This Day in Music Spotlight: Let?s Spend the Night with Ruby Tuesday
by Derek Moore,posted Mar 4 2011 11:21AM
By Michael Wright
Special thanks to ThisDayinMusic.com.
1967 certainly was the year for double A-sides. The Beatles put out two of the finest tracks of their illustrious career on “Strawberry Fields Forever”/“Penny Lane”…only to see them stall at #2 in the U.K. behind Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Please Release Me.” The Rolling Stones’ big double, “Let’s Spend the Night Together”/“Ruby Tuesday” had a rockier road to travel, but somehow managed to make it to the top of the charts… sort of.
“Let’s Spend the Night Together” was a risqué song for its time, an overt invitation to carnal relations. The track was powered by guest pianist Jack Nitzsche and a kickin’ rhythm track led by Charlie Watts. But the spotlight really shines on Jagger, who is in full rooster mode, strutting and preening, letting the listener know he means it when he says, “I’ll satisfy your every need/And now I know you will satisfy me.”
In the U.K., where the song was released on January 13, fans ate it up. The single went all the way to #3 before petering out. Double A-sides were always a bit hampered in the U.K., though, because both songs were taken together and not allowed to flourish on their own. That policy clearly dragged down The Beatles’ mini-masterpiece. In the States, the double-A saw “Strawberry Fields” only go to #8, but “Penny Lane” – freed from its possibly-too-artsy-for-the-masses brother – went to #1.
The liability for “Let’s Spend the Night Together”/“Ruby Tuesday,” clearly, was the raw sexual content of “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” That was most evident in the U.S., where the track only climbed as high as #55. Radio stations refused to play it. When the band tried to plug the song on TheEd Sullivan Show, they were forced to censor it or else not be allowed to appear on the very big sh-eeew. (Jagger’s subsequent eye-rolling take on “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” is, by now, the thing of legend.)
But then there was the other track, an almost polar opposite of its mate. Peering out from behind the harlot of “Let’s Spend” was the bashful, dainty “Ruby Tuesday.”
Arguably the most melodic and ornate Stones song, “Tuesday” was either written solely by Keith Richards or with a little help from Brian Jones (depending on what story you believe). In his biography, Life, Richards said that he wrote the song about his mid-’60s girlfriend, Linda Keith. She had left Richards for Jimi Hendrix and had begun using drugs heavily. The Stones’ guitarist tried to win her back, and eventually visited her parents to tell them the trouble she was getting into. Linda’s dad rushed off to New York to get her, and she was grounded in England – by a court order. Even though she was the inspiration for this gentle and beautiful song (“When you change with every new day / Still I’m gonna miss you”), Linda never forgave Keith.
For the recording of the song, Jones played piano and the tune’s instantly recognizable recorder part. “Ruby Tuesday’s” mournful double-bass was actually played by both Richards and Bill Wyman. While Wyman pressed the strings against the fingerboard, Richards bowed the instrument.
Because its flipside was a little too much for radio DJs, “Ruby Tuesday” became the preferred song in the U.S. and it really took off. On this day in 1967, it hit #1 on the Billboard charts – the band’s fourth chart-topper in America. It would earn a legacy as one of the best-known Stones songs and go on to be included on nearly every one of the band’s subsequent compilations.
The Stones seem to like the song as much as the public does. In a 1995 interview with Jann Wenner inRolling Stone magazine, Jagger expressed a fondness for “Ruby Tuesday.” “That’s a wonderful song," he said. “It’s just a nice melody, really. And a lovely lyric. Neither of which I wrote, but I always enjoy singing it.”