The Devirginized Meaning Behind Rod Stewart’s 1971 Hit “Maggie May”

When Rod Stewart was 16, he lost his virginity. The event took place at the Beaulieu Jass Festival in July of 1961 and, admittedly, it only lasted a few seconds.

Videos by American Songwriter

“‘Maggie May’ was more or less a true story, about the first woman I had sex with, at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival,” revealed Stewart in 2015.

Although Stewart had already been around the block a few times, singing for the Jeff Beck Group in 1967 before working alongside Ron Wood in Faces by the late ’60s and had released two solo albums—An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down (1969) and Gasoline Alley (1970)—”Maggie May” was the song that made him a household name.

The Meaning

In his 2012 memoir, Rod: The Autobiography, Stewart elaborates on his “Maggie May” experience:

“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. How much older, I can’t tell you, but old enough to be highly disappointed by the brevity of the experience.”

Video “Evidence”

There is actual black-and-white footage of a teenage Stewart at the Beaulieu Jass Festival in 1961. (Watch HERE)

The woman who Stewart had the brief encounter with was not named Maggie May. Instead, Stewart borrowed the title from an old British folk song about a prostitute on Lime Street in Liverpool, England.

In its original form, the song—which became popular in the skiffle scene in the 1950s—follows the story of a prostitute who robbed a seaman coming home from his journey.

Oh Maggie, Maggie May, they have taken her away
To walk upon Van Diemen’s cruel shore
She robbed so many sailors, and dosed so many whalers
And she’ll never roam down Lime Street any more

[RELATED: Top 11 Rod Stewart Songs]

Also used as the British slang word for a prostitute, the Beatles shared their own rendition of “Maggie Mae” on their final album, Let It Be in 1970— Oh, dirty Maggie Mae they have taken her away / And she’ll never walk down Lime Street anymore / Oh, the judge, he guilty found her / For robbin’ the homeward founder.

Unlike the Beatles’ “Maggie,” Stewart’s rendition shows a little more affection for Ms. May.

Wake up, Maggie, I think I got somethin’ 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 led me away from home
Just to save you from being alone
You stole my heart and that’s what really hurts

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

‘Every Picture Tells a Story’

Released on Stewart’s third solo album, Every Picture Tells a Story, Stewart ended up writing the song with the late Martin Quittenton from the band Steamhammer, who came up with the chords for the song and began singing the old folk song “Maggie Mae.”

The song made Stewart think about that experience he had a decade earlier and began writing the song, about a young man who falls for an older woman, who leaves him utterly confused.

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
Or find myself a rock and roll band that needs a helpin’ hand
Oh, Maggie, I wished I’d never seen your face

[RELATED: 5 of Rod Stewart’s Favorite Songs]

Along with being one of the first rock hits to feature the mandolin, “Maggie May” was also Stewart’s first No. 1 hit as a solo artist. Every Picture Tells a Story also went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Photo by Jeremychanphotography/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Steelo Brim Talks Transition from ‘Ridiculousness’ to Rapping