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