Overthinking The Classics: Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’
Hello folks, and welcome to another edition of Overthinking The Classics, where I take the lyrics to a song we all know and love and analyze them to see just what the samscratch is going on.
Well, by "analyze" I mean, "actually read" instead of you know, just ignoring them, like I do most of the time. And of course, keep in mind none of this is meant to be taken too seriously. Just a bit of fun and a little thought.
The song came out in 1971 as a B-side to Rod Stewart's classic song "Reason To Believe". Basically back in those days, DJ's could pick and choose what to play to some extent (ha, can't do that now!). While they had been told to play the A-side, the B-side became more popular. And now, it's a classic that we all know! So, let's take a looky loo at these lyrics and see what's up.
Wake up, Maggie, I think I got somethin' to say to you
So we're starting out fine, he's addressing someone who is asleep, so they must be close. I mean, I don't fall asleep in public or in front of strangers. That's just me.
It's late September and I really should be back at school
Back at school.... okay, so he's learning, that's great. I know in the UK, school is a little different. They have grade school, and what we call "High School" is what they call "College", and college isn't mandatory, from what I recall. It is if you want to go on to a four year university, but it isn't if you you just want to go out and work.
I know I keep you amused, but I feel I'm being used
Hmm. Well, that's valid. Not every relationship is 50/50.
Oh, Maggie, I couldn't have tried any moreYou led me away from home
Just to save you from being alone
You stole my heart and that's what really hurts
I don't know if I like where we're going anymore. She "led" him away from home? Like, she tricked him? Coerced him? She "stole" his heart? Like, without his consent?
The mornin' 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
Hold on, 'shows your age'? How old is she? You don't worry about looking older when you're in your teens or twenties. If it's something she'd worry about... she must be in her thirties or forties. Wait. Oh no. I just did a quick Google. Rod Stewart wrote this song about a real relationship he'd had with an older woman....when he was sixteen. I looked up the age of consent in the UK, and it's 16 today, as it was then. So this woman isn't committing a crime, per se, but this feels like creeper territory. And if her "age is showing".... that confirms to me that she might be a bit older. But then, if he was 16, anyone over the age of 25 is old. So who knows.
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 any more
Gross. Well, I guess I'm thinking about this in an odd way. I don't think she actually drop-kicked him in the head Bruce Lee style, I think that's an in joke about co-sleeping with someone. And I'm not talking about property damage either ("wreck my bed"), I think that's another little detail from their relationship that was meant to not be taken so literally. But... you know what he's implying. I just keep picturing me at sixteen years old, and how angry my family would be if I'd gone out and shacked up with a forty year old man. I bet Police would be involved either way.
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 playin' pool
Well, okay, so he's showing he's not perfect either. He's debating between a normal, moral option (school), and a dishonest option (stealing, scamming people at pool). But then, that might not be so much of a moral compass problem as a desperate teenager problem.
Or find myself a rock and roll band that needs a helpin' hand
Foreshadowing? Maybe! Rod said he wrote this song about a relationship he had in 1961, and he joined a band in 1963, although he didn't join The Faces (the group that made him famous) until 1969.
Oh, Maggie, I wished I'd never seen your faceYou 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
I get this. I absolutely get this sentiment. You might love someone with all your heart, but....some people just don't help you get where you're supposed to go in life. He might have loved her as much as he could, but if she was holding him back, sometimes you just have to let people like that go. He probably didn't have the maturity at that age, and if she's dating people that much younger than her, she's not that mature either.
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Now that I say that, what about Maggie? Well, first of all, of course that's not her real name. Even I knew that without a Google. "Maggie May" is an old folksong from Liverpool about a prostitute that steals and gets caught, and then sent to prison. Still, choosing that name for his character.... says a lot about what he thinks of her. And it's, um, not good things. I mean, if my ex called me a prozzie I'd be seeing red.
He says the only reason she wanted him around was to "save her from being alone". So she's immature, selfish.... and alone. Why? Has she driven away everyone else in her life? Maybe she did, because he implies she was dishonest and manipulative ("you stole my heart"/"you led me away") as well. He fell in love with someone who took advantage of him and kept him away from his friends, family, school... and apparently made a fool out of him ("All I needed was a friend"). In fact, the only compliment he pays her in the song, and this might be a stretch, is that she's.... how to put this politely. Vigorous as a lover? Enthusiastic in bed? Provides ample opportunities for the horizontal mambo ("you wore me out")? Well, no, he says she's funny, too ("I laughed at all of your jokes").
So I guess it's a harsh lesson learned. And I suppose he had the last laugh. I wonder if she ever heard the song, and what she thought of it. I wonder if she had regrets about what she said and did, or if she just thought he was a kid and blew him off. For all we know, it wasn't as serious to her as it was to him. For her, it might have been a fling or an FWB situation. Still gross, yeah. That might be true considering their age gap. I'm not saying all May/December romances don't work out, but.... sixteen is too young for a really mature relationship with ANYBODY, even kids their own age. But you know how it is. You can't tell them that. And he might have reflected on that in another song of his, "You Wear It Well", which seems to be similar in style, and might be him reflecting on Maggie years later.