Sunday, July 25, 2010

December 5, 2009: 20 Things You May Not Have Known About ‘Let It Bleed’

Released this day 40 years ago, Let It Bleed is regularly acknowledged as the album that fired a fatal bullet into the hippie optimism of the ‘60s and yet another era-defining classic album by the The Rolling Stones. The band’s ninth L.P. terrifyingly captured the mounting disillusion and violence that blighted the end of the decade, yet it also contained some of the Stones’ most beautiful music: “Gimmie Shelter”, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “You Got the Silver”. But, of course, you already knew that. However, here are 20 Things You May Not Have Known About Let It Bleed!

1. Let It Bleed was a significant milestone of firsts and lasts. It was the final album to feature contributions from Brian Jones, who added percussion to “Midnight Rambler” and autoharp to “You Got the Silver”, and the first to feature new Stone Mick Taylor, who added his distinctive guitar work to “Country Honk” and “Live With Me”. The latter track is the first to feature the sax playing of Bobby Keyes, who remained a Stones cohort for many years to follow. Let It Bleed was also the Stones’ final studio record released by Decca in the U.K. and London in the U.S. Their next, Sticky Fingers, would be put out on their own Rolling Stones Records.

2. Legend has it that Keith Richards composed “Gimmie Shelter” while stewing in his car, waiting for his girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, to finish filming the movie Performance with Mick Jagger. Richards hated the fact that his girlfriend and his notoriously slutty bandmate were playing lovers in the film. Keef was right to be jealous: the costars did, indeed, have sex, and according to the Stones’ longtime pianist Ian Stewart, they did so while the cameras were rolling and the footage eventually found its way into an X-rated cut of Performance circulated through the underground film circuit.

3. An alternate version of “Gimmie Shelter” lacks Merry Clayton’s galvanizing contribution and finds Jagger and Richards singing the lead vocal in unison. An outtake of “You Got the Silver” features Jagger on lead vocals rather than Richards.

Jagger and Richards face off on “Gimmie Shelter”

Jagger singing “You Got the Silver”

4. The Stones recorded Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” on the recommendation of Jagger’s girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull. Unfortunately, the song was erroneously credited to Jagger and Richards on initial copies of the album.

5. Although most Stones fans will agree that “Honky Tonk Women” is the definitive version of the song, the down home version called “Country Honk” on Let It Bleed is how Keith Richards originally intended the song to sound. He composed it as a tribute to Hank Williams.

6. The traffic sounds heard throughout “Country Honk” were caught on tape while Byron Berline was recording his fiddle part outside Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles. However, the car horn heard at the beginning of the track was purposely dubbed onto it. Stones tour manager Sam Cutler handled the honking.

7. The best friend with a predilection for shooting water rats of whom Jagger sings on “Live with Me” is Keith Richards. Richards enjoyed blasting the pesky rodents that convened around the moat behind his country estate, Redlands, in West Sussex.

8. The working title of “Let It Bleed” was “If You Need Someone”, while “Monkey Man” originally sported the more exotic title “Positano Primo” because Jagger and Richards composed the number in Positano, Italy.

9. The Stones first attempted a version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” during early sessions for their psychedelic masterpiece Their Satanic Majesties Request in February 1967.

10. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is a true oddity in the Stones catalogue in that it does not feature Charlie Watts on the drums, because, according to Jagger, “he couldn’t play the groove.” Rather, the album’s producer, Jimmy Miller, provides the backbeat.

11. Brian Jones was present in the studio during the recording of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, but Bill Wyman claimed his sole “contribution to that session was to lie on his stomach most of the night, reading an article on botany.”

12. According to The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions by Martin Elliott, the London Bach Choir, which provided the opening segment of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, were so appalled by the sleazy contents of the rest of the album that they did not want to be credited on it.

13. Some of the future Stones classics tried out during the Let It Bleed sessions: “Sister Morphine”, “Shine a Light”, “Sweet Virginia”, “All Down the Line”, “Stop Breaking Down”, and “Loving Cup”.

14. When Richards failed to show up for a session on April 23, 1969, the rest of the group spent the night recording improvised jams with Ry Cooder on guitar and master session man Nicky Hopkins on piano. The results were released as Jamming with Edward! in 1972; “Edward” being Nicky’s nickname.

15. During an interview published in the July 26th issue of Disc Magazine, Richards remarked that he enjoyed making the Stones’ upcoming album more than Beggars Banquet, largely because of the presence of Mick Taylor. He also announced that the record was to be titled Sticky Fingers. While the album would soon be renamed Let It Bleed, its original title would be put to good use two years later.

16. According to most sources, the Rolling Stones were busy recording a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Don’t Know Why” when they got the call that their doomed former-bandmate, Brian Jones, had drowned on July 3, 1969. The group was so unmoved by the news that they continued working on the track. Bill Wyman contends in his autobiography Stone Alone that the boys got the news while mixing tracks for Let It Bleed, and all in attendance were suitably stunned. As for “I Don’t Know Why”, it did not make the final cut of Let It Bleed, but eventually saw official release five years later on the outtakes compilation Metamorphosis. Two other Let It Bleed outtakes—“Jiving Sister Fanny” and “I’m Going Down”— were included on that record.

17. Let It Bleed repeats the formula of the Stones’ previous album, Beggars Banquet, nearly song for song. Each album contains:

-1 song in which Mick Jagger plays the role of personified evil (on Beggars Banquet he sings from the point of view of Lucifer on “Sympathy for the Devil”; on Let It Bleed he plays the Boston Strangler on “Midnight Rambler”)
-1 country-blues cover (Beggars has the Reverend Robert Wilkins’s “Prodigal Son”; Bleed has Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain”)
-1 country-blues original (Beggars has “No Expectations”; Bleed has “You Got the Silver”)
-1 southern-fried comedy track (Beggars has “Dear Doctor”; Bleed has “Country Honk”)
-1 paranoid, apocalyptic social commentary (Beggars has “Jigsaw Puzzle”; Bleed has “Gimmie Shelter”)
-1 glorification of libertine sex (Beggars has “Stray Cat Blues”; Bleed has “Live with Me”)
-1 self-mocking look at Jagger’s public persona (Beggars has “Street Fighting Man”, on which Jagger skewers his ineffectuality regarding the Rock star’s ability to elicit genuine social change; Bleed has “Monkey Man”, on which he skewers everything from his demonic facade to his goofy dance moves to his entourage of junkies)
-1 climactic gospel number featuring prominent female backing singers (Beggars has “Salt of the Earth”; Bleed has “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”)

18. The track listing on the back cover of Let It Bleed is not in the correct order. This was an aesthetic decision by designer Robert Brownjohn, who also created the pop-art tableaux of round objects seen on both sides of the cover. The working title of Let It Bleed was Automatic Changer, which is a phonograph equipped to play a stack of LP’s, and Brownjohn’s sculpture was intended to suggest such a machine.

19. The band originally intended Let It Bleed to be presented without silence (or “banding”) between tracks, but the album was not released this way until it was remastered and re-released in 2002.

20. The Stones played their disastrous gig at Altamont Speedway in Livermore, California, on December 6, 1969, one day after the release of Let It Bleed. The band played four tracks from their latest platter—“Love in Vain”, “Midnight Rambler”, “Live with Me”, and “Gimmie Shelter”—while the Hells Angels “security guards” went to town on the audience with pool cues. Though it was during the Aftermath track “Under My Thumb” that an Angel stabbed gun-wielding attendee Meredith Hunter to death.
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