Music/Lyrics: Jagger, Richards
Original Artist: The Rolling Stones
Original Album: Let It Bleed (1969)
Historian: Phil Nazzaro (pnazzaro)
Last Update: 2011-07-04
Released on November 28, 1969, The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed album somehow represents all of the grit, dirt, funk and sometimes despair felt by the flower child generation as the 1960's withered and mutated. The formerly young Utopians that had once practiced "peace, love and dope" had now gathered enough real world experience to realize the reality of it all. Fittingly, the music that fueled that movement turned darker, led by spokesmen like The Stones.
The Rolling Stones, “Monkey Man” from Let it Bleed
After all, the album opens with the harrowing "Gimme Shelter," includes the gory title track and begins the second side with a tale of murder before finally ending with a coda entitled "You Can't Always Get What You Want" that is somehow uplifting after all that comes before it... Huh?
But directly before we get to that crescendo, we have “Monkey Man.” In an abstract way the song seems to describe the weary physical and mental condition of the band (and the general feeling of an exhausted generation). This after the trials, tribulations and general craziness of the previous five years or so. One gets the feeling that “Monkey Man” is, in a way, a celebration of letting it all hang out and being comfortable with that. Happy with being "a me" in the impending "Me Decade," no matter how misanthropic that might be.
Although played extensively on Page’s Summer 2007 Tour, the song entered the Phish canon on the second day of SuperBall IX on 7/2/11 (though it was teased nearly thirteen years earlier in the 11/2/98 “Moma Dance”). This version tracks a little more than a minute and a half longer than the Stones' album version due to a relatively short Trey-led foray into Solo Land and a slight rave up during the extended ending. However, this debut is otherwise generally faithful to the original; right down to the chunky, signature guitar and bass interplay. Page even does a fine job growling a Jagger-esque "I'm a Monkeeeeeey, Man!!!" at the peak. However, there is indeed room to stretch out within this song. SuperBall IX has opened the door. Let's see where it leads.