‘These songs are like our children’

Ben Mills and Jim Cregan
Ben Mills and Jim Cregan

The man who got Rod Stewart writing songs again plays Shoreham’s Ropetackle on Friday, June 27 (tickets on 01273 464440).

Cregan & Co, featuring Ben Mills on vocals, will see Jim Cregan celebrate much of the music he created with Rod during their days touring the world.

Much more recently, it was Jim, though, who prompted the man who gave us songs such as Maggie May, Do Ya Think I’m Sexy and I Was Only Joking to start writing again.

“He hadn’t written for nearly 20 years.

“I have always been bothering him about it. I have never stopped writing myself,” Jim says.

“Sometimes it is a struggle, like a kind of puzzle that it is difficult to get at, to tease out, like a crossword or a Sudoku.

“Sometimes you can’t get all the words to fit right. Sometimes it just pops out. It’s a mixed bag really. Sometimes it is frustrating. Sometimes you are ecstatic.

“Sometimes you have nothing in the morning, but by lunchtime you have a great song that goes around the world.”

But then, for Rod, something disastrous intervened.

“Rod tells it – and I believe him – that there was a record executive that nobody has named that really gave Rod’s ego a bit of a hammering, saying that his songs were not good enough. Maggie May... just think about it. The lyrics are all his. They are no one else’s. Think about Hot Legs. Think about Passion. The list goes on of all the great stuff he has written. With some people, it would be like ‘Right, I am going to retire on that!’

“But this record executive said – I have to put it delicately – less than pleasant things, and I think Rod was feeling a little bit vulnerable. You’ve got to remember that these songs that we make are like our children.

“If you are going to criticise, that’s OK, but you have got to tread carefully because these are our feelings, and Rod got pretty trampled on by those comments.

Because of that, he believed he was past it. He wasn’t going to write any more.

“But then Bono came over to him in a restaurant in LA, and said, ‘Excuse me, but you owe us an album!’ Rod said ‘What?’ Bono said, “You are doing great stuff, but you are doing other people’s stuff!’”

And this is where Jim stepped in.

“When Rod is over in England, we hang out. We go for dinner. We go on holiday. We are real pals. And I was serendipitously in the room with him. He has said, ‘Bring your guitar’. I brought a 12-string which is what we had for the songs that he was most famous for.

“I played him a couple of ideas I had lying around. He didn’t like either of them. He said, ‘What else have you got?’ I said, ‘Nothing!’ I just said, ‘Let’s do it the old-fashioned way and start from scratch.’ I started with a couple of chords, very simple, and the song just grew out of that.”

It became Brighton Beach, the first song in place for his acclaimed new album Time.

“Rod then went back to LA. That was the bad side of it for me. I live in England, and before I could say, ‘How are you?’, he had written the rest of the album.

“Who knows what would have happened if we hadn’t been together that day, but Rod has been very kind for crediting me for being the one that broke the ice.”

As for Shoreham, Jim is delighted Ben will be reinterpreting those Rod Stewart classics.

“When I talk of goose bumps and tingles down my spine when I hear him sing, it’s not just a figure of speech. It genuinely happens, and I would quite happily listen to him for hours on end knowing I would be captivated, totally mesmerised, the entire time.”