Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I might walk home alone, but my faith in love is still devout

As promised, I'll share with you some questions I have about Rod Stewart's 1971 smash hit "Maggie May". In the week of my birth, the song, which was on Every Picture Tells a Story, reached #1 on the Billboard charts. It stayed there for several weeks, and ended up being Billboard's #2 song of the year.

Before I get into it, I'd like to make it clear that I think it's a great song.

However, I'm a little bugged by some of the lyrics.

Take, for example, the opening line:

Wake up, Maggie. I think I've got something to say to you.

The rest of the song goes on to enumerate the reasons the protagonist has for leaving his Mrs. Robinson.

Here's my beef with that: You don't wake somebody out of a deep slumber and say "I think I've got something to say". If you wake someone up, you best have a damn good reason. And although this turned out to be a good reason, it should have been prefaced with something more like -- "Wake up Maggie. I've got some bad news for you", or better yet, just leave the "I think" part out and say "Wake up Maggie, I've got something to say to you". He needs to be more certain, more forceful.

In the second verse, he says
I laughed at all your jokes. My love you didn't need to coax

My issue with this is that it's awkward, even clumsy wording. And don't even start with the "but it's done in the interest of the rhyming scheme", because the rest of the song has very few rhyming lines. It could have gotten away without that clumsiness.

Later, there's just a poor choice of words:
...But you turned into a lover, and mother what a lover..

It's already a bit icky because it's pretty clear that the protagonist is having an affair with a much older woman. Then, he chooses the word "mother" as emphasis preceding "what a lover". Where some folks might say "Holy Mackinaw! What a lover!", or "Golly! What a lover!", he says "Mother! What a lover!". As if we weren't already slightly creeped out, the word "mother" puts a whole new Oedipus-like spin on it.

But then the kicker is the final line:
Maggie I wish I'd never seen your face // I'll get on back home one of these days

One of these days? After all that, after waking poor Maggie up, all he has to say is "I'm leaving you, but not today".

Maybe we weren't meant to look that closely at the lyrics. At the end of the day, though, I still think it's a great song.

now playing:

Chris Bell I am the Cosmos


XtianDC said...

My favorite Red'n'Black entry yet! More of this please! Man, I thought rock stars were supposed to be smart?!

Kevin said...

Yeah. That made me laugh out loud right here by myself. Especially--or, as dumb people would say, expecially--"Holy Mackinaw! What a lover!" That made me laugh again just typing it. And when I say "laugh out loud," I mean it. Actually audible.

d-lee said...

Dang. I have to defer credit on "Holy Mackinaw!" to some dude. Unless I'm way off the mark, I think I got this from the guy who does radio play-by-play for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I'd love to take credit for it, but it ain't mine.

Bill Purdy said...

Should I be embarassed that I've never listened that closely to the lyrics of any song, let alone a Rod Stewart song? Yeah, I know I recently blogged about memorizing the lyrics to a song when I was a teenager. But though I know each and every one of them, I don't think I've ever put even an ounce of thought into what those words mean.

For instance, I never knew "Maggie May" was about a guy shagging an older woman. All I know was the song was popular on the AM radio station I listened to as a kid, around the same time Rick Deis's "Disco Duck" was popular (I am not saying they came out at the same time, just that both songs were in heavy rotation at the same time). I always figured it was about, you know, some chick named Maggie May.

That was also the summer I spent a lot of time dialing and redialing the local radio station to request either the "Theme from 'S.W.A.T.'," or the "Theme from 'The Rockford Files'." I was really into the instrumental theme songs, I guess. Those, and Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy." Anything, really, that came compiled on a K-Tel LP sold on TV and in select grocery stores. Come to think of it, "Maggie May" was one of those -- one I owned. Along with War's "Cisco Kid," and Elton John's "Daniel."

Sorry to stray so far off-topic. Sometimes I can't help myself.

Brushback said...

That Chris Bell album is frickin' choice. Good call.