Rod Stewart left little to the imagination in his 1976 hit “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright).” “C’mon, angel, my hearts on fire / Don’t deny your man’s desire,” he sings. “You’d be a fool to stop this tide / Spread your wings and let me come inside.”
The lyrics were so suggestive that the song was initially banned by the BBC and several radio stations. The ban was eventually lifted as the song soared up the chart, staying at No. 1 for eight consecutive weeks, from November 1976 through January 1977. It was the longest run for a No. 1 song since the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” in 1968 and helped revive Stewart’s career. The album the track appeared on, A Night on the Town, climbed to No. 2 in the States and made it all the way to No. 1 across the world.
The inspiration for Stewart’s lascivious love song, however, began more innocently, according to Dan Peek, a founding member of the band America. Both artists occasionally ran into each other on the road. One evening, Peek showed Stewart a new song he’d been working on.
“I played ‘Today’s the Day,’ the song I had been working on,” Peek wrote in his 2004 memoir, An American Band. “Rod said that he liked it and that it gave him an idea for a song. Of course, after his recording of ‘Tonight’s the Night’ came out, I laughed when I remembered what he’d said. I’m sure I probably smacked my forehead and said: ‘Why didn’t I think of that?'”
Peek’s song, which was produced by George Martin and released on America’s 1976 album, Hideaway, was much more reserved, but nevertheless heartfelt: “Hold me close, you turn nighttime into day / And you’re the most brightest star that lights my way.” “Today’s the Day” peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Listen to America’s ‘Today’s the Day’
Stewart, who recorded his song at Muscle Shoals in Alabama, remembered the origins of the song a little differently, recalling that it seemed to appear spontaneously in the studio.
“I was working with [guitarist] Steve Cropper in Muscle Shoals in the afternoon, just strumming around,” Stewart told the Star Tribune in 2014. “Someone said that line. I wish I could give you some elaborate explanation. But it’s more luck than judgment.” The spoken French words at the end of the song were provided by Stewart’s girlfriend at the time, Swedish actress Britt Ekland.
Listen to Rod Stewart’s ‘Tonight’s the Night’
Regardless of the song’s inspiration, Peek, who died in 2011, remembered his encounters with Stewart fondly. “That was just the golden years of rock ‘n’ roll in Hollywood,” Peek once recalled in an interview. “Those are some of the precious moments.”
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