DAY 11 - 30 SONGS IN 30 DAYS

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 Day 11: A song you never get tired of

"Gimme Shelter" was written by the Rolling Stones' lead vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, the band's primary songwriting team. Richards began working on the song's signature opening riff in London while Jagger was away filming Performance with Richards' then-girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg. In his autobiography Life, Richards revealed that the tension of the song was inspired by his jealousy at seeing the relationship between Pallenberg and Jagger, and his suspicions of an affair between them.

As released, the song begins with Richards performing a guitar intro, soon joined by Jagger's lead vocal. Of Let It Bleed's bleak world view, Jagger said in a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone magazine:

Well, it's a very rough, very violent era. The Vietnam War. Violence on the screens, pillage and burning. And Vietnam was not war as we knew it in the conventional sense. The thing about Vietnam was that it wasn't like World War II, and it wasn't like Korea, and it wasn't like the Gulf War. It was a real nasty war, and people didn't like it. People objected, and people didn't want to fight it ... That's a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It's apocalypse; the whole record's like that.

Similarly, on NPR in 2018:

It was a very moody piece about the world closing in on you a bit ... When it was recorded, early '69 or something, it was a time of war and tension, so that's reflected in this tune. It's still wheeled out when big storms happen, as they did the other week [during Hurricane Sandy]. It's been used a lot to evoke natural disaster.

The song's inspiration was not initially Vietnam or social unrest, however, but Richards seeing people scurrying for shelter from a sudden rain storm. According to him:

I had been sitting by the window of my friend Robert Fraser's apartment on Mount Street in London with an acoustic guitar when suddenly the sky went completely black and an incredible monsoon came down. It was just people running about looking for shelter – that was the germ of the idea. We went further into it until it became, you know, rape and murder are 'just a shot away'.

The recording features guest vocals by Merry Clayton, recorded at a last-minute late-night recording session in Los Angeles during the mixing phase, arranged by her friend and record producer Jack Nitzsche. After the first verse is sung by Jagger, Clayton enters and they share the next three verses. A harmonica solo by Jagger and guitar solo by Richards follow. Then, with great energy, Clayton repeatedly sings "Rape, murder! It's just a shot away! It's just a shot away!", almost screaming the final stanza. She and Jagger then repeat the line "It's just a shot away" and finish with repeats of "It's just a kiss away". When speaking of her inclusion in the recording, Jagger stated in the 2003 book According to the Rolling Stones that the Rolling Stones' producer Jimmy Miller thought of having a female singer on the track and told fellow producer Nitzsche to contact one: "The use of the female voice was the producer's idea. It would be one of those moments along the lines of 'I hear a girl on this track – get one on the phone.'" Summoned from bed around midnight by Nitzsche, Clayton – about four months pregnant – made her recording with just a few takes and then returned home to bed. It remains the most prominent contribution to a Rolling Stones track by a female vocalist.

At about 2:59 into the song, Clayton's voice cracks under the strain; once during the second refrain on the word "shot", then on the word "murder" during the third refrain, after which Jagger is faintly heard exclaiming "Woo!" in response to Clayton's powerful delivery. Upon returning home, Clayton suffered a miscarriage, attributed by some sources to her exertions during the recording.

Merry Clayton's name was erroneously written on the original release, appearing as "Mary". Her name is also listed as "Mary" on the 2002 Let It Bleed remastered CD.

The song was recorded in London at Olympic Studios in February and March 1969; the vocals were recorded in Los Angeles at Sunset Sound Recorders and Elektra Studios in October and November that same year. Nicky Hopkins played piano, Jimmy Miller played percussion, Charlie Watts played drums, Bill Wyman played bass, Jagger played harmonica and sang backup vocals with Richards and Clayton. Guitarist Brian Jones was present during the early sessions but did not contribute, Richards being credited with both rhythm and lead guitars on the album sleeve. For the recording, Richards used an Australian-made Maton SE777, a large single-cutaway hollowbody guitar, which he had previously used on "Midnight Rambler". The guitar barely survived the recording before literally falling apart. "[O]n the very last note of 'Gimmie Shelter,'" Richards told Guitar World in 2002, "the whole neck fell off. You can hear it on the original take."

 

*(borrowed from Wikipedia)

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