Rod Stewart, Decade by Decade #2 – “Maggie May”

Well, the Scarlet Pimpernel he is not – Since last Friday, just about every time I switch on the telly or tune into the radio, up pops Rod Stewart. This new album of his is getting a serious amount of promotion but considering he is back living in this country with his young family, and considering he seems to be really enjoying making new music at the moment, why not?

This is the second post in the series and this time I’m going to be concentrating on his 1970s career, which was definitely his most successful decade, if you judge success in terms of record sales and No. 1 hits that is. For most fans however the decade was a game of two halves (Rod would no doubt appreciate the football analogy) as in 1975 he left Old Blighty behind and made his way across the Atlantic to the place we used to call, America.

everyBut before that momentous journey across the pond, Mr Stewart had already carved out a very successful career for himself here in Britain. Right at the start of the ’70s he was simultaneously acting as lead singer for the Faces but also releasing critically acclaimed albums as a solo artist. His third solo album “Every Picture Tells a Story” contained the wonderful Tim Hardin song Reason To Believe, which was subsequently released as a single. It wasn’t long however before the single’s B-side was receiving more airplay, and the rest as they say, is history. Maggie May has since been named as one of the “500 songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll”, and watching this clip below brings back so many memories.

Maggie May by Rod Stewart:

First of all, I know for a fact I would have watched this episode of TOTP with my parents, because that’s just what families did back then on a Thursday night at 7.30pm. They would have called him “Rod the Mod”, a little play on words for my amusement I always thought, not realising he had been a part of the whole Mod phenomenon during the previous decade.

Secondly, although this is ostensibly a Rod Stewart solo effort, it seems the Faces still acted as his backing band, and what a rollicking good time they seem to be having here. As we all know there was very little actual live singing done on the set of TOTP in those days, the artists always being asked to mime. For these guys that just meant there was more time for “havin’ a larf” which they always did in bucketloads. A bit of a kickabout with a football (became a bit of a trademark for Rod), a few circus tricks with the mike-stand, Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane showboating with their guitars, and last but not least, a bit of John Peel on mandolin (what?). Yes, they certainly knew how to have a good time those boys and many a trashed hotel room was testament to that fact.

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The Faces (Ronnie Lane here looking awfully like a Hobbit!)

My third observation is this. When you watch old episodes of telly shows and pop performances, especially from over 40 years ago like this one, you really notice how people have changed, physically, during that time. These were guys who grew up with rationing for goodness sake so the protein rich diets available to young men today were just a pipe dream. The result of course, was that they always had snake hips, spindly legs and not a six pack in sight. (Think early Bowie, and the Beatles in their mohair suits and cuban heels.) Also, the hair was always darkish and the skin very, very pale. Back in those days Rod himself had classic Anglo-Saxon dirty blonde hair and fair skin. Over the years, his glamorous life-stye and the advent of hair colouring techniques led to the hair becoming lighter and the skin becoming perma-tanned, as it still is today. Not criticising, as to be honest, we females born with the same colouring have gone down the same route. My dirty blonde hair has not seen the light of day for a good thirty plus years (and probably never will again).

Finally, although I remember this particular performance well and still love the song Maggie May, for me at that time Rod Stewart was not someone who would have appeared in pin-up form on my bedroom wall. No, even at age 11, I understood that bands like these had a certain aura about them (they actually sang about sex), which meant they were not really aimed at the pre-teen market. Rod would have to wait another few years for that to happen.

Rod made another couple of albums after “Every Picture…” for Mercury Records, “Never A Dull Moment” and then “Smiler” but in 1975 a few massive changes took place – He switched to Warner Bros Records, the Faces broke up (Ronnie Wood had already joined the Rolling Stones on tour) and he made the move to LA.

Too much Rod Stewart 1970s goodness for one post I’ve decided, so I’m going to leave the second half of the decade for the next post in this series. Also I have a fair few anecdotes to get through that will have to be sensitively dealt with, so whilst I ponder on how I’m going to do that, I shall leave you with the lyrics to Maggie May. Inspired by a real life encounter experienced by the 16-year-old Rod, the song expressed the contradictory emotions felt by a young lad after getting into a relationship with an older woman.

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There aren’t that many songs out there where just about everyone can sing along, seemingly word perfect. That happened when we went to see Rod at our local stadium – He didn’t have to do much at all when it was time for this song to make an appearance on the bill as we pretty much sang it for him, albeit a nano-second behind in timing, which is all it seems to take to prompt the next line from the memory banks. The stage overlooked the Moray Firth, the sun was setting and it was a warm summer night – Most definitely, a “pinch me” moment.

Until next time….

