Rod Stewart’s isolated vocals for ‘Maggie May’ proves he has one of rock music’s greatest ever voices

18 May 2023, 14:02

'Maggie May' made Rod Stewart a superstar.
'Maggie May' made Rod Stewart a superstar. Picture: Getty

It was the song that made Rod Stewart a bonafide superstar.

Released on his third studio album, Every Picture Tells A Story, in 1971, 'Maggie May' broke Rod Stewart through to the big time.

As the frontman of the Faces as well as Python Lee Jackson, Rod had established himself as one of rock music's most interesting characters.

Not only because of his cheeky personality and (now) iconic ruffled hairstyle, but also because of his husky and powerful singing voice.

But it was 'Maggie May' that made him a star on both sides of the Atlantic, the unlikely hit song that technically has no chorus and also a lead mandolin riff which was virtually unheard of at the time.

Mandolin and lack of chorus aside, it's truly Rod's vocal performance that carries the song and that made it so enduring.

Listen to the isolated vocals below, which prove how Stewart staked his claim as one of rock music's greatest ever voices:

Rod Stewart - Maggie May Isolated Vocals

The song's origins may surprise you also, when Rod revealed it was inspired by the time he lost his virginity at the age of 16.

In his memoir, Rod: The Autobiography, he divulged the details of the eye-opening experience that led to the song's lyrical theme.

"At 16, I went to the Beaulieu Jazz Festival in the New Forest. I'd snuck in with some mates via an overflow sewage pipe."

"And there on a secluded patch of grass, I lost my not-remotely-prized virginity with an older (and larger) woman who'd come on to me very strongly in the beer tent" he confessed.

"How much older, I can't tell you - but old enough to be highly disappointed by the brevity of the experience."

Before his autobiography came out, Rod touched on the experience in interviews, one time admitting that with his reputation on the line he was nervous, saying the encounter was over "in a few seconds."

Not that there's any reason to doubt the singer's coming-of-age backstory, but there is actual footage of Rod at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival in July 1961 which you can see here.

Rod Stewart with the Faces in 1971. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Rod Stewart with the Faces in 1971. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

The words 'Maggie May' don't actually feature in the song, as the title was inspired by the Liverpudlian folk song about a Lime Street prostitute.

Whilst Stewart was working with Steamhammer guitarist Martin Quittenton, the two met and began bouncing ideas of each other, so Rod began singing the words to 'Maggie Mae' over an improvised melody.

The folk song's themes inspired Stewart to dig into his past, particularly that hallowed happening from 1961. The memories came flooding back and his biggest hit to date came to life.

'Maggie May' became an enormous hit in both Britain and America, topping the UK and the US charts at the same time.

His album Every Picture Tells A Story also reached the top spot on both sides of the pond, making Rod the first artist to have simultaneous No.1's in the UK and the US.

Though he was still in the Faces, his popularity began to outweigh that of his band now that America was paying attention, with Rod eventually pursuing a solo career and moving to the United States.

Even to this day still, 'Maggie May' sits at the top of the pile of Rod Stewart's greatest ever songs, and certainly proved his case that he had one the most singular voices to come out of the era.