#49: The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter (1969)
In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine gave over an issue to (yawn) their list of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time – because we all know that this particular organ is the ultimate arbiter of musical taste. This track was at #38, sandwiched between a Debbie Gibson number and ‘Tell It To My Heart’ by Taylor Dayne. Surprising, considering the fact that this is easily the Stone’s most obscure single; one you’ve undoubtedly never heard before, or know anything about.
I can’t recall the first time I heard this. Which is possibly an admission that it might have been the cover version by The Sisters Of Mercy that initially lodged in the cranium with fervour (this being a tune covered by pretty much every band, solo performer and street drunk who’s ever picked up a musical instrument). I listened to the Andrew Eldritch version earlier today for the first time in years, and (of course) it isn’t a patch on the original; I’m not a huge Stones fan by any criteria, but there’s some really dark ju-ju going on here. References to the end of the ’60’s dream are rife when commentating upon the Let It Bleed years, as if this album, the fuck-up at Altamont, and changing Western perceptions of the Vietnam War represent some kind of triptych of sour. I’d argue that this view is guff, but that doesn’t detract from specifics of attraction as far as this record goes. The delicious percussion. The guitar, maudlin yet sultry. The unorthodox chord progression. You’ll be as familiar with this song as me, if not more so, just as you’ll know that the cake on the the cover of Let It Bleed was baked by Delia Smith; hence there’s not too much requirement for excessive words here. Instead, I recommend a large glass of bourbon, a muggy, nocturnal heat swashing through the barrio windows, and the stereo on full whack.
The Rolling Stones / Gimme Shelter