“Lady Jane” is a song by the English rock band, The Rolling Stones, penned by the group’s songwriting duo of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and initially included on their album, Aftermath, which was released on 12 April 1966. It showcased Brian Jones’s instrumental incorporation of baroque rock as it was beginning to be introduced, and became influential in originating the musical style later known as world music. The song was released as the B-side to “Mother’s Little Helper” single on 2 July 1966, and managed to chart in the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 24.
The song was written at a milestone in The Rolling Stones recording career that saw the musical collaboration of Mick Jagger,and Keith Richards emerge as the group’s chief songwriters. On the band’s previous album, Out of Our Heads, the duo shared writing credits on just three tracks. On Aftermath, however, the two were credited together on every track, making it the first album to be composed solely of original band material. It was also during this period Brian Jones, despite losing control of the band’s output, was integrating different instruments into the group’s repertoire. Joe S. Harrington has noted that The Beatles’ harpsichord arrangement featured on the song “In My Life”, in 1965, opened considerations for Jones to include baroque rock instrumentals.
“Lady Jane” was written and composed by Jagger in early 1966 after reading the then controversial book Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which uses the term “Lady Jane” to mean female genitalia. According to Jagger, “the names [in the song] are historical, but it was really unconscious that they should fit together from the same period.” At the time, it was widely thought that an inspiration for the song was Jane Ormsby-Gore, daughter of David Ormsby-Gore, former British ambassador in Washington, who later married Michael Rainey, founder of the Hung on You boutique in Chelsea that was frequented by the Stones. Its most impactful development was by Jones, no longer the principal musical force for the band, searching for methods to improve upon The Rolling Stones’ musical textures. He expressed an intrigue in incorporating culturally diverse instruments into the band’s music, investigating the sitar, koto, marimba, and testing electronics. In the press Jones talked about applying the Appalachian dulcimer into compositions, although he seemed uncertain of the instrument, saying “It’s an old English instrument used at the beginning of the century”. The dulcimer was first brought to his attention in March 1966 when Jones began listening to recordings of Richard Fariña. The influence of these recordings would manifest itself in Aftermath, where Jones performed with the dulcimer on two tracks, “I Am Waiting” and, more distinctively, “Lady Jane”. This later contributed to Jones’s status as an early pioneer in world music, and effectively shifted the band from blues rock to a versatile pop group.
The master recording of “Lady Jane” was recorded from 6 to 9 March 1966, at RCA Studios in Los Angeles, with sound engineer Dave Hassinger guiding the band through the process (despite Andrew Loog Oldham being credited as producer). Mark Brend has indicated that the influence of Fariña’s dulcimer playing can be clearly heard – most noticeably in Jones’s recurring counter-melody to a call and response with Jagger’s vocals. Jones plays the instrument in the traditional style, with it placed on his knees fretted with a biter and plucked with a quill. In addition to the striking dulcimer motif, “Lady Jane” is also highlighted by Jack Nitzche’s harpsichord accompaniment halfway through the song. “Lady Jane” also exhibits influences of author Geoffry Chaucer, particularly in Jagger’s comic vocal delivery and diction. To Richards, “Lady Jane is very Elizabethan. There are a few places in England where people still speak that way, Chaucer English”. The vocal melody is set in the subtonic range, rather than the conventional major seventh scale degree, which presents a Renaissance-style modal. Although stylistically the two songs have little in common, the modality connects the Eastern-melody and harmonies of “Lady Jane” to “Paint It Black”.
In the U.S., “Lady Jane” was the B-side to “Mother’s Little Helper”, but “Lady Jane” reached number 24 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart. “Mother’s Little Helper” reached number eight, making the release one of the few singles with both songs becoming hits in the US.
Mick Jagger – lead vocals
Keith Richards – acoustic guitar
Brian Jones – dulcimer
Jack Nitzsche – harpsichord