NO SHELTER HERE (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #50)

Like all great records “Gimme Shelter” is the sum of many parts. The parts that usually get the most attention (and not without justification) are the definitive Death-of-the-Sixties guitar riff and Merry Clayton’s soul shouting on the fade.

On this semi-live version (it sounds like a pre-recorded music track with a live vocal, which might explain why everybody but Jagger looks even more consummately bored than usual), the mighty riff is slightly muted, perhaps by a less than ideal sound system and/or transfer, and Clayton’s vocal, often replaced by another female singer on the numerous live versions recorded since, is entirely missing.

Which means what was always the song’s one truly frightening element is back front and center.

I wouldn’t call it so much Mick Jagger’s vocal even though, on the recorded version, it’s possibly his greatest and he pretty well matches it here, as MIck Jagger’s obvious sense of himself as something more than a singer in a rock and roll band.

Yeah, he had that quality on other occasions, but there’s something about the timing of this one that makes it definitive. This is what it’s like at the very last minute before the Devil turns round, the moment when you’ve convinced yourself that he won’t come to collect on the deal after all.

The moment when you’re so sure you’re going to get away with it that you actually start pronouncing all the words you meant to hide behind the slurs.

Altamont here we come.


2 thoughts on “NO SHELTER HERE (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #50)


    First, I take a back seat to no one in my awe and love and admiration of JohnPaulGeorgeRingo. The two most locked-forever-into-my-memory events of that decade are the moments I was told that the President had been shot (seventh grade geography class with Mrs. Smith) and watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan (in the banquet room of the Kingston House for a classmate’s Bat Mitzvah celebration).

    Our world would be a different and lesser place had they never met one and decided to form a band decades ago.

    Second, if you were to abandon me on the hypothetical desert island where so many rock critics end up with a tape-player that magically never runs down and gave me a choice of one tape that has all of the Beatles recorded output of 1969 (basically LET IT BE and ABBEY ROAD) and another that has just one Stones track, “Gimme Shelter,” I wouldn’t even have to think about it.

    Thirdly, thanks for bringing my attention to the video above. I recently spent some time watching several performances of “Gimme Shelter” of more recent vintage on YouTube. It remains one of the more brilliant spots in the older Stones’ repertoire. But as fine a singer as Lisa Fisher is, she just don’t get where the song is coming from. Merry Clayton sounded like a Banshee announcing imminent death; Ms. Fisher sounds like too many contemporary female singers who confuse over-the-top histrionics with genuine emotion.

    Yada yoda blah blah and keep on keepin’ on,


    PS: The only role the Rolling Stone played in Altamont was being there . . .

  2. Ah yes, The Beatles and The Stones…Have to say I was solidly in the Beatles camp as a lad. As I’ve grown older I’ve swung round in that I listen to the Stones a lot more. Who knows what old age will bring?

    Glad you liked the video…It never occurred to me previously that the best approach to not having Merry Clayton there was to cut out that part entirely! And I agree that Fischer and others who have taken on the part don’t quite cut it even though they have the vocal chops. Clayton was raised in church, which makes a difference even if you leave it (which she didn’t)…I’ll bet the others weren’t, really, even if they attended regularly.

    As to Altamont, I’d only add, yeah…and being the Rolling Stones. Everything has a price.

    …Oh yeah, I envy you older dudes the Beatles-on-Sullivan experience. I might have traded ten years off my life to experience it–have to see how the rest of the journey goes to say for sure (lol)!

Leave a Reply