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"|
|Genre||Folk rock, soft rock|
|Writer(s)||Rod Stewart and Martin Quittenton|
|Rod Stewart singles chronology|
"Maggie May" expresses the ambivalence and contradictory emotions of a 16 year old boy 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 woman's name was not "Maggie May"; Stewart claimed that the name was taken from "... an old Liverpudlian song about a prostitute."
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 United States (reportedly in Cleveland, Ohio, and at WMEX in Boston) 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 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).
Most versions of "Maggie May" (especially on some Stewart compilations) incorporate a 30-second solo guitar intro, "Henry", composed by Martin Quittenton. The original recording has appeared on almost all his 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.... A live version recorded in 1993 by Stewart joined by Wood for a session of MTV Unplugged is included on the album Unplugged...and Seated. During concerts, in her introduction, Suzanne Vega refers to "Maggie May" before playing her feminist response, "I'll Never Be Your Maggie May".
In October 1971, the song went to number one in the UK Singles Chart (for five weeks), 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. Billboard ranked it as the No. 2 record for 1971. 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.
"At first, I didn't think much of "Maggie May." I guess that's because the record company didn't believe in the song. I didn't have much confidence then. I figured it was best to listen to the guys who knew better. What I learned is sometimes they do and sometimes they don't." 
Weekly singles charts
- Rod Stewart – lead vocals
- Ronnie Wood – electric guitar, twelve-string guitar, bass guitar
- Martin Quittenton – acoustic guitar
- Micky Waller – drums, cymbals
- Ian McLagan – Hammond organ
- Ray Jackson – mandolin
- "Maggie May by Rod Stewart Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
- Myers, Marc (October 23, 2015) "Maggie May – A Song of Loss" The Wall Street Journal, page D6
- Rod – The Autobiography ISBN 9781780890524
- Rod – The Autobiography ISBN 9781780890524
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 265–6. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1971
- "Image : RPM Weekly". Retrieved 17 April 2016.
- [Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–2002]
- "Top Pop 100 Singles" Billboard December 25, 1971: TA-36
"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