A Softer Side: Bob Dylan names one of The Rolling Stones’ “prettiest songs”

When it comes to rock and roll, The Rolling Stones are second to none. Led by sex symbol and formidable frontman Mick Jagger, they found their start in blues before reinventing rock with hits like ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Gimme Shelter’. It’s been more than six decades since the band was born, but they still remain one of the most referenced and revered bands in the genre, even attracting the admiration of fellow musical giant Bob Dylan.

While the Stones spent the 1960s well and truly living up to the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll image, Dylan was forging folk across the Atlantic. In contrast with the British bad boys, Dylan favoured acoustic guitars and harmonicas, tales of protest and poetry, but the differences in their output didn’t stop Dylan from praising his more rocking peers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dylan once shared his love for one of the Stones’ softer endeavours – 1967’s ‘Ruby Tuesday’. During an episode of Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour, the folk legend played the track and deemed it “one of the prettiest songs they’ve ever recorded”. It’s certainly much gentler than the sound they’re more widely known for, swapping rock for recorders.

Between gorgeous keys, sparkling tambourines and woodwind whirrs, Keith Richard’s lyrics are almost as tender as the instrumentation that surrounds them. Melodic and melancholic, Jagger’s voice charts the end of a relationship as he sings goodbye to the titular Ruby Tuesday. “Still, I’m gonna miss you,” he admits. The song provided a glimpse at the genre excursions they were to take on the album that followed, Between the Buttons.

Dylan was particularly enthusiastic about Brian Jones’ recorder playing on the tune, deeming the flute “one of the most beautiful sounds known to man.” It’s a gorgeous addition to the tender track, proving the Stones’ capabilities for lightness. The airy sound adds a real humanity to the track, quite literally a breath of fresh air for the rockers.

Though ‘Ruby Tuesday’ was, as Dylan rightly asserted, one of the band’s prettiest works, it was only thrust into the limelight due to the unsuitability of its accompanying single. While B-side ‘Ruby Tuesday’ was soft and sweet, the song’s A-side, ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’, was unflinchingly sensual – an element that would lead to its downfall.

Far from the lyrical longing in ‘Ruby Tuesday’, ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ found Jagger with a tired tongue and promises of satisfaction. “I’ll satisfy your every need,” he sings between repeated declarations of the title, “And now I know you will satisfy me.” Though the song was far closer to their typical sound and image, it was often deemed too inappropriate for radio play.

As a result, ‘Ruby Tuesday’ became the more successful single of the two, finding more fame than ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ and even winning over Dylan. Though the band never intended for it to become so well-loved and well-known, it’s easy to see why it did. The song showed off a softer side to the Stones, only further endearing them to audiences.

Over 50 years after it was first released, ‘Ruby Tuesday’ remains one of the Rolling Stones’ most enduring tracks, and one of their prettiest.

Revisit ‘Ruby Tuesday’ by the Rolling Stones below.

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