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). Stewart himself was amused by the song's success, saying, "I still can't see how the single is such a big hit. It has no melody. Plenty of character and nice chords, but no melody."
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.
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.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (June 2011)|
Few other acts have released the song as a single, although Simtec and Wylie did so, and Blur used it as the B-side of the vinyl edition of their single Chemical World. The guitar-solo picking halfway through the song was excerpted by Deva, a film composer from South India, for the film Aasai.
Edwin McCain, Wet Wet Wet, The Pogues, and Ben Mills have recorded versions of "Maggie May"; Melissa Etheridge, The Pogues, Dirty Three and Counting Crows have performed it in concert. The Spanish rock band M-Clan recorded a translated version of the song, called Maggie despierta, on their Sin enchufe (Unplugged) album. The French singer Richard Anthony sang "Maggie May" in French.
The Hedley song Don't Talk to Strangers, which is also a song about a sexual relationship between a young male and an older woman, makes reference to this song when the protagonist sees his lover in the morning sunlight and "Maggie May showed her age".
Ben Mills recorded a version of Maggie May for his 2007 album Picture of You.
"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