She was the art student who broke the teenage Rod Stewart’s heart and placed their baby daughter, born out of wedlock, up for adoption.
Now rock’s great lothario has broken a 20-year song-writing silence by composing a heartfelt plea to the great lost love of his life.
After claiming he would never write a new lyric again, Stewart, 68, has surprised the music industry by unveiling a revelatory new album.
Time, released in May, includes songs about Stewart’s formative years as a struggling singer, divorce (“I know a little about the devastation it causes,” he admits) and a tribute to the sexual powers of his third wife and mother of his eighth child, the model Penny Lancaster.
The album’s centrepiece is Brighton Beach, which describes the passionate romance between the 17 year-old beatnik Rod, “a scruffy, teenage working class troubador” and the art student girl he idolised, which was consumated “under the stars” in 1963. “You were Greta Garbo, I was Jack Kerouac,” he sings.
But the girl’s father didn’t approve and one day Rod “woke to find you gone”, his “teenage heart scattered on the floor.”
Fifty years later, Stewart appeals to her in song: “I swear to God, I could not have loved you anymore…I sit here playing with my kids and wonder where you are in this world…do you ever stop and think about me?”
“It’s about a real girl, her name is Susannah Boffey,” Stewart told The Independent. “She was what I thought at 17 was my first love affair and she was the mother of my first child. She was adopted because we didn’t have a pot to piss in in those days.”
Stewart explained: “There was no consideration of marriage and it was a real blot on your character to get a girl pregnant in those days. I was frightened to tell my mum and dad so I told my brothers and they said ‘we’ll take care of you.’”
Stewart’s daughter, Sarah, was born in 1963 and spent several years moving between a series of children’s homes and foster carers. At the age of five, she was adopted by a couple in East Sussex.
Her mother, now Susannah Hourde, 68, who first met Stewart in a London nightclub in 1961, lives in Normandy, northern France.
Has Stewart told her she is the subject of his new song? “She doesn’t know and neither does Sarah but she will love it. I’m very much in touch with Sarah now and we’ve just begun to call each other father and daughter which was hard because I didn’t change her nappies or take her to school. Her mum doesn’t want much to do with us, unfortunately.”
After enjoying huge success with his collections from the Great American Songbook, Stewart, who has sold 200 million records, admitted: “My assumption was that I was finished as a songwriter. I was trapped down all sorts of unhelpful mental alleys.” Writing his autobiography unblocked the creative juices.
Time includes "Sexual Religion", which details Rod’s first observation of Penny at the Dorchester hotel nightclub dancefloor. “You bring me to my knees…I’m hypnotised by your sexual religion,” Stewart sings lustily.
Ms Lancaster danced along to the thumping track at a playback of Time at the Abbey Road studios. She sat patiently through the single “It’s Over”, a recriminatory song about her husband’s divorces. “Divorce is the ruination of man,” he says. “I know a little about the devastation it causes. It’s the heartbreak for the kids that does me in.”
Does Rod see a connection between his confessional return and Bowie’s comeback? “His album caught everybody by surprise. I wish him a lot of good luck and good health.” And then, with a twinkle, Stewart pretends to bite on his right arm.