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Automatic Changer, original title of the Let It Bleed album
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The iconic cover of Let It Bleed shows a wacky cake with layers made of a tire, a clock face, a film canister, and a pizza, clad in white frosting peppered with candy orbs. Little Rolling Stones figurines top the cake, which is situated on a record player, with a cracked Rolling Stones album playing below. Knee-deep in frosting, Keith Richards is the only member of the band that hasn’t been knocked over. Richards hired Robert Brownjohn, a close friend, to design the cover of the album, which was originally supposed to be called Automatic Changer.
In spite of the name change, the Stones stuck with Brownjohn’s design because they liked it so much. Brownjohn was hired by his close pal Keith Richards to design the cover, and he in turn hired Delia Smith—the same Delia Smith who would go on to become a well-known British cookbook writer and television celebrity—to bake the cake. As quoted in bassist Bill Wyman’s memoir, Rolling with the Stones, Smith recalled, ”I was working then as a jobbing home economist with a food photographer who shot for commercials and magazines. I’d cook anything they needed. One day they said they wanted a cake for a Rolling Stones record cover, it was just another job at the time. They wanted it to be very over-the-top and as gaudy as I could make it.”
From The Genealogy of Style:
The cover displays a surreal sculpture designed by Robert Brownjohn, an American graphic designer known for blending formal graphic design concepts with wit and sixties pop culture. He is best known for his motion picture title sequences, especially From Russia with Love (Terence Young, 1963) and Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964).
The image consists of the Let It Bleed record being played by the tone-arm of an antique phonograph, and a record-changer spindle supporting several items stacked on a plate in place of a stack of records: a tape canister labelled Stones – Let It Bleed, a clock face, a pizza, a tyre and a cake with elaborate icing topped by figurines representing the band. The cake parts of the construction were prepared by then-unknown cookery writer Delia Smith. The reverse of the LP sleeve shows the same “record-stack” melange in a state of disarray. The artwork was inspired by the working title of the album, which was Automatic Changer.
Many people believe that “Let It Bleed” was a take on The Beatles‘ song/album Let It Be. The titles are very similar, and there was a running history of the Stones and the Beatles tweaking each other. The Stones’ Let It Bleed was released months before Let It Be, but the songs from Let It Be had been recorded earlier than most of the songs in Let It Bleed.
The lyrics include a number of drug and sexual references; however, to Allmusic critic Richie Unterberger, the song is mainly about “emotional dependency,” with Mick Jagger willing to accept a partner who want to lean “on him for emotional support.” Unterberger also asserts that Let It Bleed may be “the best illustration” of the way the Rolling Stones make “a slightly sloppy approach work for them rather than against them.”