#172: Rod Stewart, "Every Picture Tells a Story" (1971)

172 Every Picture Tells a Story.jpg

You stole my soul, and that’s a pain I can do without

Sometimes there’s that moment where you know you need to move on from someone. It’s terrifying, and you really have no idea how you’re going to do it. There will most likely be a lot of breakdowns, mood swings, and accidents along the way. But going through all of it is a lot better than staying in the horrendous rut you’re in. That’s the feeling I get out of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May”. I picture him waking up before her on a Sunday morning, maybe the night after a whirlwind of arguing and the passionate make-up, all while knowing in the back of his mind how unhealthy it is. He’s unsure of how he’s going to get on with his life, but he’s finally at the point where he’s willing to try something else.


I firmly believed that I didn’t need anyone but me
I sincerely thought I was so complete
Look how wrong you can be

A typical day for most of us looks like this: Wake up. Commute. Work. Work. Work. Commute. Groceries. Social life. Hobby. Sleep. Food in there at least eight times.

I think sometimes we take the mindless thoughts for granted. Sure, it can be mundane and repetitive, but it is ultimately very freeing when our minds aren’t consumed by something grueling, like painful love. You’re minding your own business in life when suddenly love hits you like a wave that pulls you under water and shoots you back out into the world. You’re dizzy as hell wondering what the hell happened, and so freaked out that you never want to enter the water again. When that kind of love hits us, our mind begins to look like this:

Wake up; What’s the point. Commute; I can’t believe how many people on this train have wedding rings on. Work; Great, I can’t even focus here. Work; I’ve just been staring at the computer screen for four hours. Work; I wonder what he’s doing right now. Commute; I can’t even listen to music. It all reminds me of him. Groceries; I’m not hungry. Maybe I’ll just get a frozen pizza to eat in bed. Social life; I either want to be completely alone or I absolutely cannot be alone. It depends on the hour. Hobby; What’s the point, he’s not even texting me. Sleep; God, I hope I sleep.


When we think of Rod Stewart, we think of his business in the front/party in the back haircut, telling us to let him know if we want his body and if we think he’s sexy. But let’s go back to 1971, when Rod used a lot of mandolin and heartfelt lyrics that make you go “…Whoa. Rod Stewart is making me feel things?” That’s right. Embrace it y’all. Start from the beginning and listen to the whole thing through. Let it take you away.


Only if she was lyin' by me
Then I'd lie in my bed once again

This feeling is so raw in the beginning. It is a time of desperation. Being alone is the worst, most unimaginable outcome. You’ve done it before, but you don’t remember how. You don’t want to be in it again. You’ll do anything not to be there again. It doesn’t matter how he treated you or the fact that you’re not right for each other. Any thought other than getting them back is simply not an option.


In various styles, including folk, blues, and rock, Stewart’s album Every Picture Tells a Story encompasses all of the emotions involved while moving on with your life during heartbreak.

There are a lot of covers on the album: Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow is a Long Time”, The Temptations’ “(I Know) I’m Losing You”, Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right”, and Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe”. It’s a surprising amount of covers for one album, and his own lyrics in “Mandolin Wind” and “Every Picture Tells a Story” prove that he doesn’t need this many covers. But hey, I can’t be mad. He chose some great songs, and I like to think that it tells a story.


Someone like you makes it hard to live without
Somebody else
Someone like you makes it easy to give
Never think about myself

We lose our sense of self. We think, since when am I the person anxiously waiting for them to call? I used to be so independent, what happened to me? All of my priorities are suddenly entirely based on this other person. Who even was I before I met them? It takes a long time to piece back together those tiny pieces of yourself that you lost.


In ten songs, Stewart takes us on a very relatable journey that makes the experience of listening to this album impossible not to feel both nostalgic and reflective of coming out the other side. Remember that scene in Forrest Gump when Jenny leaves Forrest (again), and the only thing he can do is go for a run that lasts for years to the sound of “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne? We were all thinking of our own heartbreak during that scene. Every time I see it I can’t help but think, “Ugh, I feel you buddy. Been there. Poor bastard.” I appreciate any art that makes us feel previous pain in a reflective way. The least likely of things that usually feel so far out of reach can make us feel both connected and seen.


That's all right now, mama
Any way you do

Then slowly, sometimes hour by hour, you pay attention to a conversation. You write an e-mail. You find joy and triumph in small things (for me, it was successfully making a gravity bong for the first time in years). You realize it’s been ten minutes since you thought about him. You start to feel a little hope that next week maybe you’ll go twenty minutes with a free mind. My latest triumph was learning my favorite breakup song on the banjo. I had to make use of learning all of those lyrics somehow.

—Jenn Montooth