The Paul McCartney Project

Maggie Mae

Album This song officially appears on the Let It Be Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1970
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Maggie May” (or “Maggie Mae“) is a traditional Liverpool folk song (Roud #1757) about a prostitute who robbed a “homeward bounder“: a sailor coming home from a round trip.

John Manifold, in his Penguin Australian Song Book, described it as “A foc’sle song of Liverpool origin apparently, but immensely popular among seamen all over the world“. It became widely circulated in a skiffle version from the late 1950s.

In 1964, the composer and lyricist Lionel Bart (the creator of the musical Oliver!), used the song and its backstory as the basis of a musical set around the Liverpool Docks. The show, also called Maggie May, ran for two years in London. In 1970 a truncated version of the song performed by the Beatles was included on their album Let It Be.

Lyrics

As with most folk songs, the lyrics exist in many variant forms. The song specifies several real streets in Liverpool, notably Lime Street in the centre of the city.

In the most established version, it is sung in the first person by a sailor who has come home to Liverpool from Sierra Leone. He is paid off for the trip. With his wages in his pocket, he sees Maggie “cruising up and down old Canning Place“. She had “a figure so divine” (either “like a frigate of the line” or with “a voice so refined“). He picks her up and she takes him home to her lodgings. When he awakes the following morning, she has taken all his money and even his clothes, insisting that they are in “Kelly’s locker“, a pawn shop. When he fails to find his clothes in the pawn shop, he contacts the police. She is found guilty of theft and sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay.

While the most famous version of the chorus contains the line, “she’ll never walk down Lime Street any more“, Stan Hugill in his Shanties from the Seven Seas writes that in different versions several streets are named, referring to different historical red light areas of Liverpool, including Paradise Street, Peter Street and Park Lane. […]

The Beatles’ version

A brief extract was performed by the Beatles in a joking manner during their Get Back sessions, in early 1969, at a point in the proceedings when they were warming up in the studio by playing old rock and roll and skiffle songs that they had known and played in their teenage years. They adopt heavy scouse accents for the performance. Though the performance was obviously tongue-in-cheek a truncated version of it was included on the 1970 album drawn from those sessions, Let It Be, appearing as the last track on the LP’s first side, immediately after the title song.

The version they performed was spelled “Maggie Mae” on the track listing and all four Beatles were credited as arrangers of the traditional song, thus allowing them to collect the writers’ share of the publishing income for this public domain song. At 39 seconds long, it is the second-shortest song released on an official Beatles album (the shortest being “Her Majesty“, at 23 seconds).

This song and “Dig It” appear on the Let It Be album, but are not included on the Let It Be… Naked album. Let It Be… Naked did include “Maggie Mae” on the bonus disc, “Fly on the Wall” at 17 minutes and 30 seconds. This extends beyond the 39 seconds included on the original Let it Be and segues at 54 seconds into “I Fancy Me Chances” as McCartney sings “Take it Maggie…oh, I fancy me chances with you“.

The song had been a staple of the repertoire of the Quarrymen, the skiffle group formed by Lennon that evolved into the Beatles in 1960. Lennon was still making home recordings of the song shortly before his death in 1980. These instances demonstrate an important personal connection to the song for Lennon and may have contributed to the snippet being included on the album Let It Be.

The song appears twice in the 2010 biopic Nowhere Boy. First, it is played for a teenage John Lennon by his mother, Julia, and he then learns to play it himself, both on the four-string banjo. Later in the film the song is shown as the first one played by Lennon’s band The Quarrymen, though this was not in fact their first public appearance. A performance by the cast (as “The Nowhere Boys“) appears on the film’s soundtrack album. […]

FromĀ The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

[a] stereo 26 Mar 1970.
UK: Apple PXS 1 and PCS 7096 Let It Be 1970.
US: Apple AR 34001 Let It Be 1970.
CD: EMI CDP 7 46447 2 Let It Be 1987.

Last updated on November 30, 2016

Lyrics

Oh dirty Maggie Mae they have taken her away
And she never walk down Lime Street any more
Oh the judge he guilty found her for robbing a homeward bounder
That dirty no good robbing Maggie Mae
This is a part of Liverpool, they returned me to
Two pounds ten a week, that was my pay

Officially appears on


Let It Be

Official album • Released in 1970

0:40 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Lead guitar
Glyn Johns:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jan 24, 1969
Studio:
Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London

Session Mixing:
Mar 26, 1970
Studio:
EMI Studios, Room 4, Abbey Road

Bootlegs


Let It Be Sessions

Unofficial album

0:38 • Alternate take • 24.49 3rd mix stereo


Let It Be Sessions

Unofficial album

0:39 • Alternate take


Back Home Liverpool

Unofficial live • Released in 2003

5:08 • Live

Concert From the concert in Liverpool, United Kingdom on Jun 01, 2003


A/B Road Complete Get Back Sessions - Jan 24th, 1969 - 1 & 2

Unofficial album • Released in 2004

0:56 • Rehearsal • Jan.24 - D2-16 - Maggie Mae 24.41

Session Recording:
Jan 24, 1969
Studio:
Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London


A/B Road Complete Get Back Sessions - Jan 24th, 1969 - 1 & 2

Unofficial album • Released in 2004

0:25 • Rehearsal • Jan.24 - D2-22 - Maggie Mae 24.47

Session Recording:
Jan 24, 1969
Studio:
Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London


Live performances

“Maggie Mae” has been played in 1 concerts.

Latest concerts where “Maggie Mae” has been played



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