When you call your daughter Louie, there’s only one song that comes to mind (in fact, she was specifically named after Louie, Louie which I always thought was pretty cool. The Kingsmen’s version, of course).
And when you call your daughter Maggie, there’s also only one song that comes to mind.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Rod Stewart, something that’s grown stronger over the years and, I’m not ashamed to say, now borders on affection. I’ve been known to get very sentimental over a few of his songs but especially over Maggie May, and especially after a drink. Which is why when we gave Maggie her name I knew that that song would get me even more. Every time.
My affection for Rod comes from, but goes beyond, his (early) music. Although he’s often regarded as a bit of a Jack the Lad and an incorrigible womaniser, he’s always struck me as being a decent bloke. And I’ve always got the impression – from so many of his own, earlier, songs – that he actually likes, and loves, women. Unlike, say, Mick Jagger, whose songs about women are almost always, at best, faintly misogynistic. And it’s that old thing – and it’s why he’s so well-loved by so many people – that he seems to be the working-class lad with a heart of gold, living the dream in a way that many of us would do. As the critic Greil Marcus said: when Rod started out the ambition wasn’t to be a great artist – it was to fuck film stars. Luckily, he managed both.
It’s odd, but I always feel the need to justify why I like him so much. I shouldn’t have to really – those first few albums of his (Gasoline Alley, Every Picture Tells A Story and Never A Dull Moment) are some of the greatest records ever made. And Maggie May is one of the greatest songs ever made. It’s got everything: a superb vocal, clever lyrics, a great band, that uplifting mandolin and a joyous, though sweetly nostalgic, overall feel to it. Unfortunately, it’s one of those songs that, through sheer ubiquity, has lost a little of its magic (and it doesn’t help that it always crops up on Jeremy Clarkson endorsed Classic Rock and Driving CDs). But if you listen to it again, a little closer, it’s just so perfect. Which is why I’m pleased that my daughter got something from it.
Here’s a very nice recent version from the Ellen Degeneres Show: