This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #349: Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones.
Break-up songs are a staple of songwriters in all genres of music. Some singers have made entire careers out of writing about those who disappointed them, broke their hearts and did them wrong. Some songwriters pen angry songs, such as Alanis Morrisette did with, “You Oughta Know”. Some singers write confessional songs about breaking up such as Taylor Swift does. However, there aren’t too many songs that look at the topic of breaking up from the point of view of friendship and regret. That’s what Keith Richards does in the song, “Ruby Tuesday”.
“Ruby Tuesday” came from an album by “The Rolling Stones” called “Between the Buttons”. It was released in 1966. At the time of its release, “The Rolling Stones” were approaching a point of transition for the band. Like their contemporaries, “The Beatles”, “The Rolling Stones” had enjoyed a string of hits early in their careers and were starting to immerse themselves in Eastern philosophies, as well as, experimenting with new types of instruments. In particular, Brian Jones was really pushing the rest of the group to expand their musical horizons beyond merely using drums and guitars. In the midst of all this, “The Rolling Stones” were touring relentlessly and honing the skills which would make them the most dynamic live band in the world. All of the members of the band were merely young men when their careers exploded.
As fame and fortune enveloped the band, Keith Richards fell in love for the first time. The lady, in question, was named Linda Keith. She was a model and socialite, with a look that drew comparisons to Audrey Hepburn. Keef is on record as stating that he was dazzled upon meeting her and couldn’t believe that someone with her looks and social pedigree could fall for a “bloke” like him. Well, she did and he did for her, in reply. They became each other’s first love. But, to hear Richards describe it, as much as he had a soft spot for her, the timing just wasn’t right for them to make a real go of it. The demands of being a member of “The Rolling Stones” at the height of their newfound status as one of the biggest rock n’ roll bands in the world, proved to be too much for any relationship to flourish. And, so it was that, in New York, on a US Tour, Keith Richards and Linda Keith met an up-and-coming guitarist named Jimi Hendrix. Richards continued on tour. Linda Keith stayed behind and brought Hendrix the words to a song Richards had written called, “Hey, Joe!”, along with a Fender Stratocaster guitar of Richards. The two became a new couple and Keith Richards moved on with his life. But, he never stopped caring about Linda. Later on, when Richards heard that Keith had developed a drug dependency that was threatening her life, he arranged for her father to come to NYC to take her home and get her the help she would need in order to become healthy and happy, once again.
Linda Keith is “Ruby Tuesday”.
Richards stated that this was one of the easiest songs to write because his feelings for her were still so close to the surface. Mick Jagger, who usually co-wrote all of the songs “The Rolling Stones” performed, had no part in the writing of “Ruby Tuesday”. It was all Keith Richards’ work. But, Jagger said that he thought that the song was lovely and that, even though he had no part in the writing of it, “Ruby Tuesday” was always one of his favourite songs to sing.
“Ruby Tuesday” gained airplay in the US and UK, mainly because it was the “B”-side to the single the band was actively promoting, “Let’s Spend the Night Together”. Because of the sexually-explicit nature of “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, many radio DJs felt uncomfortable playing it. So, they tried flipping the 45 over and ended up playing, “Ruby Tuesday”, instead. The song proved popular with fans and soon took on a life of its own and became a hit, too. Both songs were the only hits from “Between the Buttons”, which was the final album produced by long-time producer, Andrew Loog-Oldham. As it turned out, “The Rolling Stones” were about to go on a magnificent run of albums starting next with “Their Satanic Majesties Request”, “Beggar’s Banquet”, “Let it Bleed”, “Sticky Fingers” and “Exile on Main Street”.
But, despite all of the experiences Keith Richards has had in his life, he still looks back upon his relationship with Linda Keith with fondness. Fortunately for her, Richards intervention in the 1970s and her subsequent time spent in rehab, all helped put her on a path to a more stable and happy life. Linda Keith married a record producer and, together, they enjoyed a peaceful, contented family life. Both Richards and Keith remain alive today and see each other, on occasion, with their respective family members in tow. While they may have broken up, there are ties of friendship and affection between them that have bound them together for over half of a century. Not all break-up songs have to be bitter, as “Ruby Tuesday” makes clear. So, without further delay, here is Keith Richard’s ode to his first love, Linda Keith, “Ruby Tuesday”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.
The link for the official website for The Rolling Stones can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.