Releasing Between The Buttons was one of the most critical moments in the career of The Rolling Stones, a project that allowed the band break away from the rock ‘n’ roll and R&B infused sound that they had previously perfected. The record, released on January 20th, 1967, was the sound of The Stones attempting to experiment and prove that they were no one-trick ponies.
However, over 50-years on from the release of the record, Between The Buttons, is an album that still splits opinion. Some fans worship the album as a masterpiece, one which proved that there was much more to The Rolling Stones than first met the eye and the album proved that they could turn their hand to psychedelic rock with absolute ease. This gleeful opinion on the record is one that’s not shared from the band, with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards not being shy about their disdain for Between The Buttons, a project which they seemingly view as a misstep and a record they wish everybody would forget.
At the time, however, they were seemingly proud of what they had conjured up as the band then took that sound one step further when they went back in the studio that year to work on the follow up which would end up being the acid-tinged Their Satanic Majesties Request.
Keith Richards later recalled the time around that album, noting: “Between The Buttons was the first time we took a breath and distanced ourselves a little from the madness of touring and all,” recalled guitarist Keith Richards years later. “So in a way, to us it felt like a bit of a new beginning… plus, everyone was stoned out of their brains.”
The guitarist made the understatement of the century when he said: “Everyone was stoned out of their brains”. They had been to the States in the summer of ’66 when they began recording the album, and the introduction to psychedelics was a transformative experience for The Stones. This trip would lead to them eventually getting busted the following year, changing their public image and seeing them become tabloid villains.
Speaking to Rolling Stone in an interview in 1968, Jagger shared his disdain for the album and stated: “I don’t like that much,” when probed on why he doesn’t hold any affinity to it, the singer added: “I don’t know, it just isn’t any good. ‘Back Street Girl’. is about the only one I like.”
Then, almost 30-years later, he spoke with the same publication once more and again offered up his displeasure towards the record. “Frank Zappa used to say he really liked it. It’s a good record, but it was unfortunately rather spoiled. We recorded it in London on four-track machines. We bounced it back to do overdubs so many times, we lost the sound of a lot of it,” Jagger lamented.
The Stones leader was then probed about if Between The Buttons means a lot to him, and Jagger’s response spoke volumes about how little he cared about the album: “No. What’s on it?” he questioned. Then once the interviewer started naming tracks, Jagger’s tone towards it was less abrasive but tinged with disappointment about how the record turned out that ultimately tarnished the whole album from his perspective.
On the album track, ‘Yesterday’s Papers’, Jagger recalled: “Yeah, the first song I ever wrote completely on my own for a Rolling Stones record. ‘My Obsession,’ that’s a good one. They sounded so great, but then, later on, I was really disappointed with it. Isn’t ‘Ruby Tuesday’ on there or something? I don’t think the rest of the songs are that brilliant. ‘Ruby Tuesday’ is good. I think that’s a wonderful song.”
The frontman then compared it with, Their Satanic Majesties Request: “Well, it’s not very good. It had interesting things on it, but I don’t think any of the songs are very good. It’s a bit like Between the Buttons. It’s a sound experience, really, rather than a song experience.”
Between The Buttons includes some classics like ‘Ruby Tuesday’, although that did only appear on the US version. Whilst there are some splendid moments plastered over the record, it’s not one of their finest hours and overall its not a complete, cohesive piece of work. However, this was The Stones experimenting and, despite being one of the biggest band’s in the world, they admirably didn’t make Between The Buttons for anybody, but themselves and it turned out even they weren’t best pleased with how it finished.