Sunday, August 23, 2020

Let It Bleed


Throughout the 1960s, the Rolling Stones were consistently overshadowed by the Beatles. Despite 1968's stellar Beggars Banquet, among the greatest albums ever recorded, the Stones played second fiddle. Of course, the immensity of the Beatles is undeniable. Think about it: in 1967 the Beatles released both Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour. Critically speaking, more often than not, Sgt. Pepper is considered the greatest album ever recorded, and "Strawberry Fields" the greatest single. The first worldwide television broadcast, Our World, in 1968 featured the Beatles as the British component in a live recording of "All You Need is Love." Watch that video to find good friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards essentially backing the Beatles. 1968 would also bring "Hey Jude" and The White Album, and 1969 Abbey Road. While Her Majesties Satanic Request was a pale comparison to PepperBeggars Banquet was its peer. If you're going to be in someone's shadow, it may as well be the Beatles; nonetheless…

1969 however, was that transitional year when the Rolling Stones began the takeover as the greatest rock band in the world. The transition started with Banquet, but more impressively continued with Let It Bleed.

As an aside, keep in mind that the title, Let It Bleed, is a play on the Beatles' Let It Be, and appropriate for the bad boys of rock. I've mentioned this on the air before only to get flack because Let It Bleed was released the year prior to Let It Be. Although that's the case, Let It Be was recorded long before Abbey Road. It's the order of the releases that's confusing.

Let It Bleed was recorded throughout 1969 in a tumultuous time for the Stones who were having as much trouble with Brian Jones, the same kinds of trouble, as Pink Floyd had with Syd Barrett. Illicit drug use, LSD, and an over the top rock 'n' roll lifestyle brought the downfall of both. Jones in 1969 participated in the production of Let It Bleed on a minimal level. And remember, this wasn't Mick's band or Keith's band, the Rolling Stones were Brian Jones' band, and now he was participating in a superfluous way that midyear led to his firing from the Rolling Stones and his death just a month later. That only emphasizes Keith Richards' role as the band's guitarist. While Mick Taylor replaced Jones, he too played a minimal role in the album's production, leaving the vast majority of guitar lead and rhythm to Richards. Work on the album began in November 1968 with "You Can't Always Get What You Want," a part of the Beggars Banquet sessions, but Let It Bleed's production began in earnest in February 1969.

The stones were busily working on Let It Bleed with the release date scheduled for June 1969. Subsequently, there was no interest in Woodstock for the band and like Led Zeppelin, an American tour was scheduled instead. Because of the delays associated with Brian Jones mal-adventures, and the release of "Honky-Tonk Woman" as a single in July 1969, the album's release was pushed back until the Stones' American tour ended in December 1969. That tour led to the Live LP Get Yer Ya-ya's Out, the first live LP ever to make it to No. 1 on the British charts, released by Decca Records in response to the bootleg, Liver Than You'll Ever Be.

Let It Bleed was recorded both in London at Olympic Studios and in Los Angeles at Electra Sound Recorders where we can add Merry Clayton to the mix with the performance of a lifetime on "Gimme Shelter." When Let It Bleed was released in December 1969 at the top of the UK charts, it displaced, if temporarily, Abbey Road. Based on the success of Abbey Road in the US, of course, the most important market, Let It Bleed only made it to No. 2 on the Billboard Top 100, but was certified double platinum early in 1970. There is a six-album canon from the Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goat's Head Soup and It's Only Rock 'n Roll that define the Stones' status as the Beatles' successors; Let It Bleed at the top of the list.

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