The Avid Record Collector #3: “The Rolling Stones’ ‘Between the Buttons'”

This is the US picture sleeve for the Rolling Stones' first single of 1967. "Let's Spend the Night Together" is listed above "Ruby Tuesday" on both sides of the sleeve, indicating that London Records did not expect the B-side to become the hit side.

Please join us in welcoming our very special guest blogger, Mr. Neal Umphred with his unique take on the making and the marketing of our favorite record from The Rolling Stones!

Here’s Neal…

, that disposable piece of plastic with a hit on one side and something else on the other side. Then came the album, usually with the hit single as the featured track to assure sales of the still under-utilized long-playing format. Like many nascent record collectors, I considered albums to be the permanent version of the hit plus I could get the single in stereo, something just about every record buyer desired in the late ’60s.

At least, that’s the way it was for most record buyers most of the time in the US. It was also often done that way in the UK, despite what you will read on countless other blogs. Some British record companies allowed their bigger artists to release albums with all-new recordings. For example, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were usually allowed to release new albums without the necessity of a hit single because their albums sold so bloody well without them!

Let’s spend some time together

This brings us to January 1967, when Decca Records released the Stones’ new single, “Let’s Spend the Night Together” / “Ruby Tuesday.” While some UK charts reputedly listed this record as a double-A-sided single, most charts merely listed “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” Like its predecessor “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows,” it failed to top the charts, pooping out at #3.

In the US, London Records released the single at the same time. Both sides debuted on the Cash Box Top 100 on January 21, with “Let’s Spend the Night Together” at #68 and “Ruby Tuesday” at #73. But many American radio stations were put off by the suggestive lyrics of the A-side and increasingly gave more airplay to the B-side. (When the Stones appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, they were asked to change the lyrics to “Let’s spend some time together.”) Consequently, “Ruby Tuesday” quickly vaulted past the A-side to eventually reach #1 while “Let’s Spend the Night Together”stalled at #28.

Decca issued Between the Buttons as LK-4852 (mono) and SKL-4852 (stereo) in the UK. This is the mono edition

The Decca album

A few weeks later, both record companies released Between the Buttons. The front cover features a gorgeous photo of the group by Gered Mankowitz taken in November 1966 on Primrose Hill in North London. The shoot took place at 5:30 in the morning following an all-night recording session. It is one of my favorite covers of all time.

The cover appears to be devoid of the information usually required of an album. As no one would mistake the Stones for anyone else, Decca simply did not list the artist. In a clever move, the title can be found in tiny print on the two buttons at the waist of Charley Watts’s jacket! In the UK, Decca released the album with twelve new, previously unreleased tracks. Here is the original album (as the Stones wanted it):

Side 1
“Yesterday’s Papers”
“My Obsession”
“Back Street Girl”
“She Smiled Sweetly”
“Cool Calm and Collected”

Side 2
“All Sold Out”
“Please Go Home”

“Who’s Been Sleeping Here”
“Miss Amanda Jones”
“Something Happened to Me Yesterday”

The tracks are basic rock & roll (guitars, bass, drums, piano, and harmonica) with little coloring and few studio effects. Charlie’s drums and Keith’s harmony vocals are upfront in the mix, giving them a very different sound and feel from previous Stones records. Brian Jones played vibraphone on “Back Street Girl”; Mellotron and Theremin on “Please Go Home”; marimbas on “Yesterday’s Papers”; recorder on “Ruby Tuesday” and “All Sold Out”; banjo and kazoo on “Cool Calm And Collected”; and clarinet, saxophone, and trombone on “Something Happened to Me Yesterday.” Charlie Watts played maracas on “Complicated.”

The few session musicians included were Nick De Caro (French accordion on “Back Street Girl”) and Jack Nitsche (harpsichord on “Yesterday’s Papers”) while Mike Leander’s orchestra provided clarinet, tuba, and violin on “Something Happened to Me Yesterday.” Piano and organ were played by Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Nicky Hopkins, Jack Nitsche, and Ian Stewart. Again, these recordings didn’t sound like much of anything the Stones had released before and little like anything they have released since, making it a rather idiosyncratic item in their discography. It didn’t stop fans from buying the album as this version of Between the Buttons reached #2 on the British LP charts.

This is the advertisement for the new Rolling Stones album that Decca ran in various British music weeklies.

The London album

In the US, London decided they wanted the hit single on the album, as they had with the group’s previous long-players. So they made a few changes. Here is the London album with two previously released tracks (as the record company executives wanted it):

Side 1
“Let’s Spend the Night Together”
“Yesterday’s Papers”
“Ruby Tuesday”
“She Smiled Sweetly”
“Cool Calm and Collected”

Side 2
“All Sold Out”
“My Obsession”
“Who’s Been Sleeping Here”
“Miss Amanda Jones”
“Something Happened to Me Yesterday”

That London wanted to include a smash hit single on the album made perfect sense. Fortunately, both sides of the single fit perfectly with the sound and feel of the rest of the album. To accommodate these sides, some changes had to be made:

• “Back Street Girl” and “Please Go Home” were deleted.
• “My Obsession” was moved from the second track on Side 1 to the second track on Side 2.
• “Let’s Spend the Night Together” was made the first track on Side 1.
• “Ruby Tuesday” was made the third track on Side 1.

Like the picture sleeve above, leading off the album with “Let’s Spend the Night Together” indicates that that was the side that London assumed was going to be the big hit.

Even with hindsight, these moves are baffling! Why not just make “Let’s Spend the Night Together” the first track on Side 1 and “Ruby Tuesday” the first track on Side 2? This would have been and made a better listening experience as each side would have kicked off with a song that listeners had heard on Top 40 radio?

