TOP 6 ALBUMS

Mick Jagger is the centre of attention on the band
poster which accompanied the Let It Bleed album. Band members, from left, are: drummer Charlie Watts, bass player Bill Wyman, new guitarist Mick Taylor, king of rhythm guitar Keith Richards and singer Mick Jagger.



Songs

1. Gimme Shelter
2. Love in Vain
3. Country Honk
4. Live With Me
5. Let It Bleed

6. Midnight Rambler
7. You Got the Silver
8. Monkey Man
9. You Can’t Always Get What You Want


Let It Bleed


London ain’t no safe place to be. Rapists, manic monkey moans and a debauched raunch behind the pantry door. A rock and roll gem.






Dec 1969

Rock On Rock Recommends:

The Stones’ best album

Blessed are the big heads > Let It Bleed came with a poster highlighting singer Mick Jagger > and (from left) are drummer Charlie Watts, bass player Bill Wyman, new guitarist Mick Taylor, guitarist Keith Richards and Jagger again.
Blessed are the big heads > Let It Bleed came with a poster highlighting singer Mick Jagger > and (from left) are drummer Charlie Watts, bass player Bill Wyman, new guitarist Mick Taylor, guitarist Keith Richards and Jagger again.

“THIS RECORD SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD” it was boldly declared on this 1969 album. AND SO IT SHOULD.

From the drenched-in-dread power of opener Gimme Shelter to epic closing song You Can’t Always Get What You Want, this landmark Rolling Stones album switches with ease from rock to country to blues > all enveloped in a sparse but rich sound.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the idealism of the 60s flower power generation was about to suffer another fatal blow > the Stones inadvertently wielding the knife.

And it’s almost as if the Stones saw it coming > warning of impending doom on Gimme Shelter.

Tumultuous times had seen the recent assassinations in the US of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Vietnam War stirring public outrage and National Guardsmen opening fire on protesting university students.

Found dead in swimming pool > guitarist Brian Jones.
Found dead in his swimming pool > guitarist Brian Jones.

Yes, the storm is threatening > and it’s about to blow right up the Stones ass, if it hadn’t already done so.

Disenchanted and drug addled band founder > guitarist Brian Jones > left the group in June of 1969 and was found dead in his swimming pool in mysterious circumstances less than a month later.

Two days after Jones’s death, the Rolling Stones played an already scheduled free concert to more than 250,000 people in London’s Hyde Park. 21-year-old Mick Taylor debuted as the Stones lead guitarist.

Tragedy struck on a tour of the US soon after Let It Bleed’s release.

Staging a free concert at Altamont Speedway, near San Francisco, turned to tragedy when a young gun-possessed fan was stabbed to death by Hells Angels > hired as security.

The fan had reportedly aimed a gun at the stage (see reports below).

This concert happened about four months after the peace, love and nudity of the famous Woodstock festival on the other side of the country. The Altamont debacle is seen as pivotal in the collapse of 60s youth idealism.

With Brian Jones incapacitated, Keith Richards did most of the guitar work alone on Let It Bleed.

The album also has some of Mick Jagger’s most menacing and manic vocals > taking on the persona of a rapist (Midnight Rambler), aping an ape on Monkey Man and aping a frustrated English nobleman on Live With Me > with hank-panky in the pantry.

merry_clayton

“Man, I thought you was a man, but you nothing but a skinny little boy”
> soul singer Merry Clayton on meeting Mick Jagger in the studio
from the book The Rolling Stones: It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll by Steve Appleford

THE SONGS

Gimme Shelter has Mick Jagger joined by American soul singer Merry Clayton, who has also provided back-up vocals for Ray Charles, Billy Preston, Joe Cocker and on Lynyrd Synyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama. Clayton later released her own version of Gimme Shelter.

But this is no love duet as the vocalists warn of a bad moon rising > all the while struggling to be heard over a dense, foreboding layer of music driven by hard drums.

In a complete change of pace, next is beautiful acoustic ballad Love in Vain > a fantastic rendition of a blues original by Robert Johnson > a man reputed to have sold his soul to the devil.

Country Honk kicks off with acoustic strumming, a car horn and the porch fiddle playing of one of Nashville’s finest, Byron Berline. It’s a country hoedown version of great Stones blues/rocker Honky Tonk Women > and a good one at that.

Live With Me’s funk bass lines are quickly joined by the rock rhythms of drummer Charlie Watts, bass player Bill Wyman  and guitarist Keith Richards > as Jagger tells of  things run amok in an English manor house. Includes a hot sax outbreak from Bobby Keyes > the session man’s debut Rolling Stones album. He quickly become a Stones stage and studio stalwart.

Let It Bleed is a great track from a band in full strap > lurching acoustic guitar, roll-along rhythm, bar-room piano and slices of electric guitar as Jagger swaggers between sex and drugs > with lines such as “when you need a little coke and sympathy” and “You can cum all over me”.

Midnight Rambler is a Bill Wyman bass thumper as Jagger belts out harmonica and plays a menacing multiple rapist looking for prey. Multi-paced > from scowling to prowling > as the Rambler has his wicked way.

There’s a ripping faster, more electrified version of Midnight Rambler on the Rolling Stones live album Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out (1970). Not that there’s anything wrong with this original.

