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Who Could Hang A Name On You? The Story of The Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday
*By Marcelo Sonaglioni


brian jones a degree of murder

It was September 1966 and, able to pursue his own artistic ambitions outside of the constraints of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones had just started working on the soundtrack for German director Volker Schlöndorff’s film, A Degree Of Murder (original title Mord und Totschlag, starring his then-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg) at both IBC Studios and Olympic Sound Studios, London. His improvised compositions for the movie, which he worked on both alone (playing guitar sitar, organ, dulcimer, recorder, clarinet, auto harp, harmonica and more) and also with a large group of musician friends, included future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, piano virtuoso Nicky Hopkins and Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones, among others, who all agreed on and trusted Brian’s visionary credentials. Engineer Glyn Johns would emphasize that Brian was “extremely together and confident while he was working on it. When it was finished, he was both pleased and relieved”

Later on, the Stones booked Olympic Sound Studios (from November 16 to December 6 that year) to begin recording new music for their future album Between the Buttons, in which Brian eventually ended up being a significant contributor to the composition of Ruby Tuesday, a song which would become one of the group’s most exquisite and moving classics ever.

Between The Buttons, probaby the great pop masterpiece of the band, was actually the result of a “month of adventure,” as bassist Bill Wyman put it. Originally titled “Title 8”, Ruby Tuesday was one of the first tracks from the album that had to be finished. A few months before, in August that year, the Stones had recorded a few brand-new songs at RCA Studios in Los Angeles, but when they made their first trip to Olympic Sound Studios in Barnes with manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham, according to Wyman, that was “the first studio session at which we concentrated on an album as a finished product”.

rolling stones ruby tuesday 1967

Wyman also pointed out that Keith Richards provided Ruby Tuesday‘s initial inspiration, although Marianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger’s girlfriend at the time and a frequent participant in the recording sessions, has a different recollection. She said that Brian “was obsessed by his notion of a hybrid of Elizabethan lute music and Delta blues and would hold forth on the essential similarities between Elizabethan ballads and Robert Johnson,” she explained. “Brian, in his sheepish way, very softly played a folkish, nursery-rhyme melody on the recorder. It was nothing more than a wispy tune, but it caught Keith’s attention. He cocked his head. ‘What’s that… thing you just played, man. On the recorder! Can ya do it again?’ Brian came back into focus and played the quavery, lilting tune again on the recorder. Perfectly. Beyond perfect! ‘Yeah, nice, man,’ said Keith and went over to the piano to bang it out.”

Both Keith and Brian led the Between the Buttons sessions for days as they searched for the right song. Brian did appear to be in charge of events, according to Jimi Hendrix, who paid a visit to the studio at the time. Both Richards and Jones would collaborate to bring out the song’s prevailing melancholy by ways of using variety of classical instruments.
(Ref. the story of the rolling stones ruby tuesday)

Then came the choruses, elevated by Bill’s bass and Charlie Watts’ driving drums, with Keith’s acoustic guitar and Brian’s piano providing the basic rhythm track. To improve the piano track, the group enlisted the assistance of American producer and composer Jack Nitzsche, a longtime friend who had played keyboards on earlier albums. Meanwhile, a group effort was needed to produce the double bass’s low, sweeping drone. “I’ve got small hands”, Wyman explained, “and I can’t play a regular double bass”

rolling stones between the buttons

But what really steals the show is Brian’s recorder. The song’s winding, wistful melody captures Brian Jones’s essence at that particular time, which is fragile, haunting, and sorrowful, and gives it a genuine and distinctive poignancy. Engineer Eddie Kramer remarked, “I was amazed when he played those melodies, both by the way he thought to use it, and the way he played this thing – it was a descant, or the next size up, something you’d see in English schools. Mick and Keith, not to put them down, would never have thought of something like that”. Besides, Keith wrote the lyrics alone, in contrast to the group’s shared responsibility for its musical composition with Mick, whose songs frequently seemed to chastise and denounce his female subjects.

rolling stones linda keith richards ruby tuesday
Linda Keith

In fact Keith Richards had met a “self-assured” 17-year-old model, Linda Keith, at the same party where Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull first met in March 1964. The guitarist caught Linda’s attention immediately because she was best friends with Sheila, Andrew Loog Oldham’s girlfriend and future wife. After falling “totally, absolutely in love,” as Keith put it, the couple dated for the next two years before things started to fall apart. Keith’s natural shyness was perfectly balanced by Linda’s bohemian lifestyle and carefree attitude, but it would also be the couple’s downfall. It was unfair and unrealistic to expect Linda to wait at home for Keith’s return given the Stones’ relentless schedule, which frequently saw Keith away for lengthy periods of time.

In August 1966, after the Stones’ stay in the U.S., Keith learned Linda had finally broken up with him. It was the first time he had experienced “a deep cut”, as he would later admit. By November, Keith’s bitterness and heartbreak had given way to forgiveness, and he turned his thoughts on Linda’s youth and fleetingness into music.

“The thing about being a songwriter is, even if you’ve been fucked over, you can find consolation in writing about it, and pour it out. Basically, Linda is ‘Ruby Tuesday”, Richards said. “That’s one of those things – some chick you’ve broken up with. And all you’ve got left is the piano and the guitar and a pair of panties. And it’s goodbye. you know. And so it just comes out of that. And after that you just build on it. It’s one of those songs that are easiest to write because you’re really right there and you really sort of mean it. And for a songwriter, hey break his heart and he’ll come up with a good song”, he added.

rolliung stones new musical express ruby tuesday 1967

Being it “Brian and Keith’s song”, ‘Ruby Tuesday’ had no lyrics for a long time, although it It is certainly true that Mick Jagger played no part in the writing of the song: “It’s just a nice melody, really. And a lovely lyric. Neither of which I wrote, but I always enjoy singing it”, hewould say later.
The new song was finally released as the B-side to their new single “Let’s Spend The Night Together” on January 13 1967, making it a double “classics” release. In the US, “Ruby Tuesday” would surpass “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” peaking at No. 1, as Mick had predicted. While side B peaked ay 28. Both tracks would get to No. 3 in the United Kingdom.

As for the new album, Between The Buttons, a creative and endearing one for many reasons, which featured “Ruby Tuesday”, was released a week after the single. In order to create a prototype of what would later come to be known as psychedelia, the Stones fused their own blend of pop rock, drawing inspiration from baroque and music hall. This gilded path would be fully explored on their subsequent album, Their Satanic Majesties Request.
The singer Melanie, who had a #1 hit with “Brand New Key” in 1971, released a cover of “Ruby Tuesday” in 1970 that went to #9 in the UK and #52 in the US. Rod Stewart also released a popular cover that was accompanied by a video in 1993.
(Ref. the story of the rolling stones ruby tuesday)

rolling stones between the buttons

The Stones wouldn’t perform Ruby Tuesday for another 20 years after playing at most of their concerts during their European tour in the spring of 1967. After Brian Jones passed away in 1969, the group entered a period of decadent and imperial rock and roll with the addition of virtuoso guitarist Mick Taylor. Their ragged, rough sound would have clashed with Ruby Tuesday’s undisputed elegance.


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