by Randal Hill
The first Rolling Stones single of 1967 listed the “A” (main) side as Let’s Spend the
Night Together, a rollicking, electric piano-fueled tune that lead singer Mick Jagger attacked with gleeful abandon. Predictably, though, radio programmers instantly yanked the controversially titled offering from their playlists.
Still, grumpy old Ed Sullivan hired the Stones to sing the song on his top-rated
Sunday night variety show but insisted that Mick substitute the words “some time” for
“the night” when he performed live. In Rolling Stone later, Jagger insisted, “”I never
said ‘time.’ I really didn’t. I said—mumbled—‘Let’s spend some mmmmm together.’”
But a YouTube clip of that night’s performance clearly shows him singing ‘Let’s spend
some time together’ twice as he rolls his eyes. (Gotcha, Mick!)
London Records began promoting the single’s “B” (secondary) side, a wistful
Keith Richards ballad called Ruby Tuesday.”(As with Beatles John Lennon and Paul
McCartney sharing writing credits, the majority of Rolling Stones tracks list the composers
as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.) “That’s a wonderful song,” Jagger said in
Rolling Stone. “It’s just a nice melody, really. And a lovely lyric. Neither of which I
wrote, but I always enjoy singing it.”
Highlighted by the haunting recorder (it sounds like a flute) of Brian Jones, Ruby
also featured a large double bass that had bassist Bill Wyman plucking the notes while
lead guitarist Richards drew a bow across the strings and Mick delivered such lines as:
Don’t ask her why she needs to be so free
She’ll tell you it’s the only way to be
The ballad was a lyrical sketch of a free-spirited young groupie who once hung
around the band. At least that’s what most thought. Some cited actress Tuesday Weld
as being the inspiration. Others claimed that Keith’s lyrics spoke abstractly of the Zen
ideal of living in the “here and now,” being conscious of the moment. Some declared it
a paean to hippie-era female independence.
Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong. Ruby Tuesday was actually about Richards’s
one-time girlfriend, Linda Keith, who had left him for another superstar rocker and sent
him into an emotional tailspin.
In Life, his autobiography, he says, “Basically, Linda [Keith] is ‘Ruby Tuesday.’…
She went back to New York and took up with Jimi Hendrix, who may have broken her
heart, as she broke mine.” He had written Ruby Tuesday a year earlier, alone and in a
reflective mood in a Los Angeles motel room.
Ruby Tuesday soared to Number One on the Billboard singles charts; Let’s Spend
the Night Together stalled at a lowly Fifty-five.
Later, in According to the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards further explained his
composition: “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 it’s goodbye, you know. And so it just
comes out of that, and after that you just build on it…and for a songwriter, hey, break
his heart and he’ll come up with a good song.”