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Rod Stewart wants you to know that he is not merely jumping on the bandwagon of a certain enormously famous contemporary of his from the British rhythm & blues scene of the late ’60s. Granted, the material he put together for his new album and MTV special, Unplugged and Seated, is primarily a retrospective of his early career’s greatest hits. And granted that, insofar as Unplugged temporarily reunited the 48-year-old singer with former Faces partner and now * Rolling Stone Ron Wood, it constitutes a formal return to the style of the early ’70s, the period for which he is most admired. Nevertheless, Rod Stewart would like you to know that ”I was asked to do the show about 18 months ago, just as i was about to go on tour in Australia, so i had to postpone. And that was about at the same time that Eric (Clapton) was about to do his. I was asked ages ago. Also, we’ve got some fast songs on ours. There aren’t any fast ones on his.” Rod might sound a little defensive. But so might you be if you’d ever been written one of the most critically reviled smash hits of all time (we would be talking about ”Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”) 1. HE HAS WRITTEN SOME REALLY BAD SONGS Stewart is the first to admit the the gleefully commercial road he has traveled for much of the later part of his career has included some unfortunate choices. He has even been known to ornament the liner notes of his own best-of collections with statements like ”(‘Love Touch’) is one of the silliest songs I ever recorded. Although hugely successful, I can’t bring myself to sing it in concert.” ”I’ve made some horrible records,” he admits today. ”The mistakes I’ve made stand out like sore thumbs. ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ was a classic Rod Stewart mistake, where I was believing everything i was reading about myself and the music followed suit. Although I liked ‘Da Ya,’ because I knew it was going to be a big hit-and it was, the biggest one I ever had-it also definitely set my credibility back a few years ”But would I have recorded it if I had known/ Yeah, I probably would have, because it made a lot of people happy.”

2.HE IS ALTOGETHER TOO HAPPY Even going as far as to say things like, ”I have happy feet.” This is why it was hard for him to sit still during the UNPLUGGED taping ”I must admit I still love to play live,” he says, draping his legs elegantly over as armchair in the presidential suite of New York City’s Peninsula Hotel in such a way as to give a prime view of his happy feet, which are wearing socks with little words all over them: jazz, rock, pop, soul. ”The smiling faces in the audience, the excitement of it I just want to send everyone home happy I think God put me on this earth to rock I mean, look at me I couldn’t have been anything else with this nose and haircut”

3. SINCE HE BROUGHT IT UP: HE’S A CHARTER MEMBER OF THE BAD-HAIR HALL OF FAME And he now wears dapper, vaguely ’30s-style suits, he has in his time worn as much animal-print spandex as several touring companies of Cats combined. It is his tendency toward bold lapses in taste that makes his gift for irony a handy one. ”The British, generally speaking, are very good at self-mocking. And I think that’s helped me,” Stewart says. And if that fails to win people over, he’s not above mooning a crowd at a restaurant.