You Can Bleed on Me: Let It Bleed 40 years later…
1969 will always be seen as the end of the 1960’s. Bands were cranking it up at countless festivals and trying to sound louder than all the others. The Rolling Stones were hard at work. In 1969, the band would release Let It Bleed. The album is now seen as the second of four great studio albums the band made with producer Jimmy Miller. For this writer, Let It Bleed is the best album the band has ever made. Next to Abbey Road, Let It Bleed is my second favorite album by anybody.
The Rolling Stones had really progressed as a band. The band, formed by guitarist Brian Jones in 1962, had been part of the British Invasion. With Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts together the band were seen as the bad boys of rock n roll. In 1968, the band matured with Beggar’s Banquet. However, the band couldn’t get through to Brian Jones as he wasn’t interested in rock music and instead, world music. Depending on who you ask, Brian was either fired or left. On July 3, 1969, Brian Jones was found dead in his swimming pool. The house he had died in was owned by author A.A. Milne. Two days later, the Rolling Stones played a free concert at Hyde Park. Shocked by the sudden death of Brian, Mick Jagger read a poem and dedicated it to Brian. Hundreds of butterflies were released as the band blasted into their set. Replacing Jones was guitarist Mick Taylor. This was Taylor’s live debut as a member of the Stones. Jimmy Miller and the band put the final touches on Let It Bleed, which was released on November 28, 1969.
Track by track review
1. Gimme Shelter- An eerie guitar riff starts off the album, with Jagger vocalising. The song gets rougher and tougher soon after. Jagger cited years later that he wrote this song about trying to find shelter from the Vietnam War. Signing with Jagger is Merry Clayton. Her verse of “Rape, murder” still brings shivers and chills. Jagger can also be heard on percussion. Overall, “Gimme Shelter”could quite possibly be the best song by the band.
2. Love in Vain- This old Robert Johnson song showcases how great of a blues band that the Stones were. Jagger’s vocals blend into the bluesy guitars. This one is often a live favorite and once again, another great song.
3. Country Honk- This country-rocker may sound familiar due to its lyrics. In short, this is a country version of “Honkey Tonk Women”. While it can get annoying after a while, the song still fits on this album. You got to love the violin in this track. Had the band chose to put “Honky Tonk Women” in place of this song, the final outcome of this album would’ve been much different. Mick Taylor plays on this song.
4. Live With Me- The Stones get down and dirty in this raunchy rocker. The song suggests that there’s a better place for you in between the sheets. The sax solo from Bobby Keys on this song is killer. This is the last song to feature Mick Taylor on the album. Due to the sexual content in the lyrics, the London Bach Choir asked to be credited for contributing to the album’s last song. A live favorite, for sure.
5. Let It Bleed- If there was one Stones song that oozed bodily fluids, it would be the title track for this album. The song is a simple acoustic-electric rocker. Mick sings in a low raspy voice. The chorus of “Well we all need someone to bleed on/ And if you want it/ Well you can bleed on me”. The verse of “There will always be a space in my parking lot” has innuendo in it. It’s been said that this part refers to Mick’s then-girlfriend, Marianne Faithful.
6. Midnight Rambler- The Stones go stone cold bluesy in this rocker about a murder. Mick asks the listener if they’ve heard of the midnight rambler. Somehow, Brian Jones is on his song playing percussion but can’t be heard. The song ends graphically when Mick sings “I stick my knife right down your throat, baby/And it hurts”. This song has live favorite written all over it.
7. You Got The Silver- For the first time, Keith Richards finally takes lead vocals on a full Stones song. This song is overlooked too much. The raw blues of this song is killer. Keith’s voice may not be the best but it fits in with the song oh so great. Some sources say that there’s a lost version of this song with Mick singing it.
8. Monkey Man- Nicky Hopkins plays the spine-tingling piano intro to this killer song about junkies. The piano cues in time with the rocking beat while Mick sings about a junkie. “I’ve been bitten and tossed around by every she-rat in this town” sings Mick, “Have you, baby?” The bluesy tone in this song is too much. You gotta love it when Mick is screaming in the end!
9. You Can’t Always Get What You Want- The opening choir is too bizarre for some listeners. Have no fear, Mick is telling us another story. This soulful song has Mick backed up by the Stones, who sound like they could be in Blood, Sweat, and Tears (ironically enough, Al Kooper is on the keyboards). The line with Mr. Jimmy is referring to producer Jimmy Miller. When Mick first played this song to Miller, he said it sounded dead. You gotta love it when Mick is screaming again backed up by London Bach Choir. This song brings the album to a rocking end.
A few days after the album was released, the band played a free concert at the Altamont Speedway in California. The event was supposed to be the West side version of Woodstock. Instead, it ended in violence as the security guard, Hell’s Angels, beat members of the audience. One of them even got murdered…right before a camera filming the event.
The Rolling Stones produced three more studio albums with Jimmy Miller. Let it Bleed is loved by all Stones fans. For me, this is my favorite album by them. Without it, I would’ve never been a Stones fan. If you haven’t heard this album, go listen to it now. Trust me. If you try sometime you just might find, you’ll get what you need!
Note: I know I'm late on the album's birthday. I got a little confused with the US release date. Still, it's just a couple of days since the anniversary. I'm still good! Wait on Sunday for an article on Altamont.