E is For “Every Picture Tells a Story”

My theme for this year’s A to Z Blogging Challenge is classic rock songs. Each day during the month (except for the first four Sundays, I will post a classic rock song: a video from YouTube, along with a brief bit of background about the song and the recording artist(s).

This is much more difficult than I thought it would be. For every letter of the alphabet there are dozens of fantastic songs to choose from and picking just one classic rock song for each letter is maddening. But this is what I signed up for. My E song is “Every Picture Tells a Story” from Rod Stewart.

“Every Picture Tells a Story” was written by Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood and was initially released as the title track of Stewart’s 1971 album Every Picture Tells a Story. It has since become one of Stewart’s signature songs.

This song recounts a series of misadventures endured by Stewart’s globetrotting protagonist, culminating with his torrid romance with a “slit-eyed lady.” In an interview about the song in 1995, Stewart said, “I can remember the build up. You know what the song’s about — your early teenage life when you’re leaving home and you’re exploring the world for yourself.”

Despite being a hard rock song, the song primarily uses acoustic instruments, although guitarist Ron Wood does use an electric guitar occasionally. The sounds of the mandolin and violin can also be heard.

The song’s lyrics are entirely free-form in that they do not follow any consistent rhythmic meter and read almost like prose. Rhyming only appears occasionally and irregularly. Some of the lyrics have also been criticized as racist and sexist (e.g., describing an Asian woman as a “slit-eyed lady”). But the song was written and performed at a time when rock singers often didn’t worry about what it meant to be rude, crude, or politically correct.

An interesting tidbit: The song’s title doesn’t appear in the lyrics until the end, where it is repeated 24 times! (“Every picture tells a story, don’t it?”)

Here are the lyrics to “Every Picture Tells a Story.”

Spent time feelin' inferior standing' in front of my mirror
Combed my hair in a thousand ways, but I came out lookin' just the same
Daddy said, son, you better see the world
I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to leave
But remember one thing, don't lose your head to a woman that'll spend your bread
So I got out

Paris was a place you could hide away, if you felt you didn't fit in
French police wouldn't give me no peace, they claimed I was a nasty person
Down along the left bank, minding my own
Was knocked down by a human stampede
Got arrested for inciting a peaceful riot, when all I wanted was a cup of tea
I was accused

I moved on
Down in rome I wasn't getting enough
Of the things that keep a young man alive
My body stunk, but I kept my funk at a time when I was right out of luck
Getting desperate, indeed I was looking like a tourist attraction
Oh, my dear, I better get out of here for the vatican don't give no sanction
I wasn't ready for that, no, no

I moved right out east, yeah
On the peking ferry I was feeling merry, sailing on my way back here
I fell in love with a slant-eyed lady by the light of an eastern moon
Shanghai lil never used the pill, she claimed that it just ain't natural
She took me up on deck and bit my neck
Oh, people, I was glad I found her
Oh, yeah, I was glad I found here

I firmly believed that I didn't need anyone but me
I sincerely thought I was so complete
Look how wrong you can be
The women I've known I wouldn't let tie my shoe
They wouldn't give you the time of day
But the slant-eyed lady knocked me off my feet
God, I was glad I found her

And if they had the words I could tell to you
To help you on your way down the road
I couldn't quote you no dickens, shelley or keats
'Cause it's all been said before
Make the best out of the bad, just laugh it off
You didn't have to come here anyway, so remember

Every picture tells a story don't it?
Every picture tells a story don't it?
Every picture tells a story don't it?
Every picture tells a story don't it?
Every picture tells a story don't it?
Every picture tells a story don't it?

Previous 2023 A to Z posts: A B C D

35 thoughts on “E is For “Every Picture Tells a Story”

  1. Jamie April 6, 2023 / 6:02 am

    Good choice. I’ve seen Rod Stewart in concert several times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango April 6, 2023 / 12:50 pm

      I haven’t, but I imagine he puts on a great, energetic concert.


  2. newepicauthor April 6, 2023 / 6:11 am

    Great choice for today, Fandango. Everybody is looking for something different and Rod found that with Shanghai Lil.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kajmeister26 April 6, 2023 / 9:58 am

    Well, I’m going to call you out on this one a little bit, though. Just because “it was a different time” doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate to honor…which is what your post is doing… a song that is explicitly racist. If I use a culturally-inappropriate word now, I shouldn’t be able to excuse it by saying “I heard that growing up” or “I don’t use that word, but somebody told me…” etc. It’s up to us to take a higher road. I KNOW that some people go overboard in damning many expression that aren’t socially offensive unless you turn yourself into a pretzel. I’m not trying to be the PC police here. But Rod Stewart’s lyrics aren’t even close, which is probably why that song isn’t in general distribution. I say this, Fandango, because I do read your posts and generally agree with your cultural assessments; I think you missed this one. Hope I don’t get a stream of invective from everyone on this. It is “just” a post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango April 6, 2023 / 3:12 pm

      I confess that I never listened closely to the lyrics of this song before I started writing about it for this post and it did give me pause. However, just like I feel that novels like Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” shouldn’t be whitewashed or Roald Dahl’s “Charley and the Chocolate Factory” sanitized. Nor do I think such songs should be banned. So you may object to my selecting this song, but it is a noteworthy classic rock song.


      • kajmeister26 April 6, 2023 / 4:14 pm

        I’ll take a “pause.” I agree with you that censorship is really tricky. I don’t like how they approached Roald Dahl’s problematic work (and problem as a person, the racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic jerk who cheated on his dying wife). You can’t solve that baggage by changing his characters, and who gets to do the changing is also a problem. I think if we can just take a look at what we thought was once okay, and say now, “that part’s not okay,” that’s a good start. Banning is tricky (my wife’s books were once banned in Canada, and she wears that as a badge of honor!) — boycotting to me is ok. Boycott, give your reason, others can choose. I choose not to support Rod Stewart, who was misogynistic anyway. You can choose to support that song. Meanwhile, I do like Melissa Etheridge’s version of Stewart’s classic “Maggie May,” which I still hum if I don’t think about him too much. Thanks for providing the opportunity for comment.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. leigha66 April 18, 2023 / 4:47 pm

    Don’t recall hearing this one before… not bad.

    Liked by 1 person

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