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The Story of the Rolling Stones’ Best Live Album, ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!’

When the Rolling Stones started their 1969 tour of America, it had been a long two years since they were last on the road. Significantly, they had grown into one of the planet’s best bands by this point, having released Beggars Banquet and a handful of excellent singles over the past 18 months.

The second in a string of classic LPs, Let It Bleed, was still a month away from release when the Stones played their first date in Colorado on Nov. 7. By the time the tour wrapped up a month later with a disastrous free concert at the Altamont Speedway in California, they had secured a reputation as one of rock’s best live acts, a new movie and a live album that will forever stand as the best they ever made.

Released in September 1970 and culled from four shows from November 1969 in Baltimore and New York, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! was more than just a document of a band taking the next step toward greatness. It’s a peek into a period when that group found its stage footing and proceeded to draw everyone within reach into its sway.

There are better live albums available, but there isn’t a better one by the Rolling Stones, who’ve had a thorny history of concert LPs – from their first, 1966’s Got Live If You Want It!, where the band was nearly drowned out by the audience, to the various ’70s, ’80s and ’90s records that served as layovers between the increasingly long gaps between studio albums. Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! captures the menace, the arrogance and the excitement of the Rolling Stones at their peak.

Hitting the road for the first time without Brian Jones, who had died in July, and with Mick Taylor, the band sounded raw, rough and ready to rock. On Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, the jagged guitars stab rather than pierce, the rhythm section is tight but bulldozing and Mick Jagger is cocky and at times tentative. Reportedly, some overdubs, mostly done by Jagger, were recorded at the start of the new year.

Either way, the 10 songs that make the final cut are as lean as the Stones ever got. (Fans were immediately drawn to it, too: Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! – released almost eight months before the Stones’ next album, Sticky Fingers – reached No. 6 and eventually went platinum. It remains their bestselling live set and a record-collection staple from the early ’70s.)

The track listing is made up of two Chuck Berry covers, one Robert Johnson song and originals that pretty much confirmed that the Stones were taking things into a new era (all of them were from either the Beggars Banquet or Let It Bleed sessions). The best of them – like the barnstorming take on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” the warped dreamscape of “Sympathy for the Devil” and a defining version of “Midnight Rambler” – sound fresh in the setting.

Years of touring and general bloat would lessen the songs’ and the band’s live appeal over the years. But in 1969 and 1970, this was the future of the Stones. It may not be a complete concert, or even an entirely accurate depiction of the period (head to bootlegs from the era, like Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be, for that), but it’s the closest the band got to it, even now, all these years later.

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