Hello there! This week we will discuss a great rock classic rock, Maggie May. We will first review the original by Rod Stewart. Next we will feature covers by Melissa Etheridge and by Wayne Armond.
Rod Stewart and Maggie May:
We discussed Rod Stewart in an earlier blog post on Tim Hardin’s song Reason To Believe, and once again for his cover of the Rodgers & Hart pop standard Blue Moon. So here we will briefly review Rod Stewart’s life and career.
Rod Stewart was born in 1945 in North London. His father was Scottish, and Rod’s first passion was for Scottish football.
Stewart failed his tryout with a pro soccer team. He then switched his affiliation to rock ‘n roll after hearing recordings by Little Richard. Rod’s trademark raspy, gravelly vocals owe much to the influence of Little Richard.
Rod Stewart has now been a major rock star for fifty years. Rod had been performing since the early 60s as a vocalist and harmonica player, but did not really achieve significant fame until 1967, when he became the lead vocalist for the Jeff Beck Group. Rod also began writing songs at this time.
His distinctive vocals gained him quite a following, particularly in the blues and soul circuit in Britain, and a 1968 trip to America and booking at New York’s Fillmore East auditorium brought him critical acclaim in the U.S.
At this point, Rod first met up with bass player and guitarist Ron Wood, and they began a long and fruitful association. Below is a photo of Rod Stewart and his mate Ron Wood (L) performing with the Faces.Embed from Getty Images
Stewart subsequently left the Jeff Beck Group and became the lead vocalist with Faces, along with Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones. During this same period, Stewart began to issue solo albums backed by his own group of musicians.
Stewart’s big breakthrough came in 1971. He released a single, his cover of Tim Hardin’s Reason to Believe, a cut from his first solo album Every Picture Tells a Story. However, it was the “B” side of that single, Maggie May, that became a surprising boffo hit, rising all the way to #1 in both the US and UK pop charts.
The song Maggie May describes a young man who has an affair with an older woman (“the morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age”).
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.
Rod Stewart co-wrote the song with his Faces bandmate Martin Quittenton. The song describes an actual encounter, what Rod describes as his first sexual experience at the 1961 Beaulieu Jazz Festival. Rod changed the woman’s name for the purpose of this song.
Apparently the song was recorded in only two takes. According to Stewart, his record company was pessimistic about the prospects for Maggie May, which is why it was initially released as the “B” side of that single. But radio DJs began to feature this song, and it eventually became Rod’s signature tune.
So here is Rod Stewart in a live performance of Maggie May. This is from 1979, and is preceded by a silly interview with British comedian Kenny Everett.
The tune begins with a 30-second guitar solo called Henry, that was composed by Martin Quittenton. It then segues into Maggie May. It’s nice to see a young Rod Stewart in his prime, singing his best-known song.
I really enjoy this tune, except for the fact that it cuts off abruptly before the end of the song. The record was famous for the mandolin solo that ends the tune; that solo was provided by Ray Jackson, who was a mandolin player with the British folk-rock group Lindisfarne. Jackson sat in on at least three of Rod Stewart’s solo albums.
I caught Rod Stewart in concert in the late 70s. The opening act was the J. Geils Band. As J. Geils raced through a set of their hits, I was thinking “These guys are a pretty tight live band.” However, no sooner did Rod Stewart launch into their set, than I realized that J. Geils was no match for Rod and his mates. Stewart was a real pro, and his band was exceptionally proficient.
Through the 70s Rod continued to produce a string of hits, some through his solo efforts and others with Faces. His unique rough vocal style was amazingly effective over a wide range of tunes — blues-based songs, R&B, folk-rock efforts and the occasional ballad. Faces continued for a few years until they broke up in 1975, when it eventually became impossible to balance the demands of that band with Stewart’s solo career.
In 1993 Rod Stewart joined forces with his old mate Ronnie Wood to produce an incredibly popular entry in the MTV: Unplugged concert series. The album from the Rod Stewart-Ronnie Wood Unplugged concert made it to #2 on the Billboard charts. Stewart and Wood performed a number of his hits from the early 70s. They were clearly enjoying being reunited, even if for just a brief period (Ron Wood has been a guitarist for the Rolling Stones since 1975).
So here are Rod Stewart and Ron Wood in their “Unplugged” version of Rod’s first big hit, Maggie May.
Rod’s voice is in great form, and the audience are clearly thrilled to hear the duo attack Maggie May. I was especially pleased to see the mandolin appear at the end, bringing the tune to a bouncy and successful conclusion.
Although I was a big fan in the early days, I jumped off the Rod Stewart bandwagon in the late 70s when he began dressing in spandex and singing disco songs – Do Ya Think I’m Sexy and Hot Legs, no thanks!
However, it’s hard to argue with an artist who has sold upwards of 100 million records. And Rod Stewart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In recent years, Rod has begun performing tunes from the Great American Songbook, such as They Can’t Take That Away From Me and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.
Rod has led a very colorful life. In addition to his well-publicized love of soccer and his affinity for model trains, Stewart was nearly always in the company of actresses or other beauties. An affair with Swedish actress Britt Eckland in the mid-70s was followed by marriage to George Hamilton’s ex-wife Alana Hamilton, and then a subsequent marriage to super-model Rachel Hunter. Rod has fathered eight children (that we know about), by five different mothers.
