Thursday, November 28, 2019

50 years ago: The Rolling Stones released Let It Bleed

Let It Bleed

The Rolling Stones

Released: November 28, 1969

Peak: 3 US, 11 UK, 4 CN, 2 AU

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.3 UK, 6.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classic rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Gimme Shelter [4:31] (11/28/98, 1 CL, 29 AR, 42 CN)
  2. Love in Vain [4:19] (Robert Johnson) (13 CL)
  3. Country Honk [3:09]
  4. Live with Me [3:33] (14 CL)
  5. Let It Bleed [5:26] (1/70, 5 CL)
  6. Midnight Rambler [6:52] (5 CL)
  7. You Got the Silver [2:51] (1/70, B-side of “Let It Bleed,” 25 CL)
  8. Monkey Man [4:12] (7 CL)
  9. You Can’t Always Get What You Want [7:28] (7/4/69, 42 US, 34 CB, 36 HR, 1 CL, 1 AU)

All songs written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 42:21

The Players:

  • Mick Jagger (vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitar)
  • Keith Richards (guitar, backing vocals)
  • Brian Jones (congas, autoharp)
  • Bill Wyman (bass, autoharp, vibraphone)
  • Charlie Watts (drums)
  • Mick Taylor (guitar)
  • Nicky Hopkins (piano, organ)
  • Ian Stewart (piano on “Let It Bleed”)


4.617 out of 5.00 (average of 31 ratings)

Quotable: --

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

The Rolling Stones were in turmoil when they recorded Let It Bleed. Brian Jones, the guitarist who originally lead the group, was booted during the sessions for his serious drug problem. He died less than a month later. His final work appears on two tracks on the album. Songs “’Monkey Man,’ ‘Let It Bleed’ and ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ cast a sharp writer’s eye on the decay seeping into the Stones’ camp, proving that Mick had become more than a pair of lips and hips.” IB As such, Let It Bleed “finds the band, for perhaps the first time, accurately reflecting the spirit of its age. [They] now found themselves firmly in the center of the social and political post-‘68 whirlwind, and faced up to the challenge magnificently.” CDU

In bridging their past with their future, Let It Bleed showcases “every role the Stones have ever played…swaggering studs, evil demons, harem keepers and fast life riders—what the Stones meant in the Sixties” RS – while also signaling the beginning of the ‘70s as the Stones reached “for an uncertain mastery over the more desperate situations the coming years are about to enforce.” RS

“The erstwhile bad boy outsiders of rock” CDU “confident climb to its artistic peak” CDU “was begun by Beggar’s Banquet, but Let It Bleed is a quantum leap even from that musical milestone.” CDU Those two albums and 1971’s “Sticky Fingers formulated the Stones’ stadium sound and established their louche swagger, camp raunch and sometimes-cod-sometimes-retro sensibilities as the lasting blueprint of international rock’n’roll.” QM

“Refining the country and blues-print of Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed is less of an homage than its predecessor, as the songs begin to reflect the personalities that drive them.” IB “But the entire album, although a motley compound of country, blues and gospel fire, rattles and burns with apocalyptic cohesion.” RS500

Musically, Keith Richards played more guitar than ever and offered up a “musical vision…more intimate than ever, incorporating the restrained rhythm playing that would become his calling card.” IB There are also “spirited, soulful contributions from…Nicky Hopkins, and new boy Mick Taylor,” IB who filled in on guitar on two tracks. In addition, Ry Cooder and Al Kooper appear.

Fittingly, Let It Bleed “contains some of the band’s most eerie hits” AZ as it “extends the rock & blues feel of Beggar’s Banquet into slightly harder-rocking, more demonically sexual territory.” AMG

Gimme Shelter “came to symbolize not only the catastrophe of the Stones’ free show at Altamont but the death of the utopian spirit of the 1960s.” RS500 The song “is the sound of a frantically braking freight train about to crush the ‘60s under its wheels” IB as it “leads us decisively out of Flower Power and into a world where rape and murder are ‘just a shot away.’” CDU

With “its insuating guitar introduction” CDU and “shimmering guitar lines and apocalyptic lyrics” AMG throughout, the song “builds on the dark beauty of the finest melody Mick and Keith have ever written.” RS The song “slowly [adds] instruments and sounds until an explosively full presence of bass and drums rides…into the howls of Mick and…Mary Clayton.” RS “She can stand up to Mick and match him, and in fact, she steals the song.” RS “The Stones have never done anything better.” RS

“The Stones take their last significant look at pure blues…and country…before folding both styles into a cohesive rock & roll vision.” AZ In regards to the latter, the Stones offer up “the spare country settings of Country Honk,” IB “the two-stepping alter ego of ‘Honky-Tonk Women.’” AZ

“It’s thrilling to hear Keith’s exuberance [on that] and his first solo spot, You Got the Silver,” IB “a haunting ride through the diamond mines,” RS that displayed both the country and blues elements. As for the lead vocal duties, Keith He apparently earned the role after an engineer accidentally erased Jagger’s version.

Nowhere was the Stones bluesy nature on better display than the “spooky” AZ and “brilliant revival of Robert Johnson’s exquisite Love in Vain,” RS “a mandolin-accompanied highlight.” CDU That song and “Silver” “were as close to the roots of acoustic down-home blues as the Stones ever got.” AMG

In the album’s middle trifecta, “the Stones prance through all their familiar roles, with their Rolling Stones masks on, full of lurking evil, garish sexuality, and the hilarious and exciting posturing of rock and roll Don Juans.” RS There’s “the sex-mad desperation of Live with MeRS500 alongside “the druggy party ambience of the title track.” AMG

Then, for good measure, there’s “ some steam-powered harmonica” IB on “the murderous blues” RS500 of “Mick Jagger’s menacing Midnight RamblerAZ in which he sounds like a bloodthirsty stalker.

On “the drug-reality anthem Monkey Man,” AZ the Stones “grandly submit to the image they’ve carried for almost the whole decade, and then crack up digging it: ‘All my friends are junkies! (That’s not really true...).’” RS The song also serves up “Keith Richards’ lethal, biting guitar.” RS500

“The stunning” AMG You Can’t Always Get What You Want, with its “epic moralism…honky-tonk piano and massed vocal chorus” RS500 “is one of the most outrageous productions ever staged by a rock and roll band.” RS It “was the Stones’ ‘Hey Jude’ of sorts, with its epic structure, horns, philosophical lyrics, and swelling choral vocals.” AMG “Every note…works to perfection: the slow, virginal choral introduction; the intensely moving, really despairing sounds of Kooper’s horn and Keith’s slow strum; and then the first verse and first chorus by Mick, singing almost unaccompanied. From there it dissolves and builds again with surges of organ, lovely piano ripples, long lead electric runs by Richards, drumming that carries the song over every crescendo—music that begins in a mood of complete tragedy and fatigue and ends with optimism and complete exuberance.” RS

The song “looks for satisfaction in resignation” RS as it tells the tale of “a party in a Chelsea mansion, the singer meeting a strung-out, vicious girl he apparently knew from some years before, when things were different all around. It moves from there into street-fighting and frustration, and then to the strangest scene of all, a young man trying to strike up some sort of friendship with an old man who’s past it.” RS It was “a song about…learning to take what you can get, because the rules have changed with the death of the Sixties.” RS

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First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 9/4/2021.

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