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Music / Let It Bleed

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"... but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need."

Let It Bleed is the eighth studio album (tenth American album) by The Rolling Stones, released in November 1969 on Decca Records in most of the world and its subsidiary London Records in the US and Canada. It is the last Stones album to feature founding member Brian Jones, who was fired from the band and subsequently drowned during its recording, and the first to feature his replacement Mick Taylor. The band struggled to achieve the lush production sound on the singles "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Gimme Shelter", while pushing for a heavier, more bluesy sound in the studio. The release was thus delayed until the end of the year, after the Stones had completed their American tour; nevertheless, many critics view it as the ultimate swan song for the tumultuous era of The '60s.

With this record, the band continued to invoke explicitly sexual and political subjects such as The Vietnam War in "Gimme Shelter", unrequited love in "You Got the Silver" and "Love in Vain", and lust in "Let It Bleed" and "Live with Me". The album features influential Genre-Busting concerns such as the male and female choir in the final track, the creative use of Soprano and Gravel Vocal Tag Team, and the Alternative Country sound expressed throughout the record. Straddling these complexities with the perceived decadence of the time, the album is hailed as a stylistic and thematic masterpiece for expressing maturity and passion when confronted with grim reality.


Side One
  1. "Gimme Shelter" (4:31)
  2. "Love in Vain" (4:19)
  3. "Country Honk" (3:09)
  4. "Live with Me" (3:33)
  5. "Let It Bleed" (5:26)

Side Two

  1. "Midnight Rambler" (6:52)
  2. "You Got the Silver" (2:51)
  3. "Monkey Man" (4:12)
  4. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (7:28)

Principal Members:

Rape, murder! It's just a trope away! It's just a trope away!