But in spite of (or because of?) his raunchy ways, he was knighted in 2016, so we may now refer to him as Sir Roderick Stewart.
Melissa Etheridge and Maggie May:
Melissa Etheridge is a singer-songwriter whose hard-rock performances garnered her fame beginning in the 90s. Ms. Etheridge was born in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1961. Her father was a high school psychology teacher and athletic director.
Melissa began playing guitar at age 8 and after high school she enrolled in Boston’s Berklee School of Music. However, she dropped out without finishing her degree and headed to L.A. in search of fame and fortune. Below is a photo of Ms. Etheridge performing at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.Embed from Getty Images
Her first big steps involved signing Bill Leopold as her manager, and subsequently signing a record deal with Chris Blackwell’s Island Records.
Between 1988 and 1992, Etheridge released three albums. They were moderately successful, reaching between 20 and 30 on the Billboard album charts. The song Ain’t It Heavy from her third album won her a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female.
But it was Melissa’s fourth album that turned out to be the charm. That record spent nearly three years on the Billboard album charts, and scored her only Top 10 single for I’m The Only One, which reached #1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary playlists.
Here is Melissa Etheridge in a live performance of Maggie May. This is from her MTV: Unplugged performance in March 1995.
You can see why Ms. Etheridge has been compared to Janis Joplin; her gravely voice and hard-edged performances are a bit reminiscent of Janis. There are a few Melissa Etheridge songs that I am really fond of.
Melissa Etheridge has had an interesting personal life. Although as a young artist she frequently performed at lesbian clubs, once she became famous there were a couple of years when rumors circulated regarding her sexual preferences, before she came out as gay.
She then had a long-term relationship with Julie Cypher, in which Ms. Cypher gave birth to two children. A few years later it was revealed that singer David Crosby was the sperm donor for those children. However, after about ten years together, Etheridge and Cypher split up.
Following that, Melissa had a relationship with actress Tammy Lynn Michaels. Ms. Michaels gave birth to twins in Oct. 2006. Two years later, Etheridge and Michaels announced their plans to marry; however, in 2010 the couple separated and began a two-year battle over custody of the twins.
In 2004, Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy. She gave a couple of concerts while she was still bald from the chemo. A particularly noteworthy appearance was at the 2005 Grammy Awards, where she performed a cover of Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart.
Based on her personal experiences in recovery, Ms. Etheridge has been a vocal advocate for medicinal marijuana. She has even partnered with a company that has produced a cannabis-infused wine.
In 2013, Melissa Etheridge and her partner Linda Wallem were married in Montecito, California.
Melissa Etheridge has received a number of awards. In music, she won the ASCAP Songwriter of the Year award in 1996, and she won the 2001 Gibson Guitar Award for Best Rock Guitarist: Female.
She has also won the 2006 Steven Kolczak Award for LGBTQ professionals who have made a difference in promoting equal rights. This is an appropriate honor since Ms. Etheridge has been a vocal advocate for gay rights. In the past, on more than one occasion she refused to perform in states that had passed legislation forbidding gay marriage.
Melissa Etheridge is a hard-rocking singer-songwriter who has shown a feisty personality in both her music and her advocacy. We wish her health and happiness – rock on!
Wayne Armond and Maggie May:
I must admit I could not find that much information on Wayne Armond. He is a Jamaican artist who was a guitarist, songwriter and lead vocalist with the group Chalice. That band was formed in 1980, and although they had a few hits in Jamaica, they never really made the jump to the international scene like other reggae groups.
In particular, Chalice was known for its live performances at Reggae Sunsplash festivals in Jamaica. Below is a photo of Wayne Armond performing with Chalice in London.Embed from Getty Images
Chalice undertook various tours of Europe and the States without managing to score a major hit. In the late 1980s they concentrated on touring in Mexico. The group’s seventh album Tuff Enuff was released only in Austria (go figure). Then in 1996, Chalice disbanded.
In 2006 Chalice regrouped, and since then they have appeared at festivals in their homeland, in Florida and the Cayman Islands. The last entry I could find in their Wikipedia page is from 2011.
After Chalice disbanded, Wayne Armond has issued some single records and has also produced records. Here is the audio of Wayne Armond’s 2001 cover of Maggie May.
Isn’t this enjoyable? Armond’s band lays down a steady-rocking reggae beat behind his vocals. This was a pleasant find for me; I could listen to this tune for some time. The steel drum accompaniment gives the song a hypnotic kick. On the Internet, there is much speculation about the identity of the artist: is it Bob Marley? Peter Tosh? Nope, it’s Wayne Armond.
Since we don’t have a live performance of Wayne Armond singing Maggie May, here is a clip of Chalice performing live at the 1982 Reggae Sunsplash festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
That’s Wayne Armond on guitar and lead vocals, as Chalice runs through a medley of their hits. The audio and video are second-rate, but you can get a glimpse of this reggae group that never really caught on outside their native Jamaica.
We have lost track of whatever Wayne Armond is doing lately. Nevertheless, we wish Wayne all the best.