Song of the Day #1,455: ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ – The Rolling Stones

Best Albums of the 60s – #6
Let it Bleed – The Rolling Stones (1969)

Let It Bleed is the third Rolling Stones album on this list and the last record listed that isn’t by either (spoiler alert!) Bob Dylan or The Beatles.

The title song was a play on The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be,’ which had been recorded but not officially released when this album came out. I love how artists during the 60s were constantly tweaking and drawing inspiration from each other. The Stones and The Beatles wrote their share of Dylan-esque tunes, inspired by his example, while Dylan returned the favor (his ’4th Time Around’ was a direct response to ‘Norwegian Wood’).

John Lennon once said that everything innovative The Beatles ever did would show up six months later on a Rolling Stones record.

I think those rivalries (among artists who generally got along very well) helped make all of them better. Today that sort of thing exists in rap, where emcees challenge each other by name, but I don’t know if it’s as creatively productive.

Let It Bleed is only nine songs long, but when five of those songs are ‘Gimme Shelter,’ ‘Let It Bleed,’ ‘Midnight Rambler,’ ‘Monkey Man’ and ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ it would be greedy to ask for more.

This is a dark, foreboding album that beautifully captures the tumult of the late 60s, an album that rivals Exile On Main Street as the best thing The Stones ever released. It also has perhaps the best combination of opening and closing tracks in rock history.

The opener is, of course, ‘Gimme Shelter’ and the closer is today’s SOTD, the epic ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want.’ This song is a perfect marriage of construction, performance and production… one of the finest recordings of its era, or any other.

I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she was gonna meet her connection
At her feet was a footloose man

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you might find
You get what you need

I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse”

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need

I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
To get your prescription filled
I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy
And man, did he look pretty ill
We decided that we would have a soda
My favorite flavor, cherry red
I sung my song to Mr. Jimmy
Yeah, and he said one word to me, and that was “dead”
I said to him

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need

You get what you need–yeah, oh baby

I saw her today at the reception
In her glass was a bleeding man
She was practiced at the art of deception
Well I could tell by her blood-stained hands

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need

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6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,455: ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ – The Rolling Stones

  1. Dana says:

    I am familiar with the opener and the closer, but not much in between. With that admission, I can’t really argue to much about the placement of this album on your list, except to say that I find it hard to believe that I would personally enjoy this album more than Abbey Road or Rubber Soul.

    I certainly do love today’s SOTD. It may indeed be my favorite Stones song period. I go back and forth on “Gimme Shelter.” In the right mood, I tend to love it, but it does go on a bit and get somewhat annoyingly repetitive.

    You mention 5 of the 9 songs as being great—I am curious if you think there is a weak one on the level of a Rubber Soul’s “Michelle” or, for that matter, a Revolver’s “Yellow Submarine?”

  2. Clay says:

    No, the other four are all great, too, just not established classics like the ones I mentioned.

    ‘Country Honk’ is an alternate version of ‘Honkytonk Women,’ ‘Love in Vain’ is an old blues cover, ‘Live With Me’ is a raunchy stomp, and – best of all – ‘You Got the Silver’ is a folksy love song featuring a rare lead vocal by Keith Richards.

    This album is stellar from start to finish.

  3. Dana says:

    okay, I’ll have to give the rest of ihe album a listen before I criticize its placement on your list over some of the strongest Beatles’ albums,

  4. Clay says:

    I don’t suspect you’ll agree with my placement even if you hear the whole album because The Stones aren’t generally your thing.

  5. Shawn says:

    Glad you said it, Clay…The Stones are a great album band, they just happen to have some songs that stand on their own. Let It Bleed happens to be one of the great ones, maybe the best of theirs. Perhaps Beggar’s Banquet is better some days. But everyone needs to hear the live version of Midnight Rambler on Get Your Ya Ya’s Out. When I first heard that version years ago I couldn’t believe it was never played on the radio. Which is my point, really. Though Gimme Shelter and the song of the day are great songs and are often on the radio, you really miss out if you don’t hear the album it is a part of.

  6. Amy says:

    Like with so many of the songs from the 60′s, I either first discovered them or have the most strongest association of them as they were featured in one film or another. For today’s SOTD, as with several other iconic songs of this era, that introduction came through The Big Chill…

    Of course, I bought the soundtrack, but I still prefer to listen to the songs and watch the scenes in which they are featured. That YouTube video offers great insight into the process of how they filmed those scenes. Quite fascinating and challenging, really. So… for me… this song will always prompt the images of Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Jobeth Williams and the rest leaving the funeral of their dear old friend Alex. Sorry Rolling Stones’ fans!

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