German picture sleeve featuring the new A-side
|Single by Rod Stewart|
|from the album Every Picture Tells a Story|
|A-side||"Reason to Believe"|
|Length||5:15 or 5:45 (depending on version)|
|Writer(s)||Rod Stewart and Martin Quittenton|
|Rod Stewart singles chronology|
"Maggie May" expresses the ambivalence and contradictory emotions of a young man involved in a relationship with an older woman, and was written from Stewart's own experience. In the January, 2007 issue of Q magazine, Stewart recalled: "Maggie May was more or less a true story, about the first woman I had sex with, at the 1961 Beaulieu Jazz Festival." 
The song was recorded in just two takes in one session. Drummer Micky Waller often arrived at recording sessions with the expectation that a drum kit would be provided and, for "Maggie May", it was - except that no cymbals could be found. The cymbal crashes had to be overdubbed separately some days later.
It was initially released as the B-side of the single "Reason to Believe," but DJs in the USA (possibly in Cleveland, Ohio) became fonder of the B-side and the song was reclassified, with "Maggie May" becoming the A-side. However, the single continued to be pressed with "Maggie May" as the B-side. The song was Stewart's first substantial hit as a solo performer and launched his solo career. It remains one of his best-known songs. A famous live performance of the song on Top of the Pops saw The Faces joined onstage by DJ John Peel, who pretended to play the mandolin (the mandolin player on the recording was Ray Jackson of Lindisfarne).
Oddly, in the days of Top-40 Hit Radio, when songs were released for airplay and to the public on 45RPM singles, "Maggie May" was not edited in any way or fashion. The full 5:15 version was pressed to single, even though its multiple refrains & 5-bar mandolin solo could have been easily taken to edit. Perhaps it was because "Maggie May" was initially only meant to be a B-side single, and many B-sides are left intact without editing.
Most versions of "Maggie May" (especially on some Rod Stewart compilations) incorporate a 30-second solo guitar intro, "Henry", composed by Martin Quittenton. The original recording has appeared on almost all Rod Stewart compilations, and even appeared on the Ronnie Wood retrospective, Ronnie Wood Anthology: The Essential Crossexion, complete with "Henry" intro. A version by The Faces recorded for BBC Radio appeared on the four-disc box set Five Guys Walk Into A Bar....
In October 1971, the song went to number one in the UK and simultaneously topped the charts in the United States. Every Picture Tells a Story achieved the same status at the same time, a feat achieved by only a handful of performers, most notably The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel. The song also topped the charts in Australia for four weeks at the same time.
The song re-entered the UK charts in December 1976, but only reached number 31.
- Rod Stewart - lead vocals
- Ronnie Wood - electric guitar, 12-string guitar, bass guitar
- Martin Quittenton - acoustic guitar
- Micky Waller - drums, cymbals
- Ian McLagan - organ
- Ray Jackson - mandolin
"Go Away Little Girl" by Donny Osmond
|Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
2 October 1971 (five weeks)
"Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" by Cher
"Hey Girl Don't Bother Me" by The Tams
|UK number one single
9 October 1971 (five weeks)
"Coz I Luv You" by Slade
"Banks of the Ohio" by Olivia Newton-John
|Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
29 November 1971 (four weeks)
"Imagine" by John Lennon