Featured Album – Let It Bleed – Rolling Stones

“Let it Be” – The Beatles
“Let it Bleed” – The Rolling Stones

Now how did I come to write about an album as classic and as well-known as this one? Well, serendipity. I have this (now defunct) Spotify Car Thing and whilst driving said to it,”Hey Spotify, play the Rolling Stones,” fully expecting it to give me a random playlist.

But instead, Spotify had other ideas in mind and thought – to the extent it has the capability to think – “You said Rolling Stones but what you really meant was play Let it Bleed (which I certainly did not.)”

But then a (not so) strange thing happened – I totally got into it. I rarely listen to albums all the way through anymore but this is one of great ones and as it happens, one of my favorites. But outside of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and “Gimme Shelter” which jackoff radio has boiled this album down to, I almost forget what a great album it is.

From 1968 through 1972, the Stones had a run of great albums that would rival anyone’s:

  • Beggars’ Banquet (1968)
  • Let It Bleed (1969)
  • Sticky Fingers (1971)
  • Exile on Main Street (1972)

Lesser but good albums Goats Head Soup and It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll followed in the 70s. (That decade – and the Stones’ most fertile period – ended with Some Girls (1978) and Tattoo You (1981). The great majority of the old geezers’ live catalog comes from 1981 or earlier.

So, Let it Bleed. What’s so great about it? Well, just a bunch of solid, solid tunes with the Stones in prime bluesy form. This a transitional album in the sense that Brian Jones – who died prior to its release – was on only two songs and even then on congas, autoharp and for all I know, the fucking kazoo.

According to Wikipedia, “After Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones parted ways in June 1969, John Mayall and Ian Stewart recommended Taylor to Mick Jagger. Taylor believed he was being called in to be a session musician at his first studio session with the Rolling Stones.”

A fortuitous thing that. Taylor was completely different than any guitarist in the Stones before or since. He was a blues guitarist whose primary thing was playing lead. So instead of having what Keith Richards calls “the weave” of guitars, it was more like the traditional rhythm and lead that just about every other band stuck to.

The first tune Mick recorded with the other Mick was the fabulous “Live With Me.” This song is also the first time they recorded with saxman Bobby Keys and the ubiquitous Leon Russell. Interestingly, the lyrics to this tune were why the London Bach Choir asked to have their name taken off of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” (One wonders if they somehow mistook the stones for Donny and Marie).

I got nasty habits, I take tea at three
Yes, and the meat I eat for dinner
Must be hung up for a week
My best friend, he shoots water rats
And feeds them to his geese
Don’cha think there’s a place for you
In between the sheets?

I had forgotten some of the nice stuff on this album. Take for example, Keef’s rendition of “You Got the Silver.” Unlike later years where his voice is but a croak, here he sounds pretty good allegedly singing about Anita Pallenberg:

“Honky Tonk Women” is one of the greatest 3-minute rock and roll songs of all time. If I wished for anything else from it, it would be for more cowbell. But did you know that the song was originally written as a country tune, Keith doubtless under the influence of Gram Parsons?

Even though he loves country music, Mick says he could never quite take it seriously. And you can tell that from his vocals. But while my favorite pure rock ‘n roll band is the Stones, I would have to say that my favorite country band is the equally fabulous Stones. (I believe they have enough country songs that they could release a compliation album of that genre should they choose to.)

I’m sittin’ in a bar tippling a jar in Jackson
And on the street the summer sun it shines
There’s many a bar room queen I’ve had in Jackson
But I just can’t seem to drink you off my mind

Last but certainly not least is the weirdly effective, “Monkey Man.” Just for shits and grins, here’s a live version with the estimable Ronnie Wood. I always have a unmade bed, don’t you?

And if that isn’t enough let us not forget the Stones’ great title song* (Keef on slide) and most evil song,”Midnight Rambler” are also on this album. The latter may well be my favorite Stones song of all time. You’d think the Glimmer Twins had written it on a dark and stormy night in London but they in fact wrote it in a beautiful sunny day on Italy’s Amalfi coast.

In a contemporary review, Rolling Stone said, “An overwhelming record… the Stones have never done anything better.” No, Mr. Guy-from-the-Past, but we also hadn’t yet heard Sticky Fingers or MEs favorite album of all time, Exile on Main Street.

And just for comparison’s sake, Abbey Road was released a few months later. Neither band could have done the others’ album. They were unique.

*I did a One Song/Three Versions post on “Let It Bleed” a few years back.

25 thoughts on “Featured Album – Let It Bleed – Rolling Stones

  1. Man, only “Gimme Shelter” and “Midnight Rambler” are already worth the price of admission! But other than “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and perhaps the title track, one often forgets about the other great tunes on that album – unless perhaps you’re a massive Rolling Stones fan who knows all of their albums in and out.

    Anyway, while I prefer “Honky Tonk Women”, “Country Honk” really nicely illustrates the Stones’ country chops. And, yep, they’ve done a number of other country-flavored tunes. In Sep 2021, a put together a post that featured some of them. In addition to “Country Honk”, I included “Dear Doctor” (Beggars Banquet), “Dead Flowers” (Sticky Fingers), “Sweet Virginia” (Exile on Main St), “Far Away Eyes” (Some Girls) and “The Worst” (Voodoo Lounge).


        1. That is an interesting story. And I agree “Heart of Gold” doesn’t sound like Bob Dylan at all.

          I wonder whether Dylan was simply mad that “Heart of Gold” became such a big hit. As we know, it also ended up bothering Neil and prompted his ditch trilogy.

          It’s also interesting the two evidently still became good friends!


        2. “Ditch trilogy” admittedly is a bit of inside baseball. I still thought you may have heard of it.

          Soon after Young released the “Harvest” album and “Heart of Gold” became his biggest hit, he started to feel alienated about his success. He felt he had gone too far to the middle of the road, so should steer “to the ditch” instead.

          He subsequently released three albums, “Time Fades Away”, “On the Beach” and “Tonight’s the Night”, which had a “less happy vibe” and became known as the ditch trilogy.

          While their chart performance and sales didn’t match “Harvest”, ironically, these records became beloved by Neil’s fans nevertheless. So I guess in a way, it all worked out nicely for Neil!


        3. Huh! Interesting. Hadn’t heard that. Well, at least Dylan can’t complain that Crazy Horse sounds like anything he ever did.


        4. Neil is an interesting character. I mean, who records an entire album and then decides not to realize it and instead record another album? And he has done that more than once!


  2. This has always been my least favourite of the big four, for some reason. Gimme Shelter is amazing though, and the rockers like Monkey Man and Live With Me are great.


  3. It’s a wonderful album isn’t it? I agree the Stones are a great country band and blues band as well as a rock band. In the 70s when I was a drummer, our band did a cover of Country Honk. We generally played it late in the evening when we and the audience were well oiled and it filled the dancefloor. Happy times! Must get the album out and give it a play.


  4. Great post, Jim. This has been in my top 3 or 4 Stones albums since I was in high school, along with Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers and Some Girls. As much as I love Exile On Main Street, it’s never cracked my top 5, but I seem to be in a minority among Stones fans. The album that should get more love is Between The Buttons. But this post is about Let It Bleed, and it’s a frikkin’ classic.


    1. ‘Exile’ just does it for me – rock ‘n roll, horn-driven r&b, gospel, blues – you name it. And it’s all swampy and murky. It establishes a feel, a vibe. But ‘Bleed’ is great, too. A great band that had a great run of recordings for 10-15 years

      Liked by 1 person

What would you say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s