The Rolling Stones America
tour was the defining moment to end the
Swinging Sixties, taking live Rock ‘n’
Roll to a completely new level of Sonic
Sophistication (a word that most Americans
didn’t think Mick Jagger could spell at
the time, little knowing that he was a
good old ex Dartford Grammar school boy).
However, as the carnage that developed
at the band’s end of tour free concert
proved, the rising counter-culture had
its dark side.
So “Let It Bleed” suited the times perfectly.
At one point it’s rough and aggressive,
the next mild and reflective. Restless
and combative, the album expresses the
dawning awareness that came as the sixties
drew to a close and the seventies stretched
ahead of us.
Opening gambit “Gimmie Shelter”, more
than most of the songs here, encapsulates
the dread that lurks within the excitement.
As Mick warns us that the storms are rising,
sung over the slowly growling licks from
the guitars, you can’t help but wonder
whether these guys knew a thing or two.
Brian Jones only gets one credit on the
whole album for percussion on “Midnight
Rambler”. To make up for this, a few friends
were brought in to fill out the sound,
add depth, light, shade and variety. Glyn
Johns and Jimmy Miller were retained from
the Beggars Banquet Sessions to fill the
engineering and production roles respectively,
and the wonderful Nicky Hopkins was persuaded
to lend his nimble digits to most of the
keyboard roles. On several tracks the
quest artists nearly steal the show. Ry
Cooder’s mandolin on “Love In Vain” must
be some of his finest work ever; Mary
Clayton out Jagger’s Mick on the counter
part vocals on “Gimmie Shelter”; and “Country
Honk” (the two-stepping country alter
ego of “Honk Tonk Women”) has some fiddle
by Byron Berline that just makes your
feet want to tap.
But the absolute masterstroke was bringing
in the London Bach Choir to add their
considerable presence to the climax of
final cut “You Can’t Always Get What You
Want”, closing the album in all it’s glorious
seven and a half minutes. This song will
always remain at the pinnacle of the Stones
achievements. But then every track on
this album is a gem, so perhaps just one
track should not be singled out. It’s
the entire concept of the whole of “Let
It Bleed” that makes it work.
It also saw the final swansong to the
Stones recording the blues with their
murky version of Robert Johnson’s “Live
With Me”. Although Bill Wyman plays bass
throughout the album, it was actually
Keith Richards who plays the amazing bass
intro to this track. “You Got The Silver”
is arguably the best lead vocal track
that Mr. Richards ever laid down.
It was eighteen months before the Stones
gave us another single and album (both
worldwide number ones in “Brown Sugar”
and “Sticky Fingers”) by which time they
had created there own record label and
became tax exiles. Of course we did get
the live album of this America tour to
keep us interested (“Get Your Ya Ya’s
Out”), but had not the Stones rallied
over these past twelve months, I doubt
very much that the legend would of continued.
The Stones had many glory years in front
of them, and even now you never know.
They still might have a trick or two up
their sleeves, they can certainly still
cut it live, in fact they seem to get
better and better. There have been a few
casualties, a few ups with the downs.
Mick Taylor left as he required something
more productive (well, we are still waiting
for you to set the world alright, Mick)
but that was no sweat as Ronnie Wood fitted
in much better anyway. Several sidemen
have gone to the great gig in the sky,
Ian Stewart, Nicky Hopkins, and Jimmy
Miller, whilst Bill Wyman retired to run
a restaurant. But they are still out there,
the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the
world. Ronnie with that Benson & Hedges
hanging from his lips as he reaches for
the slide; Charlie Watts stone faced as
ever with an even more dapper suit on;
Mick Jagger making headlines every time
he even looks at a young lady; and Keith
Richards… Well, everybody wants to be
Keith Richards, but nobody can.
As it says at the bottom of the cover
to “Let It Bleed”: This Record Should
Be Played Loud. Follow the instructions
and you can’t go wrong.
Pawed by Mott The Dog
Remastered by Ella Crew
Related Links Part
I | Part
II | Part
III | Part IV