Maggie May Lyrics
(Song by Rod Stewart/Martin Quittenton)

Wake up Maggie I think I got something to say to you
It’s late September and I really should be back at school
I know I keep you amused but I feel I’m being used
Oh Maggie I couldn’t have tried any more
You lured me away from home just to save you from being alone
You stole my heart and that’s what really hurt

The morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age
But that don’t worry me none in my eyes you’re everything
I laughed at all of your jokes my love you didn’t need to coax
Oh, Maggie I couldn’t have tried any more
You lured me away from home, just to save you from being alone
You stole my soul and that’s a pain I can do without

All I needed was a friend to lend a guiding hand
But you turned into a lover and
mother what a lover, you wore me out
All you did was wreck my bed
and in the morning kick me in the head
Oh Maggie I couldn’t have tried anymore
You lured me away from home ’cause you didn’t want to be alone
You stole my heart I couldn’t leave you if I tried

I suppose I could collect my books and get on back to school
Or steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool
Or find myself a rock and roll band that needs a helpin’ hand
Oh Maggie I wish I’d never seen your face
You made a first-class fool out of me
But I’m as blind as a fool can be
You stole my heart but I love you anyway

Maggie I wish I’d never seen your face
I’ll get on back home one of these days

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

12 thoughts on “Rod Stewart, Decade by Decade #2 – “Maggie May””

  1. I think everybody I knew (except me) had a copy of “Every Picture…” Oh…my wife has just admitted she has the album – after 42 years of complete secrecy. Even I would admit to liking the odd RS song from that era – my favourite being the Faces “Stay with Me”.

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    1. I didn’t have the album either – just a bit too young I think but Maggie May was probably when I really started to take notice of Mr Stewart, whilst sitting with my mum and dad watching TOTP!

      Realising now I’ve taken on quite a task with this series as he’s had such a long career. Might have to just do an occasional post, moving along the decades by stealth.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I must admit, since starting this blog, the one-hit wonder posts have been my most successful in terms of views. Less written about them so easier to find your little effort near the top of the search engines. With artists like Rod, I’ve really set myself a challenge!

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    1. I must admit, this post’s featured song wasn’t originally going to be Maggie May as it’s one of these classics that has almost become over-familiar. Problem was, once I started going through his ‘70s back catalogue there was just too much to choose from and I got blogger’s block!

      Yes Mandolin Wind is a wonderful song and Rod seems to have been one of the first artists to make use of that great sounding instrument on his albums. Certainly raised Maggie May from being ordinary to extra-ordinary.

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  2. Maggie May is just one of those songs that is so set in place somehow that it can never sound tired or bad or just anything than what it is, it’s Maggie May! Not sure if that makes sense but hope it does! I agree with Yeah, Another Blogger, by the way, about Mandolin Wind – great stuff.
    And I agree with you about the difference in physicality over the years – such an interesting and astute observation. No bloke would have dreamed of having a fake tan (did they even exist?) or shaving off all their body hair! I might be wrong but don’t think many men other than sporty types or hard nuts were really interested in muscles, then, either. The idea of working out, and desiring or developing a six-pack or whatever just didn’t seem to be as commonplace as it is now. Mr SDS sometimes says he wishes he’d been more muscly as a young man than he was (ironically he is more now, doing a physical job!) but I remind him that it just wasn’t on our radars then, especially not being into the music we were into, it was all about embracing being skinny and pale and thus far more interesting-looking!

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    1. Thanks for dropping by and yes, you are right, Maggie May is just part of our culture now so never sounds old or tired. As I said to YAB above though, trying to pack the whole of Rod’s 70s into one post was just never going to work, so kind of scrapped what I was working on and came back simply with Maggie May. But, in doing that, I ended up reminiscing more about the “times” and you have picked up on the thing myself and Mr WIAA always comment on when watching reruns of TOTP or OGWT – those snake hips!

      The artists of the 60s/early 70s certainly hadn’t grown up with the rich diets we are used to nowadays (and have to work hard at resisting in order to stay healthy) so it kind of showed in their physique. Male grooming was a low priority as well so the hair just grew, and grew, everywhere – Heads, chins, cheeks, chests! The current hipster trend is so different in that trips to the barber weekly are pretty much essential. Like with Mr SDS, my other half certainly didn’t have muscles when he was younger and when I see old pictures of him am shocked by his snake hips and spindly legs. Of late however, after a bit of a wake-up call, he has taken to doing loads of sport and exercise so has totally changed shape – A classic MAMIL I fear. So far I haven’t joined him in his pursuits and prefer a brisk walk out in the countryside, but who knows!

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  3. A great song. One I never tire of hearing – though he has written and recorded much better ones.
    If you haven’t already (I know I start a lot of my sentences with that preamble), find his Unplugged and Seated set on YouTube from ’93 (I think) with his old mate Ronnie Wood. Now that is good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must admit, I did start off wanting to include 3 songs in this post and the first one was Reason To Believe (wonder if you can guess what the other 2 ’70s ones were going to be?). I got myself in a bit of a pickle though as it all got a bit too long and went off on lots of tangents so decided to go back and stick to the good old B-side that ended up being an all-time classic.

      If I had continued with this series (now I’m not so sure), my picks for the ’90s were going to be from that Unplugged and Seated concert. Really enjoyed Have I Told You Lately That I Love You from that set.

      As for the comments box faux pas, I have never been able to change text to italic before, but seem to be able to if I edit someone’s else’s comment. How weird. Done now anyway.

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