  • A Cappella: "You Can't Always Get What You Want" starts off with a male and female choir, which sings the first verse.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "Midnight Rambler", with the line "Well he's pouncing like proud black panther"
  • Alliterative Title: "Monkey Man".
  • Animal Motifs: "Monkey Man"
    But I've been bit and I've been tossed around
    By every she-rat in this town
    Have you, babe?
    Well, I am just a monkey man
    I'm glad you are monkey woman too
    I was bitten by a boar
    I was gouged and I was gored
    But I pulled it on through
  • Bad to the Bone: "Gimme Shelter" is a very popular soundtrack choice to implement trouble is in the air.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: "Monkey Man". It's also a clever self-deprecating mockery of the band's perceived image at the time since they were getting lots of flack for being influenced by Satanism (especially after the release of "Sympathy for the Devil" from Beggars Banquet).
    Well, I hope we're not too messianic
    Or a trifle too satanic
  • Bowdlerize: The line "she blew my nose and then she blew my mind" in "Country Honk" originally blew something else in the working lyrics rather than a nose.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: "Let It Bleed"
    She said: "My breasts, they will always be open
    Baby, you can rest your weary head right on me.
  • Careful with That Axe:
    • "Monkey Man"
      I'm a monkeeeeeeeeeee-uuuurgh!
    • Merry Clayton's cracking voice in the bridge of "Gimme Shelter". So powerful that Mick audibly says "Woo!" in response.note 
  • Cover Version: "Love in Vain", a Robert Johnson cover. The albums credits, however, have cited it as a traditional piece or to "Woody Payne", a House Pseudonym of Robert Johnson.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The cover is a surreal sculpture designed by Robert Brownjohn and depicts a record being played by the tone-arm of an antique phonograph, and a record-changer spindle supporting several items stacked on a plate in place of a stack of records: a tape canister labelled "Stones – Let It Bleed", a clock dial, a pizza, a tire and a cake with elaborate icing topped by figurines representing the band.
  • Double Entendre: "Let It Bleed", sung from the perspective of a woman:
    And there will always be a space in my parking lot
    When you need a little coke and sympathy"
    Yeah, we all need someone we can dream on
    And if you want it, baby, well you can dream on me
    Yeah, we all need someone we can cream on
    And if you want to, well you can cream on me
  • Dramatic Choir Number: A choir sings the first two lines of "You Can't Always Get What You Want", then disappears until the very end.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: "Country Honk":
    I just can't seem to drink you off my mind
  • Epic Rocking: "Midnight Rambler" is often extended live; it is a whopping nine minutes long in the Stones live album Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!, and other performances have been known to reach thirteen minutes. The 7:30 "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is longer than the single version, which is only 4:50.
  • Ethereal Choir/Gospel Choirs Are Just Better: "You Can't Always Get What You Want" features a choir. Jagger originally wanted to use a Gospel Music choir, but since they couldn't find one around they settled on the London Bach Choir instead. Funnily enough, the Choir released a statement soon after to disavow support for the record and its "relentless drug ambiance".
  • Genre Roulette: "You Can't Always Get What You Want" starts off with an A Cappella choir singing, then moves into a more rockin' sound. "Gimme Shelter" uses a gospel sounding background vocal.
  • Grief Song: "Gimme Shelter" sings about a Crapsack World, though in the final lines, we do get a more hopeful message:
    I tell you, love, sister, it's just a kiss away.
  • Heavy Meta: "Monkey Man" is about the attitudes the general public had toward the Rolling Stones and their style of music, all expressed within the song.
  • House Husband: "Live with Me" is a deconstruction of the role of masculinity within a household. It's complete with the man in the song asserting dominance over the woman and wanting to have sex with her all the time, while they share a seemingly blissful life (complete with the butler shtupping the cook).
  • Improv: Near the end of "Midnight Rambler", Mick starts ad-libbing.
    Well, you heard about the Boston...
    It’s not one of those...
    Well, talkin' 'bout the
    The one that closed the bedroom door
    I'm called the hit-and-run raper in anger
    The knife-sharpened tippie-toe...
    Or just the shoot 'em dead, brainbell jangler
  • Inopportune Voice Cracking: The famous moment where Merry Clayton's voice cracks as she belts out "murder" during the third refrain. A subversion of the trope as Clayton managed to stay in key as her voice cracked and delivered an all-time great performance.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: The title sounds very violent, though the band has said it references emotional abuse and dependence more than it implies drug use and violence.
  • Intercourse with You: This is a Rolling Stones album, after all.
  • In the Style of: The band's cover of Robert Johnson's "Love in Vain Blues" is performed in a Country Music style.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: The album closes with "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (7:28).
  • Love Nostalgia Song: "Country Honk", though it's more of a lust nostalgia song:
    There's many a bar-room queen I've had in Jackson
    But I just can't seem to drink you off my mind
  • Murder Ballad: "Midnight Rambler", which explicitly references The Boston Strangler and the victims. The band thus faced controversy for supposedly glorifying violence.
    I'll stick my knife right down your throat, baby, and it hurts!
  • Pep-Talk Song: "You Can't Always Get What You Want" appears to be the opposite, but it does tell the listener:
    You can't always get what you want
    But if you try sometimes, you just might find
    You'll get what you need.
  • Rearrange the Song: "Country Honk" is a slowed-down version of "Honky Tonk Women".
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "Midnight Rambler" was inspired by real-life serial killer Albert DeSalvo, aka "The Boston Strangler".
  • Something Blues: "Country Honk"
    Gimme, gimme, gimme, the honky tonk blues
  • Special Guest: Ry Cooder—who was briefly considered as a possible replacement for Brian Jones—plays mandolin on "Love in Vain" and slide guitar on "Let It Bleed". Another famous name is Leon Russell, who provides piano and horns on "Live with Me". The London Bach Choir provides vocals on "You Can't Always Get What You Want", which also features Al Kooper on organ and french horn. And gospel singer Merry Clayton provides backing vocals on "Gimme Shelter".
  • Spoiled Brat: "Live with Me" seems to reference, among other things, hippies and their incessant laziness around that time:
    And there's a score of harebrained children
    They're all locked in the nursery
    They got earphone heads; they got dirty necks
    They're so 20th century
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Keith Richards sings lead on "You Got the Silver". This was the first Stones song were he was the solo lead vocal throughout. Previously, he had sung separate lead vocals on "Something Happened to Me Yesterday" from Between the Buttons and "Salt of the Earth" from Beggars Banquet.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Car traffic is heard at the start and fade out of "Country Honk".
  • A Storm Is Coming: "Gimme Shelter":
    Ooh, a storm is threatening my very life today
    If I don't get some shelter, oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away
  • Title Track: "Let It Bleed".
  • Unrequited Love: "Love in Vain"
    Yeah, when the train left the station
    It had two lights on behind
    Whoa, the blue light was my baby
    And the red light was my mind
    All my love was in vain
  • War Is Hell: "Gimme Shelter", one of the seminal protest songs of '60s/'70s:
    War, children, it's just a shot away
    Rape, murder!