Released December 5, 1969 this was their tenth American and eighth British studio album. The album charted at number 3 in the US and while no singles charted several became staples in their repertoire and since been classified as two of the best songs ever recorded, that being the first and last on the album. During the recording they fired Brian Jones, the founder and original frontman, and replaced him with Mick Taylor. Jones died a month after the albums release.
Jason: This album starts with the Vietnam song.
Brad: Yes. “Gimme Shelter” is such an iconic rock song.
Jason: Every movie that takes place during the Vietnam war starts with that song. I think it’s a Hollywood law. Also, I think this song is great mainly because of Merry Clayton.
Brad: She definitely deserves a shout out. Those background vocals make the song so memorable. Makes me want to rewatch “20 Feet From Stardom”.
Jason: Here is something from wikipedia about her and this song: “With great energy, Clayton repeatedly sings “Rape, murder! It’s just a shot away! It’s just a shot away!”, almost screaming the final stanza. At about 2:59 into the song, Clayton’s voice cracks under the strain; once during the second refrain on the word “shot”, then on the word “murder” during the third refrain, after which Jagger is faintly heard exclaiming “Woo!” in response to Clayton’s powerful delivery. Upon returning home, Clayton suffered a miscarriage, attributed by some sources to her exertions during the recording.”
Brad: Wow. I really noticed the voice cracking moments while listening to this album. Even though, I’ve heard the song hundreds of times before. The voice cracking makes it even more powerful but that backstory is heartbreaking.
Jason: I’ll be honest, that is really the only song on this album that I liked. The rest are fine, except “Love in Vain”, which I hate.
Brad: What?! I like this album a lot. But I had never listened to it until now. I knew “Gimme Shelter” and the closing song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” but everything else I hadn’t heard before. “Love In Vain” is a cover of an old Robert Johnson song.
Jason: I’m not a big Rolling Stones fan at all. “Start Me Up” is okay but that’s in 1981. I totally understand why they are trailblazers and why they have lasted for 55 years but they are not for Jasons.
Brad: Hmmm. I didn’t really get that into them until the early 2000s. Then I saw them live for the first time in 2006 and they blew me away. Made me really understand their power. I’m going to see them again NEXT WEEK. I’m so excited!
Jason: I bet they are great live. Not many bands sustain the same energy for half a century. Now that you’ve listened to this entire album what did you like or dislike about it?
Brad: I love that they bookend it with those two great songs. I’m always impressed when artists start off and close out strong on an album. I have to admit “Country Honk” made me do a double take. I didn’t know they did a Country version of “Honky Tonk Women”. And “Country Honk” was released 6 months before “Honky Tonk Women”. I had no idea but I do prefer “Honky Tonk Women”. I don’t love “Midnight Rambler”. It goes on a bit long. But I like the rest of the album.
Jason: Okay, this is interesting. I didn’t realize that about the two Honkys. I prefer the latter version as well. I can’t even get through “Country Honk”. I think what has helped sustain their popularity and relevance is that they are willing to experiment with different genres and sounds.
Brad: I agree. It had to be pretty uncommon for a British band in the late 60s to cherish and emulate the American sound of Blues and Country music.
Jason: When you see them live do they do any deep cuts or is it mainly their hits?
Brad: I’ve only seen them one time so far but they seem to do the hits. They have so many.
Jason: Maybe next week they will do a 12-minute version of “Midnight Rambler” and you can use that time to go to the bathroom and get a $12 beer. Assuming you have listened to some of their other albums in their entirety how does this one fair? Would you put this in the rotation?
Brad: You know that I like to occasionally listen to the entire discography of an artist from beginning to end. I’ve done this with The Beatles, David Bowie, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and a few others. Well, I have wanted to do this with the Rolling Stones and I still hope to do that this year. Long story short, I’ve only listened to about 6 or 7 of their albums all the way through. Based on that, this wouldn’t be in my top 3 or 4 but I still like it.
Jason: They have 26 studio albums, 28 live albums, and 26 compilations so you better get a move on.
Brad: It is daunting but I would start with the studio albums and see how that goes. It’s interesting about Brian Jones. The band was going through a lot during the making of this album.
Jason: I appreciate that they put their creative vision ahead of someone else’s demons. It’s not usually how one pictures rock stars.
Jason: This album cover looks delicious and disgusting. (CLICK HERE for a short article on the making/baking of it.)
Brad: The Rolling Stones have so many iconic album covers. Including this one! I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t familiar with the Let It Bleed album cover even without having listened to the album in its entirety.
Jason: Maybe I should try and recreate that cover as my next baking challenge.
Brad: Ha! Then you can post a “Nailed It!” pic.
Jason: It would turn out so bad.
Brad: One more thing, I’m still in shock that one night at a drag show in Boystown at Roscoe’s a little over a year ago, Mick Jagger was in the audience! I kept hearing people say that Mick Jagger was there but I didn’t believe them until the next day when it was all over the news. I still regret that I didn’t try to get closer. Although, I have no idea what I would say if I ever met him. So it is probably for the best.
Jason: That’s so crazy and cool that he was there to see a drag show.
Brad: Yeah, I love that. What an incredible life.
Jason: So what grade do you give Let It Bleed?
Brad: Hmmm, I’m tempted to go higher but I think I will stick with a B.
Jason: I give Mick an A for living his best life and seeing Milk at Roscoe’s but I give this album a C. I am excited to hear your review of the show next week, though.
Brad: I am sure it will be great. I want them to play all the hits and maybe some B-sides.
Jason: You can’t always get what you want.
Brad: You are the worst.
Below is the scratch-off artwork from the 100 Bucket List poster.