|"Maggie May", by Rod Stewart|
"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 Beaulieu Jazz Festival." The reference to returning to school in "late September" refers to the Michaelmas term, the first academic term of the academic year of many British and Irish universities.
It was initially released in the United Kingdom as the B-side of the single "Reason to Believe," but DJs became fonder of the B-side and, after two weeks on the charts, 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.
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 and Garfunkel. The song also topped the charts in Australia for four weeks at the same time.
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 (see the videoclip below) 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." The song re-entered the UK charts in December 1976, but only reached number 31.
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 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the song #130 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.