1973–74. “Smil­er” Rod Stewart.

My last of four albums with Rod and the last he made with the same group of musi­cians he’d been using since “Gaso­line Alley”. After “Smil­er”, Rod switched stu­dios from Willes­den, Lon­don, to the USA for “Atlantic Cross­ing”. “Smil­er” took a year to make due to var­i­ous pro­duc­tion hold-ups, but pro­duced “Sweet Lit­tle Rock n’ Roller” one of my favorite Rod Stew­art tracks.
Micky Waller some­times brought his beloved Box­er dog Zak to the stu­dio and would sit him next to his drum kit. Just as Ron Wood launched into his open­ing Chuck Berry style gui­tar licks, Zak decid­ed to get in on the fun and began bark­ing like mad, cre­at­ing this sort of back n’ forth gui­tar and bark­ing musi­cal jam for the intro.
We all resist­ed the urge to roll on the floor in hys­ter­ics and car­ried on with the record­ing as Zak stopped bark­ing on cue at the end of the intro.
Rod thought it sound­ed so cool on play­back that he decid­ed to use the track. I played piano on that one.
I spent a night in the stu­dio with Rod, his engi­neer Mike Bobak, and Paul and Lin­da McCart­ney while they record­ed “Mine for Me”…Linda was friend­ly, and Paul seemed like a nice bloke. I played Celeste on that track. I also con­nect­ed with Wayne Jack­son of the “Mem­phis Horns” dur­ing that album.
I brought my Amer­i­can girl­friend, Jean­nette, over to Eng­land to live with me that year. I’d meant to find a lit­tle cot­tage on the cliffs over­look­ing the sea for us to live in…but set­tled for a cot­tage in the beau­ti­ful vil­lage of West­er­ham in Kent.
We were pret­ty broke at the time as there were long gaps between ses­sions, and all my mon­ey went on pay­ing rent…but we loved the place, and would have tea and scones at “Pitts Cot­tage Tea House” and fish and chips for dinner.
We’d some­times wake up in the mid­dle of the night (very cold nights…ice or snow. I’d have to park my lit­tle Ford on a hill to jump start it) and go search­ing for a choco­late machine that was­n’t empty…we’d some­times dri­ve for miles. Low on petrol…but hav­ing fun.
The bed­room upstairs had an old fire­place where we’d burn a hot coal fire, radi­at­ing warmth on a cold and stormy night. But the house was so old and leaky the heat could only pen­e­trate the air a few yards, and we had to hud­dle around the fire­place talk­ing or read­ing a good book. It was okay in bed with the warmth of our bod­ies to stave off the cold…and even though the heat from the fire did­n’t reach us, we could still bask in its cozy and com­fort­ing glow.
The place was rent­ed to us by a won­der­ful old cou­ple named Joe and Elsie Mor­ton who lived in a six hun­dred year old cot­tage in the vil­lage of Limps­field, Surrey…the next coun­ty over. We’d vis­it with them once a week when we’d drop by to pay the rent…lots of cups of good strong Eng­lish tea while sit­ting on ancient bench­es actu­al­ly in the fire­place itself. They once casu­al­ly talked about how they were sit­ting hav­ing a cup of tea in their back gar­den dur­ing WW2’s Bat­tle of Britain air war when a Luft­waffe fight­er strafed their garden.
They were part of an unstop­pable generation.
We stayed in touch for many years, even after Joe lost his Elsie. Then the Christ­mas cards stopped com­ing one year.

One day we received a let­ter from Joe’s son say­ing that Joe and Elsie had always talked about how fond they were of us so he felt he should let us know what had hap­pened to Joe.
Basi­cal­ly, sev­er­al cow­ard­ly thugs had bro­ken into his lit­tle cot­tage, the home where Joe was qui­et­ly liv­ing with his mem­o­ries and see­ing out his final years, and beat him up; badly…just to steal what­ev­er they could lay their grub­by lit­tle hands on.
I feel sick with emo­tion every time I think of this kind­ly old man who had a won­der­ful sense of humor, was will­ing to rent his cot­tage to a long haired young rock musi­cian, was extreme­ly intel­li­gent, went through two world wars, fight­ing in one, and near the end of his life when he was frail and old, being beat­en around the head by young punk skin heads or what­ev­er sick beings they were. Joe’s son said in his let­ter that the attack broke Joe’s spir­it and he was nev­er the same after that. I lost the let­ter dur­ing a move…I would like to con­tact Joe’s son again someday.