The Rolling Stones have just left my home town of Melbourne, Australia and I am on nothing short of a high. Obsessed doesn’t even begin to cover it. Never in my life would I have thought I would get to see what is in my opinion, the greatest band of all time, live. But I did. And it was epic. No bells and whistles, no lasers or confetti or blow up dolls (not that I didn’t love it Miley). Just rock Gods playing some of the greatest music in history. Mick, like a frontman of 25, had us eating from the palm of his hand. No energy, charisma or talent has felt the effect of age. And sorry Adam Levine, but ain’t no one got the moves like Jagger. Although my friend, somewhat harder to impress, said “F*ck Mick, it’s all about Keith.” While I consider that blasphemy and can’t believe he would say that, I hate to admit, he’s not entirely wrong. Keith Richards and the band wailed on their instruments like it was their first show. Lapping up every second, with no love lost over time. It was the best thing I’ve ever seen. So when I was given the chance to revisit a record of old for this Record Rewind, what better than one of the greatest albums ever, The Rolling Stones 1969 classic, Let It Bleed.
The late sixties were nothing short of tumultuous for The Stones. The age of peace, love and freedom was drawing to an end, and an uncomfortable uncertainty had settled over the rock and roll world, making way for a darker, more exposed Stones. Times they were a changin’, and no one felt the brunt of it more than these men. Off the back of yet another classic album; Beggar’s Banquet, a whirlwind world tour, drug charges, the loss of founding band member Brian Jones, murder accusations, involvement with the Hell’s Angels and the tragic death of Meredith Hunter during a show, The Rolling Stones had no choice but to embrace their title as the bad boys of rock and… roll with it. (I’m so sorry, I couldn’t help it.)
Just days before that fateful performance at Altamont Speedway, a “mini Woodstock” which saw the stabbing murder of Hunter, 3 accidental deaths, Hell’s Angels as security, countless assaults and thefts, 4 births and was dubbed “the day the sixties died,” Let It Bleed was released to the public. Gone was any ray of hope or innocence, and the road was made for the dark, visceral sound of the 70’s that spawned the groundbreaking, timeless tracks Gimme’ Shelter and You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
Bookending the 9 song track list, these two songs are markers for a generation. Gimme’ Shelter, featuring the soaring vocals of Merry Clayton – said to have been dragged from bed at midnight, pregnant and exhausted to lay down her recording, is drowned in desperation and foreboding. Opening with the words Oh, a storm is threatening / My very life today /If I don’t get some shelter / Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away nails how precarious the times were, while War, children, it’s just a shot away / It’s just a shot away / I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away / It’s just a kiss away shows how unnerved the boys were at not knowing which way the chips would fall. While You Can’t Always Get What You Want carries the poignant message of giving up and letting things be, which has rung true for every generation since. The Rolling Stones have rarely been more vulnerable or their music more beautiful.
As well as these world renowned classics and personal faves, Let It Bleed featured the weirdly wonderful Monkey Man, title track Let It Bleed, Honky Tonk Woman (seen here as Country Honk) and Richard’s debut solo lead vocal on You Got The Silver. It was the first record to feature Mick Taylor and the last to feature founding member Brian Jones. Tragically Jones would never see the release of Let It Bleed, found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool only a few short months prior to it’s release and just 4 weeks after being let go of the band for his continued drug abuse.
Let It Bleed reached number 1 on the UK Charts, temporarily knocking off rival band The Beatles’ Abbey Road. It reached number 3 in the US and went on to achieve 2 x platinum status. It was widely acclaimed with The New York Times stating the album was “heavy, black-tinged, passionately erotic hard rock/blues” while Rolling Stone claimed “The Stones have never done anything better.” Let It Bleed is as raw, unguarded, brutal, honest, dirty and sexual as rock and roll should be and I can’t get enough. You might say, I can’t get no satisfaction. (I’m so sorry.)