Gimme Shelter – Challenge #185

This song was the opening track on the Rolling Stones 1969 Let It Bleed album and some people have said that the Stones have never done anything better.  Pitchfork placed ‘Gimme Shelter’ at #12 on its list of “The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s.”  Ultimate Classic Rock put the song at #1 on their Top 100 Rolling Stones songs and #3 on their Top 100 Classic Rock Songs.  The Rolling Stones made a documentary titled Gimme Shelter which has been called by some to be the greatest rock film ever made, and it followed the group on their notorious 1969 U.S. tour which ended with the disastrous Altamont Speedway show.  ‘Gimme Shelter’ is perhaps the most celebrated and profound song by the Rolling Stones and it was described by Mick Jagger as an “end-of-the-world song”, because it is so haunting, building into a brutal vision of war, threatening floods, sweeping fires, rape and streets burning “like a red coal carpet”.  ‘Gimme Shelter’ represents something dark with its concepts of rape, murder and war and it is thought of as being the death of the 1960s spirit, signaling an end to peace,  love, flower children and hippies, but Keith Richards calls this song of ultimate doom the greatest song that he ever wrote.

On a stormy autumn day in 1969, Keith Richards was snorting coke and heroin at gallery owner Robert Fraser’s Mayfair apartment in London, thinking about Chuck Berry riffs while strumming his acoustic guitar and when he looked out of the window, and he got the inspiration to write the song ‘Gimme Shelter’.  The incredible storm over London, allowed him to see all these people with their umbrellas being blown around as they were running like hell to escape the torment of the storm and lightning flashes.  Keith Richards was in an apocalyptic mood when he wrote the song, because his then-partner Anita Pallenberg was out filming her most celebrated acting role in the movie Performance, where Jagger was in bed with Anita and Michèle Breton and Keith became convinced the film’s love scenes weren’t simulated and that Pallenberg and Jagger were having an affair.  Keith shouldn’t have been all that upset as he had taken Anita away from Brian Jones who was no longer in the group having just died by suicide.  Keith is known as Keef to his family, friends and fans and he thought about how other people handle being caught in a storm and that created the atmosphere for this song.  I am not sure how he obtained that name, but there is something called kief, which is freshly ground cannabis that can be sprinkled into a joint to make it sticky enough so that rolling one up can be done fairly easy.

The Stones picked up a new guitarist Mick Taylor and he has been in the group ever since.  Jagger began working on ‘Gimme Shelter’ co-writing the lyrics with Keith and it was recorded at Olympic Studios in London with producer Jimmy Miller.  Keith Richards played electric guitar on this song while Jimmy Miller played percussion, joined by Nicky Hopkins on piano, Bill Wyman on bass guitar Charlie Watts playing drums, Mick Jagger sang lead vocals and backing vocals joined with Keith also singing backup and they got Gospel singer Merry Clayton to sing these emotional vocals, which she really got into and it became the most famous performance of her career.

Ooh, a storm is threatening
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Ooh yeah I’m gonna fade away

War, children
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin’
Our streets today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad bull lost its way

War, children
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Rape, murder, yeah, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Mmm, a flood is threatening
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I’m gonna fade away

War, children
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

I tell you love, sister
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
Kiss away, kiss away

 

The challenge today is to focus on this song and use it for a short story, a piece of flash fiction, or a poem that you can share with the WordPress writing community.  There is no need to stick with this song, as you could write about another song by the Rolling Stones or any song that featured Merry Clayton.  You could also write about what a gimme putt is in golf.  You could write about a storm, floods, fires, war, rape or anything chaotic.  If you would like to write a time when your life was threatened, that would make an interesting post.  You could write about something being just a shot away, or a kiss away.

The whole point of this MM Music challenge is to get you to think, to trigger something so that you can show how creative you are and everyone is welcome to participate.  This challenge is very loose, so pretty much whatever you come up with will be acceptable.  I try to throw some ideas out there for you and if they seem right, then go with it.  You could write about a murder investigation, or perhaps you may have some special type of insight about rape.  Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie brings you a dose of fetish, good friends and an incomparable muse and next Friday Dylan Hughes will be here on July 2 with her First Line Friday.  I will be back on Friday, July 9 with another MM Music Challenge where we will discuss the song ‘Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)’.  You can either create a ping back to this post, or place your link in the comments section below.

21 comments

  1. Reblogged this on A Unique Title For Me and commented:

    I love the way Jim Morrison starts right out screaming “Yeah!”, on the Doors song ‘When the Music’s Over’, and when Janis Joplin sings out shrieking “Cry baby” in the beginning of her song of the same name, and I have to mention Robert Plant in ‘Immigrant Song’ because of the way he yells his lungs out “Ah-ah, ah!”, in the beginning of that one. You have to love the screaming introduction that John Lennon added to the beginning of ‘Revolution’, but my favorite scream is Donna Godchaux when the Grateful Dead played ‘Sing Me Back Home’ at Watkins Glen and she screamed “Come Alive”, but maybe that could be attributed to the acid that I dropped, but that scream went right through me. Some people have called Merry Clayton’s opening screams on ‘Gimme Shelter’ the greatest rock vocal performance ever recorded. Her duet with Mick Jagger was recorded in 1969 while she was pregnant, and she has gone on record as saying that the strain from her performance resulted in a miscarriage. Earlier in the year, founding Stones guitarist Brian Jones had died “from misadventure” by drowning in a pool. Tensions were running high in the US due to the Vietnam War and social unrest. The Tate-LaBianca murders by Charles Manson and his followers occurred just weeks before the vocal recording sessions for the song. Against that backdrop, these vocal tracks took on an apocalyptic atmosphere. Clayton’s tortured vocals exclaiming “Rape, Murder, It’s just a shot away” articulated the worst fears of many people. A brutal, harrowing, shocking, gut-wrenching piece of music from a time of turmoil in our history. When the rolling Stones got to Los Angeles, they were mixing this song and thought that it would be great to have a woman come and do the rape/murder part of this track. Rolling Stones arranger and composer Jack Nitzsche phoned Merry in the middle of the night, and she did a pretty amazing job with these rather dark lyrics that they asked her to sing.

    Like

  2. Not really a Stones fan, but I have very fond memories of a dear friend who was so kind to me years ago when I was at my lowest. His party piece at any social gathering was a take off of Mick Jagger and he was brilliant. He and his mates looked out for me and I have never forgotten that.

    Like

Comments are closed.