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Handbags And Gladrags


Rod Stewart

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Manfred Mann vocalist Mike D'Abo wrote this song about the futility of fashion ("Glad Rags" are stylish clothes) and the irrelevance of outward appearances in 1967. The same year it was recorded by Chris Farlowe, who took it to #33 in the UK. D'Abo's own version appeared on his solo album D'Abo, released in 1970. A then little known Rod Stewart covered it on his 1970 debut album An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down, and the following year a recording by the American Jazz-Rock group Chase reached #84 on the American charts. Other versions followed, the most successful being one by The Stereophonics, which peaked at #4 in the UK.
The Stereophonics version is often mistaken for the one used a few months later as the theme to the BBC comedy The Office. It was British composer George Webley, aka "Big George," who arranged this version with vocals from Metal band Waysted vocalist Fin. Big George was at one time the bassist for the R&B group Q Tips, and Fin was for a time their vocalist, replacing Paul Young, who later found fame in the 1980s with recordings such as "Every Time You Go Away."
In an interview with, Fin explained how he came to record "Handbags And Gladrags" for The Office: "My best buddy is a top musicologist, DJ, composer (he wrote the theme tune for Have I Got News For You), arranger, etc. His name is Big George, and I've worked on a few projects with him, (for example "Well It's Alright," which was a re-working of the Traveling Wilburys tune, for the final episode of One Foot In The Grave). So, it was the same team as usual who worked on the theme-tune to The Office. No one was to know just how successful it was to become."
Mike D'Abo was recruited by Manfred Mann in 1966 when their original singer Paul Jones turned solo. The band already had much chart success and went on to have 9 more British hits with D'Abo at the helm, including the Dylan cover "The Mighty Quinn," which topped the British charts and reached the American Top 10. He also dreamed up the Cadbury's fudge jingle: "A finger of Fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat," which was well known in Britain in the 1980s and early '90s.
In a letter written to Kelly Jones of The Stereophonics, which can be found on, Mike D'Abo revealed how Rod Stewart came to record his version: "I was lead singer with Manfred Mann at the time and was getting frustrated with the material we were recording. Since I was writing a lot of songs, I offered my services as writer/producer to Andrew Oldham, who had just started up Immediate Records. He put me together with Chris Farlowe, and in 1967 I produced and arranged the first version of the song. Andrew also put me together with Rod who wanted to record the song as well. Unfortunately, since I had promised it to Chris, Rod had to settle for another of my songs, "Little Miss Understood," which was released in 1968. Rod made me promise to let him record H&G once he got himself an album deal (his deal with Immediate was for singles only). In 1969 he knocked on my door saying he had secured an album deal with Mercury Records, and could he now record H&G? Also, could I play piano and come up with a woodwind arrangement? This session came together at very short notice, with (what subsequently became) The Faces as the rhythm section. Little was known of Rod at the time. This was a year before the success of "Maggie May."
Rod Stewart
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Comments (1):

Mike D'Abo is the father of Olivia D'Abo who played Kevin's older sister on "The Wonder Years".
- Bob, Southfield, MI
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