On this day in 1978, Rod Stewart released the love-it or love-to-hate-it disco tune “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” in the US, from the album Blondes Have More Fun. Helping to make the song an earworm was drummer Carmine Appice, who had recently joined Stewart’s band and who wrote most of the music.
The song was quite a departure for Stewart, who, in his time with The Faces, developed a reputation as more of a balladeer or a blues rocker. Reflecting on the song’s popularity, Stewart told Esquire he “used to be embarrassed to sing ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy,’ but people love it. So it’s in the show.”
He also told Mojo magazine: “I think it’s one of those songs that everyone can remember what they were doing in that particular year. It was one of the ten songs that summed up that whole dance/disco period. And that’s what music’s about surely, to bring back memories.”
Appice said of the song’s impetus: “We were in the studio and ‘Miss You’ by The Rolling Stones was a big hit. Rod was always a guy that used to listen to what was going on around him. He was always looking at the charts and listening. He was a big fan of The Rolling Stones, so when they came out with “Miss You,” disco was really big at the time, so he wanted to do some kind of disco-y song.
“So I went home and I came up with a bunch or chords and a melody. I presented it to him via a friend of mine, Duane Hitchings, who is a songwriter who had a little studio. We went in his studio with his drum machines and his keyboards, and he made my chords sound better. We gave Rod a demo of the verses and the bridge, and Rod came up with the chorus. We played it with the band many, many ways before we got the correct arrangement with Tom Dowd. Unfortunately, they put so much stuff on it that it dwarfed the sound of the band. It made the band sound smaller because it had strings and two or three keyboard players, congas, and drums.”
Appice may have thought the band was dwarfed, but we appreciate the monstrousness of all that percussion on the tune.
Others loved it, too, as the song spent 21 weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts, and Rolling Stone magazine ranked it 308 on its “500 Greatest Songs Of All Time” list.
If that catchy hook sounds familiar to you, it could also be because Stewart lifted it from “Taj Mahal,” by the Brazilian songwriter Jorge Ben. Ben took Stewart to court over it and won. In the settlement, Stewart agreed to give royalties from the song to UNICEF.
And who could forget the memorable, drum-heart connection in the line:
“His heart’s beating like a drum,
‘Cause at last he’s got this girl home.”