This song was inspired by 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."
With his reputation on the line, Stewart was nervous. He said the encounter was over "in a few seconds."
The name "Maggie May" does not occur in the song; Rod borrowed the title from "Maggie Mae," a Liverpool folk song about a Lime Street prostitute which the Beatles included on their Let It Be album.
Stewart liked the play on words the title created, sometimes introducing the song by saying, "This is 'Maggie May' - sometimes she did, sometimes she didn't."
In his memoir Rod: The Autobiography, Stewart provided details of the experience that led to this song. Wrote Stewart: "At 16, I went to the Beaulieu Jazz Festival in the New Forest. I'd snuck in with some mates via an overflow sewage pipe. And there on a secluded patch of grass, I lost my not-remotely-prized virginity with an older (and larger) woman who'd come on to me very strongly in the beer tent. How much older, I can't tell you - but old enough to be highly disappointed by the brevity of the experience."
This song came together when Stewart began working with guitarist Martin Quittenton from the band Steamhammer. They convened at Stewart's house in Muswell Hill, where Quittenton played some chords that caught Rod's ear. As he sussed out a vocal melody, he started singing the words to the folk song "Maggie Mae," which got him thinking about that day 10 years earlier when he had a quick-and-dirty tryst. They made a demo with Stewart singing fractures lines. From there, he got to work on the lyrics, filling a notebook with ideas and arriving at a story about a guy who falls for an older woman and is now both smitten and perplexed.
This was the first big hit of the rock era to feature a mandolin, which was mostly heard in folk music. Stewart first used the instrument on "Mandolin Wind," which was one of the first songs he recorded for the album. He liked the results, so he used it on "Maggie" as well.
"Maggie May" remains the biggest mondolin-based hit ever recorded, although the theme music for The Godfather, released the following year, may be more recognized.
Every Picture Tells A Story was Stewart's third solo album, and the one that made him a superstar. At the time, he was still lead singer of the Faces, and for this session, which took place at Morgan Sound Studios in Willesden, England, he brought in two of his mates from that group: Ronnie Wood (guitar/bass) and Ian McLagan (organ). The other musicians were drummer Mickey Waller (he forgot to bring his cymbals to the session, so those were overdubbed later), guitarist Martin Quittenton and mandolin player Ray Jackson.
The song came together quickly in the studio, helped along by Jackson's mandolin contribution. Jackson had been hired to perform on the song "Mandolin Wind," which is why he was available. Stewart asked him to play something they might use to end the song, which he improvised on the spot.
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.
There is no real chorus in this song, but plenty of vocal and instrumental changes to keep it interesting. Running 5:46, it was considered an oddity with no hit potential and nearly left off the album. Stewart's record company, Mercury, didn't think it was a hit either, so used it as the B-side of the "Reason To Believe" single. Disc jockeys liked "Maggie" better, so they played it instead, forcing Mercury to put it out as a single. The first station to flip the single and play it as the A-side was WOKY in Milwaukee.
Ray Jackson, a British musician who played in the band Lindisfarne, played the mandolin on this song and on a few others for Stewart. In 2003, Jackson threatened legal action against Stewart, claiming he deserved a writing credit for his contribution. Jackson, who says he made just the standard £15 session fee for his work, stated: "I am convinced that my contribution to 'Maggie May,' which occurred in the early stages of my career when I was just becoming famous for my work with Lindisfarne, was essential to the success of the record."
Stewart employed Jackson on subsequent recordings, but didn't hear about his beef with the composer credit until the '80s. Stewart's retort (through a spokesman): "As is always the case in the studio, any musical contributions he may have made were fully paid for at the time as 'work-for-hire.'"
Adding insult is Jackson's credit on the album notes, which reads: "The mandolin was played by the mandolin player in Lindisfarne. The name slips my mind."
Jackson never brought the case to court, but his threat did illuminate his contribution and help publicize his artistic endeavors.
The 32-second mandolin intro that appears on the album version was added later. Written and played by Martin Quittenton, it was listed as a separate song called "Henry" on UK versions of Every Picture Tells A Story. This was Stewart's way of giving Quittenton a bonus: no matter the length, any song on an album earns royalties for the writer.
This section was excised from the single release, which still came in at 5:11, far longer than most hit singles.
When this became a hit, Stewart's popularity surpassed that of his group, so Faces shows started being billed as "The Faces with Rod Stewart," making him the focus.
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 levied on high-income entertainers. This was around the same time The Rolling Stones left England for tax reasons. Their album Exile on Main St. is a reference to their "tax exile" status.
Jon from Easthampton, MaJeffrey from Kingston--good ear! I always found that to be a brilliant production stroke. It lends that shimmer that goes unnoticed by most. I'd say it's a celeste, a small keyboard found against a wall in various studios in the 60's and 70's (and today, yet scarcer) that function pretty much as a glockenspiel with a keyboard.
