“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, The Rolling Stones

You Can't Always Get What You Want

I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer with this post, but it’ll probably come across as a little depressing.  “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is at once sad and inspirational, because you do get what you need sometimes, even if what you want (or what you think you want) eludes you.  I’m learning this, and it fucking sucks.


Nobody understands this concept when they’re kids, and most of us don’t even understand it until we’re at least in our thirties or forties.  I always loved this song when I was a kid.  It’s fun to sing along with, and the choir is a cool addition to a great rock and roll song.  The lyrics are fascinating, and like a few other Stones songs I didn’t really get what was happening when I heard them in my childhood.  Now I know that they’re about protests, drugs, and violence, very adult stuff.  But on a deeper level, what the Stones are telling us is that we have to look beyond the disappointment of not getting everything we want and find what is really important, because that’s usually what’s left.  Most people don’t appreciate that.


I’m turning forty this year, so this message is really in my face right now.  Like many if not most people approaching such a milestone, I am reflecting on my life and wondering what I could have done differently.  Where did it all go wrong? I ask myself.  Over the past five years of sobriety and analysis and epiphanies, I can pretty much pinpoint where it all went wrong.  But that’s not even important anymore.  What do I have that is working right now? is what I should ask.  There are many things that work.  But the things that are not working are overwhelming.


On that note, let’s just talk for a bit about this fucking beautiful song!  Everything is working here.  I’ve heard it described as The Rolling Stones version of “Let It Be,” and I can appreciate that.  It’s huge in every way.  It makes you feel reflective, grateful for what you have.  This is a weird sort of feel-good song from the Stones.  Brian Jones died a few months before Let It Bleed was released, and it’s the last album he played on.  Altamont happened within days of the album’s debut.  The 60s were almost over, and a lot of people were weary and frustrated with war and racism and drugs.  Shit was too real, and a lot of people all over the world were just done.      


The lyrics reflect that sort of fuck-this-shit attitude, but with a silver lining.  There’s not much to really analyze in the lyrics, because they’re pretty straight forward.  Mick does his Mick thang, and he puts that shit out there in a way that leaves no doubt that you’ll get what you need if you just look for it.  It’s never on the surface, especially when you have tears in your eyes that are clouding your perception of what’s real and important. 


What’s real and important, what is always there no matter what, is music.  That’s what I need.  Family, friends, and music.  Enough money to pay my bills would be great, too.  But I’ll have to settle for that other stuff for now. 

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