She would never say where she came from.
Yesterday don't matter if it's gone.
While the sun is bright
Or in the darkest night
No one knows
She comes and goes.
Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday!
Who could hang a name on you
When you change with every new day?
Still I'm gonna miss you.
Don't question why she needs to be so free.
She'll tell you it's the only way to be.
She just can't be chained
To a life where nothing's gained
And nothing's lost
At such a cost.
“There's no time to lose,” I heard her say,
“Catch your dreams before they slip away.
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
And you may lose your mind
In life unkind.”
Despite the fact that Paint It Black had been one of the earliest psychedelic songs, the first single record to feature a sitar, and a big hit for the Rolling Stones, the psychedelic period in general was a difficult period for the group’s popularity. The quality of their psychedelic music was often very good or excellent, but in general the singles failed to sell as well as the Stones had done previously, or would later. Sometimes this was due to missteps. The first single to be released after the records drawn from the Aftermath album was Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing in the Shadow. This single was noisy, a mix of R&B and what would become hard rock, and sold relatively poorly, reaching #9 in the US, and #5 in the UK. On the following album, Between the Buttons, Charlie Watts, the Stones drummer, had created a cartoon for the reverse side of the album jacket that frankly admitted that sometimes the Stones went "over the edge”. Their following single, and their first in 1967, was the double hit Let’s Spend the Night Together and Ruby Tuesday. This would be the only time during the year when they would score a number one hit: Ruby Tuesday was at the top of the charts for one week. Let’s Spend the Night Together was often banned from radio play; evangelists made sermons against the forthright sentiment expressed in the song. In the U.S. the sexy rock song only reached #55, while in the UK (which wasn’t as puritanical about sex evidently), the song reached #3. I’ll always remember the day my best friend’s mother used a knife to scratch out the first track of the Between the Buttons, which contained the offensive tune. I’ll always remember, too, the sour, disgusted faces that Mick Jagger made when performing the song on the Ed Sullivan Show, forced to sing the chorus as "Let’s spend some time together". But Let's Spend the Night Together was more in line with their rock and roll past. The ballad Ruby Tuesday was something else entirely. The Stones had done a pretty little number with orchestra before that had charted fairly well (As Tears Go By at #9 in the U.S.), but this song had a recorder played by Brian Jones and a lot of some sort of feedback, which was used not as noise this time but as a bit of psychedelic emphasis. This “feedback”, according to the Stones bass guitarist Bill Wyman, in his book Stone Alone, was actually a double bass: Wyman held down the strings while Richards dragged a bow over it, giving the effect of a drone recorded backwards. There was no mistaking that Ruby Tuesday wasn’t meant to be merely pretty; it was rather meant to be avant-garde art.
Lyrically, too, the song includes a third person quote, which (outside of Bob Dylan and John Lennon) was still rather rare in pop music, although it has been admitted subsequently by Mick Jagger that the Stones’ usual lyricist had little to do with the composition of Ruby Tuesday. It’s Keith Richards’ baby, even if Brian Jones with his recorder had a lot to do with its strange aural success. The melodic range is such that Jagger, who is an unusually strong R& B singer, had difficulty reaching the deep notes of the madrigal-like tune at several points. The lyrics are also unusual for the Rolling Stones, as most of their work, before and since their psychodelic period, has expressed a strong dose of misogyny, as if a young man was singing to an audience of young men. Ruby Tuesday actually admires the lady’s freedom rather than mocking it. The lady’s message is basically “Live for Today” which would turn out to be a much repeated motto of 1967. Like George Harrison had sung in Love You To, no one could “hang a sign on” Miss Tuesday. For living out her dreams, Ruby Tuesday became part of the popular culture, and eventually, a brand name for a restaurant chain.