The Rolling Stones are one of the most important bands in the history of music. Their pioneering fusion of R&B with contemporary rock ‘n’ roll made the band stand out from their peers, as did their swaggering stagecraft and unrelenting energy. Whilst they have had many different members over their 60 years in existence, you cannot doubt that the most are frontman Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards.
Not only did the pair spearhead the band’s charge to the top, but they also wrote the majority of their work, ranging from the anthemic ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction‘ to the classic ballad ‘Beast of Burden’. The more hedonistic and carnal alternative to The Beatles’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the music of Jagger and Richards explored themes that were much more taboo than what the Liverpool band could muster up, making them the poster boys for rebellion and a rocking good time.
Drugs and sex were the name of the game for the Stones, and duly, they did their bit to drag society out of the monochrome doldrums of the post-war society and move us into a more hopeful, technicolour future, where free love and debauching were the standards.
One of the band’s best songs is ‘Lady Jane’ from 1966’s Aftermath. However, it has always perplexed fans of the band, as the title is opaque. What we do know is that the song was written and composed in early 1966 after Jagger read the 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which uses the term ‘Lady Jane’ when referencing female genitalia.
Fans have suggested that the titular lady might be Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry VIII, which makes a lot of sense when you note the nature of their relationship and the historical essence Brian Jones’ use of the dulcimer gives the song. This is something that Keith Richards also seems to agree with, acknowledging that the use of the instrument instilled the song with a Tudorish sound. The guitarist once explained: “Brian was getting into dulcimer then because he dug Richard Farina. We were also listening to a lot of Appalachian music then too. To me, ‘Lady Jane’ is very Elizabethan. There are a few places in England where people still speak that way, Chaucer English.”
On the other hand, many have proposed that the song is about Jane Ormsby-Gore, the daughter of David Ormsby-Gore, the former British ambassador in Washington who co-owned the Hung on You boutique in Chelsea. The Rolling Stones were frequent customers at the store, and for a time, Jagger was romantically involved with Gore.
Adding to the mystique of the song is the suggestion that it is about drugs, more specifically marijuana. At the time, ‘Mary Jane’ was a popular slang term for marijuana and the line, “Oh, my sweet Marie / I wait at your ease” has long been regarded as a reflection of the band’s love of the potent green plant.
Whilst all of the suggestions about the song’s subject material carry considerable weight, and it might even be a combination of all, the quest to uncover what it is truly about is brought into question when we note that the band themselves are even unsure of what it’s about. Mick Jagger said of the song: “‘Lady Jane’ is a complete sort of very weird song. I don’t really know what that’s all about myself. All the names are historical but it was really unconscious that they should fit together from the same period.”
We’ll let you make your own mind up on what ‘Lady Jane’ is about, but for now, enjoy the track below.