John from Waikanae NzIt might have been the first big hit of the rock era in the US to feature a mandolin, but in the UK it was beaten to that particular punch several months before. "When I'm Dead And Gone" by McGuinness Flint had an equally infectious mandolin riff, played by the song's co-composer Graham Lyle. This record reached No 2 in the UK early in 1971, and was only kept off the top spot by "Grandad", one of those stupid mawkish novelty hits the Brits seemed to go for every now and then in those days.
Jeffrey from Kingston, NyCAN YOU HEAR THE BELLS? Maggie May had always been one of my all time favorite songs. However, later in the song, a certain sweetener was added (bell sounds) that just drive me crazy and (in my opinion) ruin the rockiness of the song. Does anyone have the story on this?
Skylar Anderson from Victoria, BcThis song is beautiful! Its sweet and sad at the same time. It sounds like he really loved or cared about "Maggie". She also sounds beautiful <3
Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 11th 1971, "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #98, and on September 26th, 1971 it peaked at #1 (for 5 weeks) and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100 (and for 11 of those 17 weeks it was on the Top 10)... And on November 29th, 1971 it reached #1 (for 4 weeks) on the Australian Kent Music Report chart... Five years would pass before he had his next Top 10 record in the U.S.A.; "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)" would entered the Top 10 at position #8 on October 31st, 1976, then the following week it reached #1, and stayed there for 7 weeks... Mr. Stewart will celebrate his 70th birthday come next January 10th, 2015.
Camille from Toronto, OhFirst, the mandolin is what sealed the deal here, ramping this tune to legendary, icon status. One can imagine that while Rod's gravelly words are about leaving, the high-pitched mandolin is the bittersweet sound of his heart still in love with Maggie May. His words say, "I couldn't leave you if I tried." He has mixed feelings, so he tries to find reasons to leave, that's why he makes the comment about her looks showing her age. Doesn't matter, tho, in his eyes she's "everything". After all, they're having fabulous sex, wrecking the bed and even getting kicked in the head in the process. So I don't see it as he's angry at her at all.
As for having people sing this song to you because your name is Maggie, gosh, just go with it! I think it's so cool...enjoy it in a good-natured way. I agree that Maggie May is one of the most enigmatic women ever sung about in music history. Deep down, a lot of guys want a slightly older, worldly, foxy woman to help them transition into adulthood. That's another reason for the song's unending appeal. Guys want a Maggie May, women want to be that Maggie May. Also love the absolutely understated line, "or find myself a rock'n'roll band that needs a helping hand." In the end of this imaginary tale, does Rod stay or leave? I think he stays.
Michelle from Kalamazoo, MiDoes anybody else know where the mandolin line at the end of this song had showed up? Commercials, movies, other songs, anything? I heard it for the first time the other day, but the mandolin was Definitely familiar.
Jack from Scotland, Ugandaroger, michigan jan antwerp
they were never in the yardbirds together but rod stewart was the original singer for the jeff beck group but didnt want to play second fiddle to jeff beck being the main focus so left
Kim from Hawkhurst, United KingdomGuy - the reason there is a "distinctly different guitar intro" is because it is a mandolin not a guitar!!!!
Sherry from Portland, OrI was working and in college when this song came out. I came home one night and my boyfriend put on this song. He was a pool player and the son of an executive for Brunswick, he was promoting a rock and roll band and he had quit college. He told me the song reminded him of me. LOL. Boyfriend didn't last, but the song is still great.
Paul from Washington Dc, DcI hadn't heard anything about this being a true story of sorts based on Rod's losing his cherry as a teenager until very recently. I've always thought that Rod created one of the most enigmatic women ever sung about with this terrific number, along with The Association's "Windy", Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby", and Fleetwood Mac's (or rather Stevie NIcks') "Sara".
Micky from Los Angeles, CaGreat lyrics on this.
Mamahill from Rutherfordton, NcI chose this song as my ring tone on my cell phone... I think it is hilarious when it goes off... "Wake Up! Maggie I think I got some to say to you" certainly appropriate as ringtones go... LOL
Guitar Chic from Small Town, KyTruly one of Rod finest! Doesn't matter if it was a true life experience or just lyrics set to a tune. Rod Stewart is one of the most underestimated, talented musicians/vocalist alive. I love his originality and his creativity. The words and emotion in his music speak to the soul and leap into you when presented by him! So wake up Maggie..Rod's got something to say to you!
Jan from Antwerp, --To Roger from Michigan. I'm not gonna say you're drunk, but I don't think it can be a Yardbirds album you have there with both Jeff Beck's as Rod Steward's name on it. While Jeff Beck was in The Yardbirds for a short time in the beginning of his career, he left that band in 1966 to form The Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart on lead vocals and a certain Ron Wood on bass. But Jeff and Rod were never in The Yardbirds together.
