The Rolling Stones – Between the Buttons (1967)

Between the Buttons is the first of two 1967 albums by English rockers the Rolling Stones, released that January on Decca (UK) and London (US). The US version replaces the tracks “Back Street Girl” and “Please Go Home” with both sides of the concurrent double-A-sided single “Let’s Spend the Night Together” / “Ruby Tuesday.”

“Yesterday’s Papers”

“Yesterday’s Papers” is the opening track on the UK version of Between the Buttons, clocking in at two minutes and four seconds. After a brief intro, it goes straight into a four-line chorus that reoccurs three times around three verses. The format is thus described as chorus-verse-chorus (x3).

In the lyrics, the protagonist laments the impasse of a once-passionate relationship. “Yesterday’s papers” represent old news from a time when he was happy with “yesterday’s girl.” Though credited as a Jagger–Richards composition, Jagger wrote the song himself, purportedly inspired by his then-recent breakup with model Chrissie Shrimpton.

“Yesterday’s Papers” begins with a bass-line in C# over a moderato rhythmic pattern comprised of echoey kick-drum and malleted toms. Seven seconds in, Jagger enters with the line “Who wants yesterdays papers.” His vocal melody adds a major seventh (C) over the C# root note, established by Wyman. Jagger’s part is accented by the harpsichord work of Jack Nitzsche, who plays along to the vocal melody at a higher octave. Each vocal line is split with a vibraphone cadenza, played by Jones. Eighteen seconds in, the chorus plunges five keys to A♭ on the fourth line, “Nobody in the world.”

The first verse commences at :23 with a rise to E♭m as Jagger delivers the following lines in a loose, airy tone:

After this time I finally learned
After the pain and hurt
After all this what have I achieved
I’ve realized it’s time to leave

At every count of four, the key center switches from E♭m to B♭ and back. Jagger is backed on these lines with soft, feminine “dooh-dooh-dooh” harmonies by Richards, Jones, and Wyman. Instrumentally, Richards and Wyman mesh on the low-octave root notes of the dominant harpsichord figure. The verse resolves in A♭ as Jagger sings “time to leave” amid swelling fuzz-tones from Richards. At thirty-eight seconds in, the chorus repeats.

After the second verse resolves at 1:10, Richards plays a trebly fuzz riff of alternately suspended thirds in C#. This lasts five seconds before the song enters its third cycle of chorus and verse. On the third verse, Richards and Jones sing thirds and fifths over Jagger’s vocal line. The third instance of the verse is overlaid with increased vibraphonic glow and shimmery reverb. The song concludes on a fourth repetition of the chorus. A six-second fadeout commences at 1:55. The last notes heard are the final utterance of “Nobody in the world.”

With each verse, the lyrics explore the predicament of lost love from multiple vantage points. In the second verse, Jagger reasons that, though change can be frightening, turning back to soured relations is the lesser option:

Living a life of constant change
Every day means the turn of a page
Yesterdays papers are such bad news
Same thing applies to me and you

In the third verse, Jagger asserts that it’s best to play the field and bemoans how most people resign themselves to unhappy lives with one partner:

Seems very hard to have just one girl
When there’s a million in the world
All of these people just can’t wait
To fall right into their big mistake

Despite its buoyant, colorful musical trappings, “Yesterday’s Papers” grapples with conflicts between romance and freedom in a string of couplets that still enlighten across multiple generations.

Upon its release, “Yesterday’s Papers” was covered by blue-eyed soul singer Chris Farlowe, who scored a UK #1 the prior year with a cover of the Aftermath deep-cut “Out of Time.” Another version was recorded by singer Wayne Gibson, who also covered “Under My Thumb.” The Rolling Stones version appeared as a single a-side in Japan (b/w “Connection’’) and Italy (b/w “Back Street Girl’’).

Tracklist (UK version, Decca Records):
A1. “Yesterday’s Papers” (2:04)
A2. “My Obsession” (3:17)
A3. “Back Street Girl” (3:27)
A4. “Connection” (2:08)
A5. “She Smiled Sweetly” (2:44)
A6. “Cool, Calm & Collected” (4:17)
B1. “All Sold Out” (2:17)
B2. “Please Go Home” (3:17)
B3. “Who’s Been Sleeping Here?” (3:55)
B4. “Complicated” (3:15)
B5. “Miss Amanda Jones” (2:48)
B6. “Something Happened to Me Yesterday” (4:55)

Tracklist (US version, London Records):
A1. “Let’s Spend the Night Together” (3:38)
A2. “Yesterday’s Papers” (2:01)
A3. “Ruby Tuesday” (3:16)
A4. “Connection” (2:08)
A5. “She Smiled Sweetly” (2:44)
A6. “Cool, Calm & Collected” (4:17)
B1. “All Sold Out” (2:17)
B2. “My Obsession” (3:20)
B3. “Who’s Been Sleeping Here?” (3:55)
B4. “Complicated” (3:15)
B5. “Miss Amanda Jones” (2:48)
B6. “Something Happened to Me Yesterday” (4:55)

Mick Jagger — lead vocals, harmonica, writer
Keith Richard — guitar, piano, vocals, writer
Brian Jones — guitar, piano, dulcimer, vibraphone, saxophone, percussion
Bill Wyman — bass, vocals
Charlie Watts — drums, percussion

Ian Stewart — piano
Jack Nitzsche — piano, brass arrangements
Andrew Loog Oldham — producer

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