Keith Richards makes his solo vocal debut with reticent charm on countrified blues You Got the Silver > then rips the guitar licks between Charlie Watts’ drums on Monkey Man as Jagger > a flea-bit monkey who’s friends are all junkies > licks his wounds.

Let It Bleed closes with the anthemic You Can’t Always Get What You Want > the bad boys of rock singing with the London Bach Choir  > now don’t forget to purse your lips, boys > giving the song a Biblical touch.

Lonely French horn and acoustic guitar are soon joined by drums, organ, piano and guitar. You Can’t Always Get What You Want builds in strength as the singer laments “I went down to the demonstration/To get my fair share of abuse”. There’s also such weighty matters as waiting to have a prescription filled at a Chelsea drug store and revealing his favourite soda flavour > it’s Cherry Red.

There’s still an air of defiance in this giant of a song . Maybe you can’t always get what you want but > Mick Jagger sings > if you try some time, you just might find, you get what you need.

And Let It Bleed > the Rolling Stones last album with an English sound > is a good place to start.

GUITARIST BRIAN JONES DEAD IN SWIMMING POOL

Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones > the band’s most talented and diverse musician > was found dead in his swimming pool under mysterious circumstances on July 3, 1969. He was only 27.

The supposed drug-induced drowning occurred during a night of partying with a few friends at Jones’s mansion in Hartfield, Sussex > the former home of Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne.

A weary Jones had been burdened by addiction for several years and left the band just a month before his death, citing musical differences. “I no longer see eye to eye with the others over the discs we are cutting,” he said.

GIMME SHELTER

Yeah, a storm is threatening
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I’m gonna fade away

LIVE WITH ME

The servants they’re so helpful, dear
The cook she is a whore
The butler has a place for her
Behind the pantry door

MIDNIGHT RAMBLER

He don’t give a hoot of warning
Wrapped up in a black cat cloak
He don’t go in the light of the morning
He’s split, the time the cockerel crows

I’ll stick my knife
Right down your throat, baby
And it hurts!

> Jagger/Richards

The coroner returned a finding of death by misadventure.

The key suspect in any foul play is builder Tom Thorogood, who had been doing work at and staying on the property. Now deceased, he reportedly made a death-bed confession in 1993.

A promo poster for the film Gimme Shelter
A promo poster for the film Gimme Shelter.

FAN STABBED TO DEATH BY HELLS ANGELS AT FREE CONCERT

“He had a loaded pistol in his hand and was aiming for Mick.”
> Grateful Dead manager Rock Scully

“Mick Jagger said that if Jesus had been at Altamont, he would have been crucified. And he wasn’t exaggerating.”
> author Stanley Booth, from book The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones

“I thought that day was the end of the Sixties. It had come from the wonderful innocence of the Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers to this”
> Chris Hillman, Flying Burrito Brothers band

About 300,000 people attended the hastily arranged free concert at Altamont Speedway, near San Francisco, meant to be the crowning glory of the Rolling Stones triumphant 1969 American tour and their own version of Woodstock. Support acts included Santana, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

But the concert was dogged from the start by violent Hells Angels > hired in a front-of-stage security role in exchange for free beer. They clubbed people with pool cues and fists > and a lot of Hells Angels camped themselves on the stage, which was only 3 feet from the ground.

Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin was knocked unconscious by a Hells Angel after he tried to intervene as the bikies laid into a spaced-out naked man.

Helicopters shunted the acts to the Altamont site and when Mick Jagger arrived he was punched backstage by a fan who yelled: “I hate you”.

The violence didn’t stop when the Stones went on stage and during Under My Thumb the band stopped playing as Jagger pleaded for calm. “Why are we fighting? We don’t want to fight at all. Everybody be cool now”.

The Angels on stage crowded around Jagger and some at the foot of the stage fired up their bike engines.

The back cover of the Let It Bleed album.
The back cover of the Let It Bleed album.

The Stones soon abandoned the stage and fled by helicopter, but not before just a few feet away a throng of Hells Angels stabbed to death fan Meredith Hunter, 18, after he had brandished a gun and supposedly pointed it at the stage.

“To this day, I still feel that the Hells Angels probably saved Mick Jagger’s life,” maintains Grateful Dead band manager Rock Scully, who had suggested hiring the bikies. “He had a loaded pistol in his hand and was aiming for Mick.”

The Stones were unaware of the death until afterwards.

These events are captured on film by David and Albert Maysles in Gimme Shelter, originally meant as a doco on the US tour but concentrating on the Altamont tragedy.

Also that day, 850 people were treated for LSD overdoses > the bad acid a contributing factor to the mayhem. Two concert goers were also killed in a hit and run accident and one LSD-induced fan drowned in a canal.

MICK JAGGER ASSASSINATION PLOT

 Hells Angels members made a badly bungled attempt to assassinate Mick Jagger in 1975. They were still angry at Jagger blaming the bikie group for the Altamont concert tragedy in 1969.

Several Hells Angels used a boat to approach the singer’s home on Long Island, New York. But the plot came unstuck when a storm blew in and the men were thrown overboard.

The assassination plot was only revealed to the media about 30 years later.

> WORDS by MALCOLM LIVERMORE

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