No one seemed to notice at the time of release. The album was reviewed in the February 11, 1967, issue of Billboard in its main review section. This indicates a release date of January 30, almost two weeks later than the date listed on most websites. The Billboard reviewer stated: “Every LP by the Stones has been a hot chart item, and this latest collection will be no exception. Their hard-driving beat is evident throughout and their singles hits ‘Ruby Tuesday’ and ‘Let’s Spend the night Together’ adding immediate sales appeal. ‘Miss Amanda Jones’ and ‘Cool, Calm and Collected’ are outstanding in this winning package.”

This version of Between the Buttons also peaked at #2 on the Billboard LP survey but within a few weeks of its release, it was certified by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award for $1,000,000 in sales at the wholesale level. (This was approximately 650,000 mono and stereo albums sold at the time.)

London issued Between the Buttons as LL-3499 (mono) and PS-499 (stereo) in the US, both of which had stickers announcing “Ruby Tuesday” affixed to the shrinkwrap of later pressings. Both mono and stereo albums found their way into cut-out bins.

Psychedelic buttons

With the release of their previous album Aftermath, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards proved that they could fill an album with original songs of quality.

While that album remained reasonably true to the group’s blues-based roots, a lot had changed since the final sessions. The Byrds had released “Eight Miles High, ” the record that Dominic Priore labeled “the psychedelic shot heard ’round the world.”

Alas, psychedelia had hardly touched the Stones by the time they recorded Buttons in late 1966. Nonetheless, Buttons is often categorized as psychedelic, which it is not. This appears to have something to do with the albums’ closer, “Something Happened to Me Yesterday.” Many listeners believe the lyrics address a first LSD trip. The lyrics do not reference anything specifically psychedelic but could be about some kind of psychedelic experience:

“Someone says there’s something more to pay
for sins that you committed yesterday.
It’s really rather drippy
but something oh so trippy.
Something happened to me yesterday.”

The lyrics are vague and could refer to any number of first encounters, including sexual encounters, a topic much dearer to the Stones at the time than consciousness expansion. To be fair, any rock or pop song with the word trip in it after 1965 can be considered open to interpretation as referencing acid. The song is performed in a campy style that can be called old-timey, English music hall, or American Vaudeville.

The album’s only real claim to anything that sounds and feels remotely psychedelic is “Please Go Home” with its Theremin and cool effects on the guitar and backing vocals. In fact, it would have made an interesting follow-up single to “Let’s Spend the Night Together” / “Ruby Tuesday.” Unfortunately, it’s not on the US version of the album, so there goes that.

This copy of Between the Buttons is still factory-sealed in its original shrinkwrap. There is a small hole punched into the lower-left corner, designating this album as a cut-out. The yellow sticker reads “Kmart Special Sale $1.33 CS844,” a price that indicates that this album was a cut-out. This copy recently sold for a record high price (see price guide).

Price guide

Finding mono copies of Between the Buttons during The Great Deletion of 1968-1969 was as easy as finding dandelions in your yard. In fact, that record was effectively ubiquitous in cut-out bins into the early ’70s. I bought a mono Buttons for a whopping 99¢ and quickly fell in love with its odd rhythms and odder harmonies. In fact, I played it so often that the girl I was dating at the time (Hey, Elaine from West Pittston—it’s been a long time, baby!) wrote me off as incorrigibly unhip because I was only interested in listening to “old music.”

Fifty years later and mono copies of Between the Buttons are more in demand with collectors than stereo copies—at least as reflected by the prices paid for them. Recent sales of NM mono copies average $40 while NM stereo copies come in around $30. Factory-sealed copies are selling for much more:

• A cut-out copy with the white title sticker and a $1.33 store sticker (pictured above) sold for $228 in an eBay auction in April 2021. This is a record-high price for a cut-out copy of LL-3499 and should not be considered an accurate gauge as to what a similar sealed copy might sell for next time.
• A copy without a cut-out mark and with the white title sticker and a $2.99 store sticker (pictured above) sold for $788 in an eBay auction in February 2021. This is a record-high price for a cut-out copy of LL-3499 and should not be considered an accurate gauge as to what a similar sealed copy might sell for next time.

Copies of both mono and stereo versions of this album can be found with a white sticker that reads “Between The Buttons / The Rolling Stones / Featuring Ruby Tuesday” affixed to the shrinkwrap on the front cover. While these albums probably contain first printing jackets with first pressing records, the sticker would seem to indicate that it was affixed to albums after “Ruby Tuesday” had established that it was the hit side, not “Let’s Spend The Night Together.”

Nonetheless, collectors usually pay a premium for copies of the album in the shrinkwrap with the sticker—say $5-10.

This copy of Between the Buttons is still factory-sealed in its original shrinkwrap. The red sticker reads “Music Shop Special $2.99,” the standard retail discount from the $3.99 list price for mono albums in the ’60s. This copy recently sold for a record high price (see price guide).


Well thank you very much and now I think it’s time for us all to go. So, from me to you—not forgetting the boys in the band and our producer, Rick Shoemaker, I’d like to say “God Bless.” So, if you’re out tonight, don’t forget, if you’re on your bike, wear white . . .

Neal Umphred was the final author of the O’Sullivan-Woodside line of price guides for record collectors (1985-1986) and the original author of the Goldmine line of price guides for record collectors (1989-1996). He currently maintains two record and music-oriented blogs: Rather Rare Records and Elvis – A Touch Of Gold. If you visit either site, please leave a comment and tell me that you are a Sixties Music Secrets reader.

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