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Music

Rod Stewart was surprised by success of 'Maggie May'

‘Maggie May’ is considered by many to be Rod Stewart‘s signature song, although it was initially perceived as B-side material only. The song, punctuated by Ronnie Wood‘s frenzied bass playing, was more popular among DJs than the A-side, ‘Reason to Believe’. But the decision caught everyone by surprise, especially since it sounded so different to ‘Reason to Believe’, a jaunty tune that features Pete Sears on piano.

“No, none of us did,” Sears admits. “In fact, the song that was the A-side was the one I was playing ̂̀̀[the] piano on, which is [plays another riff], ‘Reason to Believe.’ [Sings] “If you listen long enough to” — I played [the] piano on that, and that was released as the A-side single. And the B side was ‘Maggie May,’ but the DJs started playing ‘Maggie May’, and it just took off. And so it was a surprise to Rod.”

Sears reiterated that he missed out on the initial recording sessions, but added some overdubs onto the final mix. Small Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan recorded the central organ line on ‘Maggie May’, and Martin Quittenton recorded the jaunty mandolin hook. The Faces acted as Stewart’s backing band on Top of the Pops, which made sense because Wood and McLagan played on the recording, and radio luminary John Peel mimed the mandolin hook with the band.

The Faces continued to perform ‘Maggie May’ onstage, although Stewart’s solo career continued to outsell the band’s, much to some resentment from the other members. Worse still, The Faces were billed as ‘Rod Stewart and The Faces’ at many of their American gigs, despite all five members contributing equally to the band.

Inevitably, Stewart carried on with his solo career, although he insists he wasn’t the reason The Faces broke up. Wood replaced Mick Taylor in The Rolling Stones in the late 1970s, and McLagan toured with the band for a period. Kenny Jones replaced Keith Moon in The Who and claimed Denny Laine asked him to join Paul McCartney and Wings. Bassist Ronnie Lane fronted Slim Chance during the 1970s before battling multiple sclerosis. Lane died in 1997.