“Ruby Tuesday” is a song recorded by the Rolling Stones in 1966, released in January 1967. The song, coupled with “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, was a number-one hit in the United States and reached number three in the United Kingdom. The song was included in the American version of Between the Buttons (in the UK, singles were often excluded from studio albums).
Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song number 310 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song title was the source of the restaurant chain of the same name.
Multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones played recorder, and the double bass was played jointly by bassist Bill Wyman (pressing the strings against the fingerboard) and Keith Richards (bowing the strings). According to Keith Richards in a 1971 Rolling Stone interview, he wrote the song in a Los Angeles hotel room in early 1966 about a groupie he knew; he has also stated that it was about Linda Keith, his girlfriend in the mid-1960s. The song’s lyrics concern an apparently free-spirited woman, with Jagger singing:
“Who could hang a name on you?
When you change with every new day
Still I’m gonna miss you.”
“That’s a wonderful song,” Mick Jagger told Jann Wenner in 1995. “It’s just a nice melody, really. And a lovely lyric. Neither of which I wrote, but I always enjoy singing it.” Bill Wyman states in Rolling with the Stones that the lyrics were completely written by Keith Richards with help from Brian Jones on the musical composition.[page needed] However, Marianne Faithfull recalls it differently; according to her, Brian Jones presented an early version of this melody to the rest of the Rolling Stones. According to Victor Bockris, Richards came up with the basic track and the words and finished the song with Jones in the studio.
From Richards’s autobiography, Life, the song was written about his girlfriend Linda Keith. Linda had taken up with Jimi Hendrix, and had got involved with drugs. She left Richards, and he tried to get her back. He eventually went to her parents and told them she was going down a dark path. Linda’s father went to New York City to collect her, and by order of court she was grounded. Richards reports that Linda regarded this as a betrayal, and they did not speak again for many years. According to Richards’s autobiography, Linda Keith survived, brought up a family, and now lives in New Orleans.
“Ruby Tuesday” was released as the B-side to “Let’s Spend the Night Together” on 13 January 1967. Due to the controversial nature of the A-side’s lyrics, “Ruby Tuesday” earned more airplay and ended up charting higher in both the UK and the US. The song topped the American Billboard Hot 100 chart, while reaching number 3 in the UK’s Record Retailer chart, although “Let’s Spend The Night Together” was listed instead.
“Ruby Tuesday” was included on the US version of the 1967 album Between the Buttons, while being left out of the British edition, as was common practice with singles in the UK at that time. That summer, the song appeared on the US compilation album Flowers. Due to its success, the song became a staple of the band’s compilations, being included on Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) (1969), Hot Rocks 1964–1971 (1971), Rolled Gold (1975), and 30 Greatest Hits (1977), and, in monophonic, on Singles Collection: The London Years (1989).
The 2002 ABKCO reissues of the song—including on reissued albums and a new compilation, Forty Licks—have a remastering error; a vocal overdub is missing in the chorus. This was subsequently remedied, and the versions on 2007’s Rolled Gold+, 2012’s GRRR!, and the 2013 iTunes remasters contain the overdub.
A concert rendition of the song from the Rolling Stones’ Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour was released on the band’s 1991 concert album Flashpoint. A July 2013 live performance is featured on Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live.
Mick Jagger – lead vocals, backing vocals, tambourine
Keith Richards – double bass (bowing strings), 12 string acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Brian Jones – recorder, piano
Bill Wyman – double bass (fingers on fingerboard), bass guitar
Charlie Watts – drums