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This song is about the woman who deflowered Stewart when he was 16. In the January, 2007 issue of Q magazine, Stewart said: "Maggie May was more or less a true story, about the first woman I had sex with, at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival. It nearly got left off because the label said it didn't have a melody. I said, 'Well, we've run out of time now, these are all the tracks we've recorded. They said, Alright, then, bring it on."
The name "Maggie May" does not occur in the song; Rod borrowed the title from a Liverpool Folk song
about a Lime street prostitute.
Stewart's record company didn't think this was a hit, so they released it as the B-side of "Reason To Believe." Disc jockeys liked this better, so they played it as the single instead. The first station to flip the single and play this as the A-side was WOKY in Milwaukee.
This became a huge hit in England and America, topping both the UK and US charts at the same time. Every Picture Tells A Story was also the #1 album on both sides of the Atlantic, making him the first artist to have the #1 song and album in both the US and UK simultaneously. Stewart's success in the UK was expected, as he had a following there as a member of The Faces, but he was little known in America before "Maggie May" took off.
Stewart was the lead singer of The Faces when this was released. He put out solo albums while he was with the band because of contract obligations. When this became a hit, Faces shows were billed as "The Faces with Rod Stewart." He became the focus of the group.
Stewart moved to America a few years after this came out. He was doing very well there, but also wanted to avoid the huge taxes England charged high-income entertainers. This was around the same time The Rolling Stones left England for tax reasons. Their album Exile On Main Street is a reference to their "tax exile" status.
When this track was being recorded in the studio, there was a problem with the bass/kick drum pedal. Either it wasn't brought to the session or it was broken. To get the drum part completed, the drummer had to actually play the bass/kick drum part on it's own track using a drum stick and played it like a tom-tom with his hand! You can clearly hear the hi-hat and snare drum more robust as the bass/kick lacks that padded and punchy foot sound. (thanks, Joey Fulco - NY, New York)
In 2003, Ray Jackson, who played mandolin on this, sued Stewart for royalties. Jackson claimed he was paid a small sum for the session and never made any more when the song became a hit.
In October 1971 Stewart became the first artist in history to hold all four #1 positions in the British and American singles and albums charts. While "Maggie May" topped the singles tally in both territories, Every Picture Tells A Story achieved the same feat on the album charts.
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