By Joe Matera
Released on November 6, 1981, Tonight I'm Yours was a transitional album for English rocker Rod Stewart. After having released the album Foolish Behaviour a year earlier and the disco infused Blondes Have More Fun in 1978, Stewart returned in 1981 with an album that embraced new wave and was large on synths and pop melodies and sounds which were for its time, new and fresh. In turn the album offered up a delicious feast of synth-pop classics, and saw Stewart make a welcome return to form with a stylistic makeover that would keep Stewart's commercial popularity ongoing throughout the 1980s.
After having reached a commercial peak with the No. 1 disco charged "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" in 1978, Stewart knew disco had reached its zeitgeist, as sounds of the new wave and the soon to be synth pop were about to devour the musical climate as the new decade dawned. Foolish Behaviour had displayed early hints of what was to come, with the album featuring some dance infused anthems that harboured a Faces swagger and a rock and roll spirit which echoed the Stewart of old. But at this point in his career, as the "new sounds" began to permeate the musical landscape, Stewart was facing dwindling audiences and add to that, with his much-documented predilection for too much partying, booze and drugs, something had to give. It was time for a change and reset. And hat reset came in the form of Stewart’s 11th studio outing, Tonight I'm Yours.
Stewart also gave his band a new makeover, bringing in new blood to replace guitarist Gary Grainger and bassist Phil Chen who had been part of Stewart’s band since 1977. In their place came guitarist Robin Le Mesurier and bassist Jay Davis alongside remaining mainstay members, guitarist Jim Cregan and drummer Carmine Appice, though Appice would only be involved on two tracks with drum duties on the remaining eight undertaken by incoming Tony Brock (The Babys).
With recording sessions spread over a period of four months, Stewart teamed up with Appice and keyboardist Duane Hitchings once again, the same team who had written "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" in the hope that lightning would strike twice for the single "Young Turks" which was issued as the first single for the U.S. market (in the U.K. and elsewhere the title track was first cab off the rank). The single would go on to garner Stewart chart success, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Top 100 in December of 1981 spending 19 weeks on the chart overall. In the U.K. it peaked at No. 11 spending nine weeks on the chart. In Canada and The Netherlands, it went to No. 1 and in Australia it reached No. 3.
“Rod always tried to stay on top of the trends,” explains Appice today when I ask him the reasoning behind Stewart’s musical reset on Tonight I’m Yours. “That album had 'Young Turks' that I co-wrote with Duane Hitchings and great lyrics by Rod. It was an experiment using for the first time a drum machine in place of real drums. I played Hi-hat and cymbals on the track for dynamics. Drum machines had no dynamics. We wrote the track at Duane’s home studio with Keys and Sequencers that Duane was experimenting with. The track came out so cool that we did the title song 'Tonight I’m Yours’ in the same way too.”
The single "Young Turks" and it's almost cinematic story lined video also proved to be the a match made in heaven for new start-up MTV, finding regular rotation on the new all music video channel and in helping Stewart reconnect with his aging audience whilst remaining contemporary and tuning into a whole new younger generation of fans. For the uninitiated a "Young Turk" is English slang for a ‘rebellious kind of teenager that goes against the grain’, which the video perfectly captured in its story line, though Stewart never actually sings the title at any point in the song.
Appice only ended up playing on the two aforementioned tracks while the rest of the album’s drum duties was taken of care by Tony Brock. “I was actually a co -producer and was in the control room so I didn’t mind not playing on no more than two tracks,” explains Appice about his contribution to the album. “But my song which I co-wrote was the lead single and was the song that sold the album. So I didn’t mind changing my position to producer/songwriter. But then through some band politics my production credit got dropped and I ended up leaving the band shortly after the album was released.”
The title track was a synth-heavy pop track that met with chart success. With a catchy guitar riff underscored by a dance beat and laced with energetic, carefree spirit, the official video of which featured an array of women mostly in bikinis frolicking around a pool and hotel — the video was filmed at the Sunset Marquis in Los Angeles — while Stewart and his band performed the song.
The album also featured three covers, "How Long" which was originally done by English band Ace in 1975, Stewart’s take on rockabilly with "Tear it Up" originally done by rockabilly star Johnny Burnette in 1956 and Bob Dylan’s "Just Like A Woman" which features ex-Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff Skunk Baxter (Baxter also adds his guitar magic to the album’s title track).
With Tonight I'm Yours, Stewart regained his crown. Looking back forty years later on the album Appice is proud on how the album also proved to be pivotal in the burgeoning synth-pop that would soon explode with the likes of Duran Duran and Human League, and as mentioned earlier, also saw Appice exiting Stewart’s camp.
“Well, it certainly does not Rock as hard as the other three albums I did with Rod,” says Appice. “I liked that we were one of the first to use a drum machine on a big single. When we did an American TV show playing ‘Young Turks.’ Ted Nugent came up to me and said when you're done playing this whimp rock and you want to play some MAN’S Rock, then give me a call… So not long after that TV show I was playing with Ted!”
On the U.S. album charts Tonight I’m Yours reached No. 11 while in the U.K. it peaked at No. 8. While the album was issued through Warner Bros. in the U.S., in the U.K. it was issued through Riva Records, a label set up by Stewart’s management back in 1975. Tonight I’m Yours would be the last Rod Stewart album issued through Riva, as the next album Stewart put out, 1983’s Body Wishes would be issued via Warner Bros as well in the U.K.
Tonight I'm Yours
Tonight I'm Yours (Don't Hurt Me)
Tora, Tora, Tora (Out With The Boys)
Tear It Up
Only a Boy
Just Like a Woman
Never Give Up On a Dream