This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #460: You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones.
The Rolling Stones have a vast catalogue of hits. Their songs are such that they span a complete generation and have managed to maintain their significance for the several generations that have followed. The Rolling Stones are comprised of Mick Jagger on vocals, Keith Richards on lead guitar, *Ronnie Woods on rhythm guitar, Bill Wyman on bass and the incomparable, Charlie Watts on drums. All throughout the 1960s, The Rolling Stones, along with their close compatriots, The Beatles, helped define what it meant to play Rock n’ Roll music. With early hits like “Satisfaction”, “Paint It Black” and many others, The Rolling Stones enjoyed the life of Rock n’ Roll royalty. But, by the time the decade was drawing to a close, The Stones, like The Beatles, were feeling like the end might be in sight and that they should break up because the process of being who they had to be to live up to their own standard just wasn’t fun anymore.
In his absolutely terrific autobiography called, “Life”, Keith Richards devotes an entire chapter of his book to the creation of the album, “Let It Bleed”. In particular, he talks about the importance of the arrival of “Mr. Jimmy”, producer (and drummer), Jimmy Miller. All throughout his book, Keef is at his most animated when he is talking about the creative process that went into the making of many of their songs, as well as, the magic he felt playing music with as tight a group of professional players as The Stones had. Richards goes to great lengths to credit Jimmy Miller with understanding the alchemy of the band and helping each member re-connect with that part of themselves that liked to tinker and experiment with sounds. The joy in Richards voice when he writes about the giddiness with which they created “Let it Bleed”, along with “Beggars Banquet”, “Sticky Fingers” and “Exile on Main Street”…(all produced by Miller), makes his book one of my all-time favourite reads ever! There is magic in play. “Mr. Jimmy” helped The Rolling Stones to re-discover that. One of the results was a song called “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.
The Rolling Stones built their music on a foundation of The Blues. The song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” incorporates Gospel, along with Blues, to deliver a social commentary on the times in which it was produced. By the end of the 1960s, people saw much to be optimistic about because of such things as putting a man on the moon and the “Summer of Love” vibe that began San Fransisco and travelled around the world. But, the Vietnam War was, also, on-going and the political corruption and subsequent fallout from scandals such as Watergate was percolating away; waiting to explode. This conflicted sense of optimism and pessimism is reflected in one of The Rolling Stones most pragmatic of songs, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. The song offers commentary in three parts; each verse a topic, with the topics being drug use, politics and love. In each verse, there is an early sense of excitement, a crushing realization that all is not what it seems and then, the acceptance of the balance that Life tends to offer. Providing the musical structure for the song is a gospel choir, Bluesy piano and guitars, along with the heartbeat of the band, Charlie Watt’s excellent drum work. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was not the biggest selling song that The Rolling Stones ever produced but, it is a song that captured the essence of the times in which it was produced in a way that still resonates today….fifty years later!
When people speak of the songs that defined the early days of Rock n’ Roll, this is one of the songs that they’re talking about. A song built on a foundation of Blues and Gospel that went on to be a song that helped form the foundation of Rock n’ Roll. In the video for this song, you will see the original rhythm guitarist, Brian Jones playing the opening notes. By the time “Let It Bleed” was produced, Jones was close to being fired because of drug problems he was experiencing. He would actually end up drowning in a swimming pool not long after this video was shot. *(Jones was replaced by a man named Mick Taylor who, in turn, was replaced by Ron Woods). On a different note, my girls have only heard the name “Jagger” in reference to the Maroon Five song, “Moves Like Jagger” that was a hit a few years ago. In this video, you will see Jagger with his real moves on display. A cock-sure rooster strutting around his stage, interacting with the audience in ways rarely seen today. The whole video captures The Stones at the height of their creative power during the second phase of their career. It is musical history. It is Rock n’Roll as it was meant to be. It is The Rolling Stones! Enjoy.
The link to the music video for You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones can be found here.
The Rolling Stones have an extensive website that can be reached by clicking on the link here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP for providing the inspiration for this post. A link to their great website can be found here.