“I know I keep you amused,
but I feel I’m being used.”
The History :: Maggie May was written by Rod Stewart and Martin Quittenton, and recorded by Stewart in 1971 for his album Every Picture Tells a Story. The song was originally released as a B-side, in the U.K., to the single Reason To Believe. Soon after its release, though, DJ’s started to prefer it to the A-side, and after two weeks on the charts the single was re-classified and Maggie May became the A-side.
In October 1971, the song went to number one in the U.K., and simultaneously topped the charts in the United States. 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.”
Maggie May has been described as a song that expresses the ambivalence and contradictory emotions of a young man involved in a relationship with an older woman, and is thought to have been written from Stewart’s own experience.
My thoughts :: I never took the song to be ambivalent. If anything, the emotions seem to be tinged in bitterness, and feigned attempts at covering up heartache. It always struck me as a young man in over his head, in a relationship with an older woman, who he feels is using him, and how he has now woken up and found his sense of self lost in all of it. There is a sense that he is struggling to let go, but realizes his need to do just that. None of that ever felt like ambivalence to me.
I think my Mom had quite the fan-girl crush on Rod Stewart. I remember her tacking up one of his album covers over her sewing machine; the gate-fold kind that had a sleeve that flipped open showing one large picture. I think it was of Rod in a leopard print, skin tight jumpsuit. I would often catch her admiring his tight pants and mussed up hair. His albums were played in heavy rotation when I was young, and this song in particular was always a favorite of mine. I am not sure I grasped what it was about, but I sure did love singing along to it, especially when we would drive to the beach in our old light blue Oldsmobile wagon, with the radio turned up loud.
When I was nineteen I bought a copy of the Best of Rod Stewart for this song, and Hot Legs (which was a favorite of mine to dance to, at the time). This song was the one I always hit rewind on, to spool back the tape and listen to again.
In my very late 30’s I would find myself wondering if I was like Maggie, as I began to recognize the loneliness in her side of the song.
Rod Stewart may not think it had much of a melody, but I would disagree. It is one of those songs that sticks to you for days after hearing, or weeks, or years.
Go ahead, hit play and try not to sing-a-long.
Maggie May (live) :: Rod Stewart and the Faces