Released today: The Rolling Stones’ eighth album and their first after the death of Brian Jones, Let It Bleed.

The exact nature of the relationship between Let It Bleed and Let It Be is not entirely clear. Before I knew much about this, I always assumed that the Stones were riffing on the title of the Beatles album, continuing to position themselves as the darker and more dangerous alternative. But Let It Be would not be released until May 1970, and at this point in history Glyn Johns was still assembling a Beatles album to be called Get Back; one version had been rejected and he was working on a second. (Prediction: The 50th anniversary edition of Let It Be will include both versions of Get Back, as well as the original Let It Be and Let It Be: Naked, in one last attempt to separate us from our money.)

Yes, The Beatles already had recorded the song “Let It Be,” and the Stones probably knew this. Was this what prompted them to write the song “Let It Bleed” and name their album after it? Some people say it was just a coincidence, but that seems unlikely. Lots of stuff is being written about Let It Bleed today, but no one seems to have an answer; perhaps it’s destined to remain one of rock’s unsolved mysteries.

In any case, silly title and goofy cover aside, Let It Bleed stands up to its reputation as the last nail in the coffin of the Sixties. “Gimme Shelter” alone says a lot about how things were going at the end of 1969. War, rape, murder, love, sex, and revolution all around, the whole world has gone crazy, and no one knows what’s going to happen next… everyone’s on edge but there’s a certain raw excitement in the chaos.

But when they wrote it — and even today, as the album hit the shelves — the Stones had no way of knowing just how dark things were going to get. More on that tomorrow.

Also released today: the Badfinger single “Come and Get It,” written and produced by Paul McCartney.

This is a catchy tune that became a big hit (#4 UK, #7 US) and in retrospect could not feel much more out of step with the zeitgeist. Or perhaps there’s some hidden darkness there, such as in the line “You’d better hurry cause it’s goin’ fast”? That may be giving Paul too much credit.

The Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition includes Paul’s demo of “Come and Get It,” which previously appeared on Anthology 3 and so seems pretty redundant in this context, but does have a few extra seconds of studio chatter at the beginning:

This “demo” — which Paul recorded by himself, multitracking all the instruments in single takes, in the course of an hour on July 24 — could have been released as a Beatles song, or as the first McCartney solo single, and it still would have been a hit. But Paul had other things in mind; according to the Super Deluxe Liner Notes, nine days later

he was in Abbey Road on a Saturday to produce [Badfinger’s] version. “I said, ‘you should copy this faithfully.’ They said, ‘But we’d like to change it a little bit.’ I said, ‘No, it’s absolutely the right arrangement. Please don’t change this. I can guarantee it’s a hit.’ ”

Well, true enough… you’re not wrong, Paul, you’re just an asshole. Adds Badfinger bassist Ron Griffiths,

Paul said, “I’ve got a lot on my plate at the minute. It’s yours if you do what I say. If you accept this as your next single, you can write the other two tracks they need for Ringo’s film [The Magic Christian].” It was too good an offer to refuse.

Also in the world of The Beatles today:

  • The BBC camera crew filmed John and Yoko as they in turn made a film called Apotheosis 2, where they huddled in the snow watching a giant balloon inflate and take off. I don’t know the purpose of this, other than to freak out the straights, but no doubt John and Yoko had some theoretical framework in mind. You’ll excuse me if I don’t care enough to find out what it was.
  • Delaney & Bonnie and Friends appeared in Newcastle, but without George Harrison, who had taken the day off to visit his sick mother. He would rejoin the tour the next day in Liverpool.
  • Mixing for the Hey Jude compilation continued at Abbey Road. This session, says The Beatles Bible, “began with two mixes of ‘Hey Jude.’ Although the song had previously been mixed in stereo, it was evidently felt that these were unsuited to the US market. ‘Revolution,’ which had been the b-side of the Hey Jude single in 1968, had never previously been mixed in stereo. It took just one attempt to achieve a satisfactory mix.”

But let it be noted, the mix was not satisfactory to one person: John Lennon, who complained that “Revolution” was a “heavy record” in mono but “then they made it into a piece of ice cream!”

Might have been good on the cake way back at the beginning of this thing… and boom, the circle is closed, and we’re finally done here.

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