Stewart makes his intentions clear on this song, as he lures a young lady to the bedroom:
The secret is about to unfold
Upstairs before the night's too old
The lascivious lyrics got the song banned by the BBC, which objected to the line, "Spread your wings and let me come inside." The ban was later lifted due to public demand; the song became a UK hit, and later, a US #1.
Stewart's girlfriend at the time, the Swedish actress Britt Ekland, sings the French part at the end of this song. In the May 1995 issue of Mojo magazine, Stewart said: "I was going out with Britt Ekland. I'd just moved here. So that's 20 years ago. I remember I got her drunk, pissed as a fart to sing that old French bollocks on the end, because she didn't want to do it."
When asked if he paid her a royalty, Stewart replied, "Bollocks! I bought her a nice frock."
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section played on this song. They were a group of four musicians
who started their own studio - Muscle Shoals Sound - in 1969 after doing sessions at FAME studios for Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and many other popular soul acts. The famous story the musicians tell is that when Stewart arrived at the studios and saw them getting ready, he refused to believe they were the band - he was sure the guys he heard playing on those records were black, and had a hard time accepting that four white guys could deliver so much soul.
The phrase "sex rock" entered the lexicon in 1975, thanks to an article in Time magazine about the rise of songs like this one that are clearly about a seduction. With the genre defined, various groups started protesting it, including Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity). This song was a target and used as an example of one that was loosening the morals of young people.
Britt Ekland starred in the video as the object of Stewart's seduction, although we never see her face in the clip. the video is very literal, as we see the couple go upstairs and start the lovemaking process.
Like many of Stewart's early videos, it was directed by Bruce Gowers. Stewart was an early adopter to music video; he made many of them in the '70s that were broadcast on various programs throughout Europe, often truncated as promotional clips. When MTV went on the air in 1981, Stewart got a lot of airtime because they had more videos from him than from any other artist.
This is one of Stewart's live favorites, finding its way into his setlists more than any other song except "Maggie May
." When performed live, Ekland's French cooing is replaced with guitar licks.
In 2003, a musical called Tonight's The Night opened in London. The show featured Rod Stewart's hits in much the same way as Abba's show Mamma Mia! and Billy Joel's Movin' Out. Tonight's The Night didn't do nearly as well, closing a year later. Tim Howar, who played the lead role ("Stuart Clutterbuck"), later joined Mike + The Mechanics.