Jerry from Brooklyn, NyTo Terry from Ottawa -- Stewart is not alone in his love of American standards. Carly Simon has "Torch" and "Moonloght Serenade", Linda Ronstandt did a couple of standards albums, as did Queen Latifa. These are really great songs, lovely melodies and thoughtful, literate lyrics. Sure, Rod's voice is kind of rough and certainly not to be compared to Sinatra or Tony Bennett. But, he is sincere and evocative of these old songs. Don't be so limited in the type of music you listen to. You may be in for a surprise, if you give them a chance! (As for the hair dye -- well, vanity gets the best of all of us at times!)
Jerry from Brooklyn, NyIf Rod did "get his books and go on back to school", he certainly had the most interesting "What I did on my summer vacation" essay!
Heather from Los Angeles, CaGod I'm sick of hearing this song. Seems like they never play "Mandolin Wind" which is a tender song for a man like Rod Stewart.
Magpie from Amalia, Nmmy names Maggi and I distinctly rememeber the first time I heard this song. I had my clock radio set to wake me up for school with music. I usually woke up just a little while before the alarm went off. I was lying there resting, and all of the sudden "WAKE UP MAGGIE"!!! GEES! no one believes me but its true. Ive hated it ever since. why couldnt he write a nice song like Angie, or Donna, no Maggie may is a real dingbat, and I am SO tired of hearing peole sing it to me!
Terry from Ottawa, CanadaAs good as these early songs are, it's hard for them not to be tainted by the crap he's put out for 25 years or so. His transformation into some ersatz lounge singer reaffirm my belief that if an artist's muse vanishes after 3 or 4 good albums, pack it in already. Singing american standards and hair dye. How to ruin a legacy.
Max from Laconia, NhThis song is so cool. It has some really good lyrics. Rod has such a great voice, too!! I love it!
Roger from Michigan, MiI have an album with Jeff Beck And Rod Stewarts name on the cover. it says yardbirds, ive been drinking again?/..... so was rod stewart a member of the yardbirds or not???
Steve from Birmingham, AlHey, Michelle Harris, Littleton, CO: Yes, you're right. The singer of the song is really angry with Maggie because he feels she has taken advantage of him.
Anthony from Dewsbury, EnglandSuzanne Vega does a response to this...I'll Never Be Your Maggie May...she wonders how it would be if the roles were reversed...before the song, in concert, she adds her little anecdote from the womans perspective...
Michelle Harris from Littleton, CoI like the part where he says, "the mornin' sun when it's in your face really shows your age." I feel like it's a diss or something. Am I right?
Guy from Woodinville, WaLove the distinctly different guitar intro. Sounds like a traditional Christmas carol or something.
Tony from St. Louis, MoFrom research...
The story unfolds like this. Disc jockey John Peel had signed the group (Python Lee Jackson)to his Dandelion record label, but they were having problems with the vocals. From the liner notes of a little misunderstood - The Sixties Sessions:
Around October 1968 - or possibly month or so later - Rod recorded the infamous In a Broken Dream with Python Lee Jackson. Although originally put down as a guide vocal, Rod's performance was so strong that the band's lead singer, Dave Bentley (who'd penned the song), never got around to putting his own vocals over the top. Although it flopped upon its initial 1970 release, it became a huge worldwide hit when reissued in 1972. As Rod later recalled:
"It was all John Peel's fault. He said, 'come down and show this guy how to sing the tune'. So me, being naive, and in no particular group at that time [which was patently untrue - Rod was always in a group, and was at that time in the Jeff Beck Group], I went and showed him how to sing it. Then suddenly, three years later, it ends up as a hit single. I don't think Peely had anything to do with that, though. On the other side of the single [the 1970 release] there's a really bad version of the Temptations' Cloud Nine, with me singing the wrong words. But it wasn't called 'Cloud Nine' on the record...they renamed it 'So Fine' [NB: Rod got it wrong - it was actually mistitled Doin' Fine]. I didn't even get a mention." Peel was quick to confirm he had nowt to do with the reissue:
"It all happened about four years ago ... I'd seen this Australian group called Python Lee Jackson at the Arts Lab in Drury Lane. We tried various singers on the song and one of them happened to be Rod. I didn't particularly want to issue anything with a session singer because it wouldn't be representative of what the group was really like, so when Miki Dallon [who'd produced the session] offered to buy the tapes, I was more than willing to sell..." The initial 1970 release, on Dallon's Youngblood label, had indeed paired up In a Broken Dream and Doin' Fine (YB 1017); however, a different B-side, Boogie Woogie Joe (which didn't feature Rod), appeared on the 1972 reissue (YB 1002). Rod had also recorded a third track with the band, The Blues, which appeared on their album, In A Broken Dream (SYB 3001), and was later paired up with (a by now correctly titled) Cloud Nine on a 1976 Younglood single (YB 1077). Confusing or what ? [NB: Rod later said that the fee he was paid for singing these three tracks was a set of new mats for his car!!!] --- liner-notes by N. E. Fulcanwright
Tony from St. Louis, MoIn response to the question about Python Lee Jackson, I heard (and it may be apocryphal) that they were recording "In a broken dream" in the same studio that Rod was recording in. He wandered by and listened in on the session, disagreed with the way the lead singer was singing it, and then demoed how he thought it should sound in one take. They were so blown away they released that cut, without his consent, or attributing lead vocals to Rod. It went to #1 in the UK for several weeks. The band was never heard from again...
Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesThank you. That was the least sober band that ever lived.
Dan from Kingston, CanadaRod sang a few songs on an early 70's album by Jeff Beck called "Truth" - a raunchy, bluesy album- his appearance on this album may have led to the misconception that he had been with the Yardbirds
Jay from Atlanta, GaThe fact that they were the Small Faces (because the band members were relatively short) then changed the name to just The Faces when tall Rod Stewart (and Ron Wood)came around reminds me of This Is Spinal Tap when the were The Originals, then found out there was already a band with the same name, so they became The New Originals.
Aaron from Des Moines, IaBlur covered this on their "girls and boys" single
Nathan from Defiance, OhThe Beatles released a song of a similiar title on the original Let it Be. Maybe Rod knew the same Maggie May that the Beatles were refering to.
Honkycat from Dallas, TxWhen Rod Stewart left England for the states he came out with an album that was a reference to his departure...it was called "Atlantic Crossing". Think about this...who has been more commercially successful from the 70's, 80's, 90's and 2000's than Rod Stewart. Also, think of all the times his songs have been used on soundtracks (Patch Adams, Three Musketeers, Nightshift, Eulogy, Innerspace, Legal Eagles). Ooh La La, True Blue and You Wear It Well all have been featured in commercials.
Anybody know anything about Rod's work with Python Lee Jackson?
Dean from Pune, IndiaRod Stewart never played with the Yardbirds.Jeff Beck did.
Ross from Independence, MoThis song is #130 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
Devon from Mclean, VaMaggie May, Mary Magdalene, Mary; the harlot and the virgin, that's what's going on. Sweet. You know she's bad for you but you want her anyway [here insert R. Crumb's Devil Woman]
Nessie from Sapporo, JapanMaybe his best song. A great start, and nice solo, too.
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Scdaryl, I don't think rod stuart was in the yardbirds. Jeff Beck was though, you're right about that. and so were claptain, and Page.
Daryl from Stoke, EnglandRonny Wood wasn't the bass player in the Small Faces, he was the GUITARIST of the Faces, that was the small faces after Steve Marriot left and formed the Steve Marriot All Stars.
David from Waco, TxA truly great song. Taxes were harsh in England at the time. The Beatles "Taxman" says it all, "should five percent appear to small, be thankful I don't take it all." Just imagine only keeping a nickle from every dollar you make. Have heared that Rod still feels that Ron Wood was only "on loan" to the Stones
Lee from London , EnglandI met Rod Stewart when he wqas 16 as he was my brother's friend from school.Must have been at the time he was with the real Maggie May!The school he went to wasn't great but it also turned out Ray and Dave Davies and Pete Quaife of The Kinks.
George from Williston, NcRod was in the Jeff Beck Group .Jeff's first band after leaving the Yardbirds,the bass player was Ron Wood of the Small Faces(later the Faces)and later still the Rolling Stones.On their first tour Rod Had such stagefright at their Fillmore East shows that he sang most of the songs from behind the amplifiers.How things changed down the road.
Brian from Grand Forks, NdThe other members of the band Faces were upset with Rod because they felt that Rod was holding the best material back for his upcoming Solo Album(Every Picture Tells a Story)... If you listen to that fantastic album... It would be hard to argue with them...
Janelle from New York City, Nyat first i really didn't like rod but after listening to the song it is really good
Mia from Elk River, MnWhat a voice Rod has! One of my favourite summertime songs!
Maggie from Germantown, Nyokay, just for a second, look at the three songs with maggie in the title. they're all about prostitutes or sex. what's going on here?
Daryl from Stoke, EnglandI never knew Rod played with the Yardbirds. Well, i am learnin sum stuff tonight.
Jimmy Page also played with the Yardbirds as did Jeff Beck(i think) and Clapton
Brad from Manteca, CaExcellent fact about rod stewart leaving based on taxes, who would have thought that england would ever do such a thing...
Peter from Southampton, EnglandDid not know Rod Steward ever played with The Yardbirds!