’s new home, The Amex.

“How they doing?” the Celtic fan asks, focused, as ever, on the important things in life.

“You’ve got a bloody good Scottish international who decided to stay there when he could have gone into the premiership.”

Craig Mackail-Smith, I say.

“Yep, good on him.”

Stewart, London-born but with Scottish blood, has just hung up his boots and he’s lamenting his weathered knees.

“I played my last game of football last Sunday. I've retired my boots now.

“Thing is I had a bloody blinding game. I’m paying for it now, of course. Us veteran footballers always pay for it a couple of days after.

“I’ve got a trainer who gives me a massage, but the mind wants to carry on but the knees are going no.”

Stewart’s third wife, Penny Lancaster, isn’t convinced his retirement from the vets team, Fram, will last – especially after Rod’s years playing for LA Exiles.

“My wife keeps saying, ‘you haven’t hung ‘em up, you know you’re going to play,’ ... but officially that was my last game. The boys all gave me a farewell drink and I've been made assistant coach to the assistant coach and vice president of the club. Haha!”

He’s not packed up the guitar. In fact, he’s in the studio built into his LA home when we speak, nine tracks into the follow-up to last year’s Time, his first record of self-penned originals (bar one by Tom Waits).

“I’ve had a burst of creative energy,” declares that placeless gravel voice, dampened by a cold caused by erratic LA weather – as he confides “I don’t know whether you can hear it, old boy. My nose is so blocked up. We’ve got this ridiculous weather.

“One day it is 85 degrees. The next it drops all the way down to 50.”

Stewart is a singer first and songwriter second. Latterly, his career has been all interpretations, including five albums of Great American Songbook standards, plus records of rock classics and soul and Motown material.

Time returns to an era when the man put together a run of solo classics in parallel to his time in the Faces.

He self-produced and penned large parts of An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down from 1969, Every Picture Tells A Story from 1971 and 1972’s Never A Dull Moment.

“It’s always been somewhat of a struggle for me to write songs,” he reveals.

“I think I've written some pretty good ones but let me tell you it doesn't come easily. It's not like I write five or six songs a day like a true songsmith. But I enjoy it more than I used to. It used to be like being at school and doing homework. I'd do anything to get out of it.”

Back in the early days, when Rod had a failed audition with Joe Meek and began listening to Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, he lived for a while on a beatnik houseboat in Shoreham.

“I was a beatnik before I was a mod,” he explains, when I ask about the former mod retuning to its spiritual heartland.

“I don't know what I turned into after that. I must have immediately morphed into a rock star because there doesn’t seem to be any gap in between.

“In fact, I did, I went beatnik, mod, rock star.”

What is he now?

“I'm one of the granddads of the enjoyable music business!”

There is a song on Time called Brighton Beach, which remembers that time in the early 1960s and his relationship with Susannah Boffey, which produced his first child Sarah, whom the pair gave up for adoption.

“That is where my eldest was conceived, to put it delicately. So I spent a lot of my youth in Brighton on the beach there, in the early 1960s. The show will be something of a homecoming for me.”

All the gazing backwards and forwards follows his long-awaited official autobiography released in 2012.

“Susannah was my first serious, well what I thought was a serious, relationship... it probably was. It was the first time I thought maybe I’m in love, had those pangs of love, I was 17.”

Was it difficult to write?

“No it wasn't. It came out quite easily. I think true stories when you reflect on your life are much easier to write than to create in a fantasy in a song.

“I’m good at writing stories in songs where there are a lot of facts. That is what that song is all about. It's also a song about reflection.”

There is poetic licence when he mentions Martin Luther King, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix because all three were later in the 1960s but he says songwriters are allowed leeway. He never tires of talking football and he never tires of talking music, especially his heroes Long John Baldry, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, The Temptations and the man who called him the greatest white soul singer, James Brown.

“Bless him. He was a lovely man.

“A little erratic. But a lovely fella.”

He confirms that the story of Long John Baldry arriving to his mum’s sweet shop dressed in a suit and tie and carrying flowers to ask if Rod could join his band is absolutely true.

“He said to my mum, ‘Mrs Stewart, I will have your son’ and she interjected and said, ‘you will have him home by 10 o’clock every night!’ “He was so sweet.”

It’s not all been plain sailing. He got a pasting for jetting stateside to avoid tax. And when he kept Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen off number one with I Don’t Want To Talk About It and followed it a year later with the disco pomp of Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? he was no longer the rough and tumble blue-eyed boy.

“That was bad. And when I left Great Britain in 1975 Hitler was probably more popular than I was at the time. So to speak.”

The underdog spirit never left. The man formerly known as Rod the Mod pulled it back.

“I don’t know whether happiness is gauged by success, but it certainly helps, and I’ve had so much success with this album, especially in Britain and in Europe, that it is a wonderful time.”


Rod Stewart American Express Community Stadium, Village Way, Brighton, Friday, June 13



Doors 5pm.

Dixie Mix 7.30pm.

Rod Stewart 8.30pm.

Tickets £60. Visit


Park and ride shuttle bus service from Mill Road, Brighton, and from Lewes Road (Mithras House) on Lewes Road, from 4.30pm onwards and 10.30pm return.

Ticketline tickets, £12.75, including booking fee.

Car park tickets £22, park at Sussex University, BN1 9RB. Both from Ticketline. call 0844 8889991 Brighton and Hove Buses number 25 service from Churchill Square and Old Steine runs to the stadium.

Southern Rail is running extra trains equivalent to its football service.