Gimme Shelter (from the 1969 Let It Bleed album) seems to be a rather negative and cautionary song, with all the lyrical talk of war, violence, pillaging, floods, rape and murder all being "just a shot away."
But in the end, hope prevails, as Mick reminds us of the contrast:
"Love, sister, is just a kiss away ... "
Every day humans are killing other humans somewhere -- but, every day, somewhere, humans are falling in love.
Special credit to this song goes to Merry Clayton on backup vocals, in one of the best studio rock vocal performances ever. Right from the start, her backup "ooooo - oooooo -- ooooo" is haunting, letting us know that this is no ordinary rock song.
Listen to her voice cracking with strain and emotion at around the three minute mark on this song -- never has the intensity of a rock song been captured so well. If you listen closely, you can hear Mick shout "Woo!" as she is hitting her high notes, out of amazement at her performance. Producers decided to leave it on the track, along with the voice cracking, which gives the song an awesome, almost spine-tingling live feel.
The story is that when Clayton returned home from the studio that day, she suffered a miscarriage. Many attribute that sad loss to the strain she put herself through hitting those high notes.
The opening guitar riff by Keith also rates as some of the most mesmerizing music in rock history. All at once it is moody and spooky, some sweet, brooding electric blues. Mick joins the song with a siren blast of a harmonica. Makes me want to get me some shelter.
Enjoy the song. I am this very minute.