On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
India was delightful, dear reader, but back on board a plane we go and head on back to the UK and to London. Rod Stewart has appeared already on this list as a member of The Small Faces and as a guest vocalist for Python Lee Jackson. In 1971 Stewart was still with Faces but was trying to launch a successful solo career with the release of his third album, Every Picture Tells a Story. From that album, 1001 Songs has picked out the track, Maggie May.
Maggie May is based on Rod Stewart’s own experience of losing his virginity as a 16 year old to an older woman he met at the 1961 Beaulieu Jazz Festival. In the song, the narrator is in a relationship with the older Maggie May of the title but he finds himself torn about what to do in the future. On the one hand, he gets a lot from this relationship but he has reached a point where he feels used and is being played for a fool. It seems clear that Maggie May is interested only in sex with the narrator but he seems to have strong feelings for her, identifying her supposed flaws but dismissing them as unimportant to him. By the end, a part of him wishes he had never met this woman and that he should go home and return to the life he once had before her but walking away isn’t easy.
Anyone familiar with Rod Stewart will have likely heard Maggie May. It remains one of his greatest songs, his best in my personal opinion. Stewart’s own relationship with an older woman was momentary and not as tormented as the narrator finds himself in this song. This one is all about Stewart’s vocals and that raspy singing voice he is famous for but the music is also impressive, especially with the album version which includes that catchy guitar intro entitled Henry. The song was released a B-side to Reason to Believe but DJs began playing Maggie May instead and it launched Stewart to the top of the US and UK charts. His solo career had finally taken off and he would never look back from here.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
The Kinks – Days (1968)
King Crimson – The Court of the Crimson King (1969)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)