Tonight Rod Stewart will hit BBC 2 at 8pm in a feature that will show off some of the star’s biggest performances from throughout the years. While he has some legendary songs under his belt – such as Maggie May, Sailing and Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? to name a few – he was caught in controversy in 1980 by The Beatles star John Lennon. The Fab Four singer claimed Stewart had “used” some of the band’s last-ever recorded songs.
Lennon said Stewart’s song The Killing of Georgie employed the same melody as The Beatles hit Don’t Let Me Down. The star told journalist David Sheff in 1980: “By the way, Rod Stewart turned that [Don’t Let Me Down] into ‘[Georgie] don’t go-o-o.’ That’s one the publishers never noticed.”
He jokingly asked: “Why didn’t he just sing Don’t Let Me Down? The same reason I don’t sing other people’s stuff: because you don’t get paid.”
Stewart eventually responded to these claims – but he didn’t seem to think the songs’ similarities were a big deal.
Sir Rod showed no remorse while chatting with The Guardian in 2016. He said: “It does sound like it. Nothing wrong with a good steal!” He went on to add: “I’m sure if you look back to the 60s, you’d find other songs with those three chords and that melody line.”
The platinum-selling artist then reminisced about performing the song in the 1980s. He said: “I used to camp it up something terrible when we played the songs. We used to have a lamp post come down onto the stage. I’d lean on it and sing. I used to wear a lot of make-up in those days. All the guys around me used to say: ‘Ding-dong! Avon calling!’”
Although Lennon was furious at the stolen track, Paul McCartney didn’t seem to mind at all.
McCartney previously spoke candidly about using chunks of other songs in his own work. He recalled using a similar bassline to Chuck Berry’s song I’m Talking About You in his 1963 track I Saw Her Standing There.
He said: “I played exactly the same notes as he did and it fit our number perfectly. When I tell people about it, I find few of them believe me. It’s OK to steal a bass line.”
Lennon was not the only star Stewart had a falling out with over the years. He once got on the bad side of the Rocket Man himself: Elton John.
When Elton announced a lengthy farewell tour, Stewart had something to say about it. He said the live shows were “dishonest” and “stunk of selling tickets”.
Of course, Elton wasn’t happy. He hit back: “I certainly didn’t feel like I needed a lecture on the feral spirit of rock and roll from someone who’d spent most of the last decade crooning his way through the Great American Songbook and ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.'”
He added: “What’s more, I thought he had a f***ing cheek, complaining about me promoting a tour while he was sat on a TV show promoting his own tour.”