“Maggie Mae” is the second-shortest Beatles’ song on any official Fab Four album. Indeed, while this “Let It Be” track is 40 seconds long, “Her Majesty” from “Abbey Road” is only 23 seconds long. They recorded this traditional Liverpool song in 1969 while joking around and playing some old rock and roll from their early years.
Recorded: 24th January, 1969
Studio: Apple Studios
Track Duration: 0:40
Record Label: Apple, EMI
Songwriters: Traditional arrangement, Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starkey
Producer: Phil Spector
Engineer: Glyn Johns
Paul McCartney: vocal, acoustic guitar (Martin D-28)
George Harrison: bass-line on electric guitar (Fender Telecaster)
Ringo Starr: drums
While the real title to this traditional Liverpool folk song is “Maggie May”, The Beatles would use “Maggie Mae”. However, the original song which goes back to the early 1800’s, was popular with seamen everywhere. Maggie May is apparently about a prostitute that stole from a sailor after returning home from a trip.
Indeed, the song became a favourite for some bands to play in skiffle style during the late fifties and early sixties. Liz Winters and Bob Cort released a version of the song as a single in 1957 but it didn’t chart.
The Vipers Skiffle Group also released it as the B-side to “The Cumberland Gap” in the same year but the BBC banned “Maggie May”. This was due to the sexual content of the lyrics. The single didn’t chart in the major charts but it did in some minor ones.
Other artists covered the song such as British group, The Searchers. But this song, with its different spelling, is not the same as Rod Stewart’s massive hit, “Maggie May”.
The Beatles also picked up on this song and played it from time to time at their gigs in their very early days. This was more evident when The Beatles had the name of The Quarryman, of course. The spelling they use is “Maggie Mae”.
The Beatles recorded their version on the 24th January, 1969. This took place during the “Let It Be” recordings at their Apple Studios at 3 Savile Row in London. At the same studios, they also performed their last public concert on the rooftop in 1969.
Their ad-libbed recording came about spontaneously during takes of, “Two Of Us“. The song appears as the last track on si9de one of their “Let It Be” album.
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 robbin’ Maggie Mae
To the port of Liverpool
They returned me to
Two pounds ten a week, that was my pay.