Musicians’ inspirations /// Ray Wallis (The Broken Arrows)

The Broken Arrows

 

The Rolling Stones – Let it Bleed

Everyone has albums that they find themselves regularly revisiting for sources of inspiration, to gain a sense of reassurance or just because the music speaks to them in a way few other albums do. For me, that album is Let it Bleed by The Rolling Stones.

Released in December of 1969, barely 5 months after the tragic and suspicious death of the band’s guitarist and founding member Brian Jones, the album was the Stones second collaboration with producer Jimmy Miller and one quarter of the four album set that also included Beggars Banquet (1968), Sticky Fingers (1971) and Exile on Main Street (1972) which would see them establish themselves as the self-proclaimed, “greatest rock n roll band in the world”.

For me, part of the intrigue surrounding Let it Bleed comes not only from the incredible music on the album, that saw the band explore new territory with their sound, but also through the turbulent circumstances that the album was made in. By the time it was released, the band had been going through turmoil for near on three years. 1967 saw the infamous drug raid on guitarist Keith Richard’s home which led to the arrest as well as subsequent trial and imprisonment of both Richard’s and frontman Mick Jagger. Following their release from prison, a more personal turmoil developed. Brian Jones had been in an often volatile relationship with model Anita Pallenberg since 1965, however by late 1967, Anita had sought comfort from Brian’s alleged abuse in the arms of Keith Richards, and eventually left one guitarist for the other by the time the year was out. This enraged the already drug paranoid Brian who was gradually feeling that the band he had founded and been such an integral part of their early success, was falling away from him. By the time the band entered the studio to record Let it Bleed, Brian was seemingly no longer interested in making music with the Stones and towards the end of the recording process was fired from the group to be replaced by Mick Taylor, a disciple of Brit-Blues legend, John Mayall. This betrayal, as he saw it, would lead him to deep spiral of depression that would ultimately lead to his premature and as yet fully explained death.

To add to the drama, during the making of the film “Performance” (1970), Anita also had a short affair with Mick Jagger while they were both on the set of the movie, much to the disgust of Richards.

As far as I’m concerned, all these factors make Let it Bleed the most personal and uninhibited album the Stones ever released. Reflected in songs like “Live With Me”, “Let It Bleed”, “Love in Vain” & the now iconic “Gimme Shelter” featuring the immortal line “If I don’t get some shelter, I’m gonna fade away”. Lyrically, the album is one of the band’s strongest, the imagery created by the words is both vivid and flamboyant and yet at times frighteningly real and pessimistic. This not only reflects the dichotomous contradiction surrounding the unstable and politically charged times in which the album was recorded but also the circumstances the band itself could was in.

Upon first listen, Let it Bleed is merely an album of masterly constructed songs crafted by outstandingly talented musicians on the way to reaching their creative peak. However, once a sense of time and circumstance is placed along with the music, the album becomes one of the most complete expressions of what rock n roll should be that has ever been produced. The album challenges musicians and songwriters to wear their hearts on their sleeves while writing and proves that even when a great band is seemingly in total chaos and disunion, they can still produce timeless art.

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