Let It Loose
Vocals: Page (lead), Sharon Jones and Saundra Williams (backing
Original Artist: The Rolling Stones
Original Album: Exile on Main St (1972)
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
"Let it Loose" closes the third side of the Rolling Stones classic double album Exile on Main St. The song is also featured prominently in two motion pictures: The Departed (Martin Scorsese's homage to Whitey Bulger) and Beyond the Sea (a Bobby Darin biopic featuring Kevin Spacey). Taken apart, despite the obvious Scorsese link, these films appear to have nothing to do with the band. Taken together, the phrase departed beyond the sea, as told in the Chronicle of Ethelwerd, describes the separation of once united bands in the East Angles of Medieval England. History reveals that in time these Anglo-Saxon hordes would transform a nation and eventually build the British Empire.
In the heart of this territory, scarcely a millennium later, in the Crawdaddy Club and the Eel Pie Hotel, new bands of pillaging marauders would form and likewise, once united, run roughshod over Europe and the Americas in their conquest of the world of rock and roll. Arguably chief amongst these barbarians are the Rolling Stones, who first let loose their rhythm and blues sound on an audience in February 1963 at the Crawdaddy Club. However, when the other denizens of Eel Pie Island include: Long John Baldry's Hoochie Coochie Men (featuring Rod Stewart); David Bowie; John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (featuring Eric Clapton); Pink Floyd; The Tridents (featuring Jeff Beck); The Yardbirds (featuring Jimmy Page); and The Who it becomes difficult to choose just one. Thankfully we don't have to.
Originally recorded as an instrumental at Keith Richards' Villa Nellcote in October 1971; "Let it Loose" was completed at Sunset Sound Recorders studios in Los Angeles between December 1971 and March 1972. The crowning component added during the Sunset sessions was the soulful gospel blues vocals of Mick Jagger, Tamiya Lynn, Shirley Goodman, Dr. John, Clydie King, Venetta Fields and Joe Green. The inspiration for this performance was the choir lead by the "king of gospel" Reverend James Cleveland. In addition to his vocals Dr. John also contributed a piano track to the original instrumental which featured Keith playing his guitar through a Leslie, a clumsy Mick Taylor slide overdub (which was Exiled from the album mix), Nicky Hopkins on Mellotron, Bobby Keys on saxophone, Jim Price on trumpet and trombone, and Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts providing the high-viscosity processional pace.
Regarded by some as Mick Jagger's finest vocal performance according to Stones historian Ian McPherson, Jagger described it differently in a 2009 interview: "I think Keith wrote that actually. That's a very weird, difficult song. I had a whole other set of lyrics to it, but they got lost by the wayside. I don't think that song has any semblance of meaning. It's one of those rambling songs. I didn't really understand what it was about, after the event." Which perhaps explains why the Rolling Stones have never performed "Let it Loose" in concert.
Phish delivered a stunning rendition of "Let it Loose" during their Festival 8 Exile set. Following the classically psychedelic watery guitar intro that swirled out of the fully testified "I Just Wanna See His Face," Page provided some heartfelt vocals which were ultimately elevated to their full gospel blues glory by Sharon Jones and Saundra Williams on backup vocals, Dave Guy on trumpet, David Smith on trombone, and Tony Jarvis on saxophone. Considering what it took to pull it off, Phish, much like the Rolling Stones, are unlikely to "Let it Loose" again. We can seize upon the gospel fervor the song induced however, and pray for The Departed to return from Beyond the Sea at some point in the future.