Monday, October 14, 2019

Long John Who? and Rod Stewart - Maggie May

Long John Baldry first heard Rod Stewart playing harmonica at the Twickenham Railway Station in 1963. Oh, never heard of Long John Baldry? Funny thing, seems the writers of the Elton biopic, Rocketman, didn't either. Baldry was Reg Dwight's sideman in the band Bluesology, Elton's band before meeting Bernie Taupin. While hardly known, Baldry played the folk club circuit of the mid-60s with the likes of Dylan and The Rolling Stones. How about this one? Maybe the name Dr. Robotnik rings a bell? The Sonic the Hedgehog character was a voiceover from Baldry. Known for his imposing stature, Baldry is a name we don't know but should.

After Reg left Bluesology, Baldry and Stewart formed Hoochie Coochie Men and then Shotgun Express. Don’t panic, I don't know them either. The point is, Baldry played with the soon to be Elton John and discovered Rod Stewart. Soon after, Stewart became the voice of The Jeff Beck Group with Ronnie Wood. After Beck came a contract with Mercury, Rod's first solo work and his stint with Faces.

"Maggie May" was already in the works at this point, but Rod at the time was more of a crooner than a singer/songwriter, relying on his unusually raspy tenor. Before the release of Rod's third LP, among the greatest recordings of the rock era, Mercury Records released the single "Reason to Believe," a cover of the Tim Hardin song, another relative unknown who wrote "If I were a Carpenter." But here was a case when the public won out over the record label – everyone was listening to the B-side, "Maggie May," the true story of an older woman referred to in the song only as Maggie.

The studio line-up for the track included the partial-Faces gathering of Ian McLagan on organ and Ronnie Wood on electric guitar, bass and 12-string. Micky Waller was on drums and Martin Quittenton on acoustic guitar, while the crucial feature of the song's success, the mandolin, was played by Ray Jackson, lead singer with another band no one's ever heard of, Lindisfarne, a band that has now been around for 52 years.

Stewart first appeared on Top Of The Pops performing "Maggie May" on August 19, 1971. The next day, "Maggie May" was listed as the "top side" of the single. Subsequent pressings switched the A and the B.

By the time Every Picture Tells a Story was released, the "Maggie May" had reached No. 1 in both the U.K. and the U.S. and spent five weeks at the summit.

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