Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 175
Tues. July 23, 2013
The Rolling Stones
I may not be the only Stones fan that has wondered about the mystique behind the closely guarded writing partnership that is Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. What’s amazing is that at times like in 1966, when Keith was alone in the studio with Brian Jones recording “Ruby Tuesday” and Jagger is not even in the vicinity, after the release, you can see for yourself that Jagger/Richards’ name remains on the label and Jones is nowhere to be found on the writing credits.
Richards’s defended his partnership with Mick Jagger and the song credits of “Ruby Tuesday” when he said, “(Why Mick and I?) Brian was not a natural songwriter – his mind was too confused. He could talk his head off, but he couldn’t write well. He was an interpreter more than a writer. I stumbled into songwriting; so did Mick.” It feels like Keith and Mick have this unbreakable bond, this artistic devotion to one another’s craft that even though one may not have been at the moment of inspiration, the other Glimmer Twin will give him credited because of their undying loyalty to the other. Apparently, Jones was envious of the unspoken Jagger/Richards songwriting dynamic as Mick explained in 1979, “Brian got annoyed but anyone gets annoyed when you exclude them because they’re not compatible. I had a slight talent for wording, and Keith always had a lot of talent for melody from the beginning. Everything (in the beginning), including the riffs, came from Keith. But we worked hard at it. We developed it.”
In Peter Fornatale’s book, 50 Licks: Myths and Stories from Half a Century of the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards talked about how did “Ruby Tuesday” come to life when he said, “[“Ruby Tuesday”] was written about Linda Keith not being there. It was very mournful, very, VERY Ruby Tuesday and it was Tuesday. 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 a pair of panties. And its goodbye you know. And so it just comes out of that. And after that you build on it. It’s one of those songs that are easiest to write because you’re really right there, and you really sort of mean it. And for a songwriter, hey, break his heart and he’; come up with a good song.” But because of the songwriting credits, we believe that it was Jagger who came up with the words, but it was Richards who penned the touching lyrical lament to a former lover.
So if Richards wrote the words, what did Brian Jones do during this 1966 studio session? In Victor Brockis’ book, Keith Richards: The Biography, we discovered, “In November they collaborated on “Ruby Tuesday” at Olympic Studios. Keith came in with the basic track and words, but he and Brian spent days in the studio layering the delicate music onto the basic track. Brian would tell with relish of how he and Keith “worked and worked on coloring, adding dramatic yet wispy touches here and there, alternating the mix between lead voice and background vocal harmonies, while creating an interplay of exotic instruments. In this atmosphere Brian and Keith “were drawn together, jamming better and writing songs, “recalled Tony Sanchez. “Suddenly the most fantastic things seemed possible.”
But it was not to be, “Ruby Tuesday” became the exception to the rule, because Brian Jones like Mick Taylor and Ronnie Wood after him, became creative conduits whose contributions to the Jagger/Richards songwriting hit machine. It was rare for any Rolling Stone collaborator or band member to get any sort of mention on the songwriting credits. Only multi-instrumentalist Billy Preston and Wood actually received “inspiration by credits on Black & Blue. Even bassist Bill Wyman who along with Charlie Watts created the synthesizer inspired “Heaven,” eventually released on Tattoo You, that was created while waiting for Keith and Ronnie to show up at the studio also remained Jagger/Richards composition.
In According to The Rolling Stones, guitarist Ronnie Wood talked about trying to fight for writing credit when he explained, “Clearly, if someone’s got the initial idea for a song, it’s basically theirs and if either Mick or Keith come into a session armed with a riff and the words all the way through a song, then it’s pretty much closed shop.” This explains why Jones failed to get any credit on “Ruby Tuesday.” Richards came up with the words and riff and Jones helped out in the studio. One of the things that Wood’s learned early on that Jones and Taylor were either too shy or proud to fight for was their credit on songs as Wood said, “One of the lessons I had to learn was that if you want to get credit, it has to happen there and then at the studio as you’re recording it.”
Does Brian Jones deserve “an inspiration by” credit like Billy Preston received on Black and Blue’s “Melody?” If we go by Wood’s assessment of how Jagger/Richards songs are formed— then…no, Jones was just another creative conduit for the successful hit single machine that is The Glimmer Twins. But even Mick Jagger acknowledges the contribution of their now deceased band member Brian Jones when he said this about “Ruby Tuesday,” “Ruby Tuesday is good. I think that’s a wonderful song. It’s just a nice melody, really. And a lovely lyric. Neither of which I wrote, but I always enjoy singing it.” Although this Linda Keith inspired lament may owe debt and gratitude to Brian Jones sonic coloring but “Ruby Tuesday” will forever remain Keith Richards’ most beautiful lyrical baby.