"Handbags and Gladrags" is a song written in 1967 by Mike d'Abo, who was then the lead singer of Manfred Mann. D'Abo describes the song as "saying to a teenage girl that the way to happiness is not through being trendy. There are deeper values."
The original demo tape of the original version of the song was discovered in 2004 in a closet belonging to Mo Foster. It was amongst a collection of studio recordings d'Abo had recorded in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The collection, including the demo recording, was eventually released on the Angel Air label under the title of Missing Gems & Treasured Friends.
In November 1967, singer Chris Farlowe was the first to release a version of the song, produced by Mike d'Abo. It became a #33 hit in the United Kingdom for Immediate Records. This arrangement of the song featured Dave Greenslade's piano blues-scale riff. The song was included as track 13 (of 14) on Farlowe's 1969 album The Last Goodbye.
In 1969, Rod Stewart recorded a version for the album An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down. This version of the song was arranged by Mike d'Abo, who also played piano on the recording. The song failed to garner significant sales or airplay in the United States, but when it was re-released as a single in 1972, it managed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. Introducing the song at the 2004 live recording of One Night Only! Rod Stewart Live at Royal Albert Hall, Rod asked the audience to recall who had a hit with the song (presumably referring to the Stereophonics version) and claimed "I was the first!"