Friday, March 14, 2014

Rolling Stones Friday: Gimme Shelter

The opening track on Let It Bleed, "Gimme Shelter" is undoubtably one on the Rolling Stones most powerful and best songs.  Raging with anger, alienation and violence of the Vietnam War, "Gimme Shelter", recorded in November 1969, effectively closed the 1960's and still serves as one of the truly emblematic cultural pieces of that era.

While Brian Jones was present at the time, he did not play on the track, while Keith Richards played both the rhythm and lead guitar parts. It's some of the best work Keith ever did.

As a piece of music, its most striking feature however may be the vocal of Merry Clayton. "Rape, murder! It's just a shot away"! The story of this performance was perhaps the most compelling scene in the fabulously compelling 20 Feet From Stardom which just won the Academy Award for best documentary film of 2013. See this film now if you have not. Clayton, pregnant at the time, was summoned to the studio near her home in Los Angeles in the middle of the night for an emergency undisclosed project, arriving in pajamas and hair curlers. Here is part of her vocal isolated -- listen to the break in Clayton's voice voice when she strains to shout the word "murder" even harder, it being so strong you can hear Mick Jagger react with a spontaneous "woo!":
Lisa Fisher, also featured in 20 Feet From Stardom, has toured with the Stones for decades and has done a very credible job taking on the same vocal in live performances over the many decades, as here in a remarkably good video from a small club appearance in Amsterdam in 1995:  


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