The Rolling Stones song ‘Gimme Shelter’ has provided a special moment in the band’s live set for over half a century, always inducing goosebumps when Jagger’s vocals erupt to produce a hurricane of emotions. This performance in question from 1975 is no different and explains precisely why The Stones are the world’s premier rock ‘n’ roll band.
Performing live has always been The Rolling Stones’ bed and butter thanks to the whirling energy of their peacocking frontman Mick Jagger, who parades around the stage like a Duracell bunny. If you combine his showmanship with the sheer musical prowess of the rest of the band, there are few more extraordinary sights.
The 1960s was a wild decade with The Stones at the forefront of a swashbuckling typhoon that lit the world up as a bright new dawning arrived and changed everything forever.
Although The Stones aren’t the most political band ever to exist — they couldn’t bring themselves to stand idly by while atrocities took place across Vietnam, which they lament on the impassioned ‘Gimme Shelter’.
“That song was written during the Vietnam War, and so it’s very much about the awareness that war is always present; it was very present in life at that point,” Jagger later commented on the masterpiece.
“Merry Clayton who did the backing vocals was a background singer who was known to one of the producers. Suddenly, we wanted someone to sing in the middle of the night. And she was around. She came with her curlers in, straight from bed, and had to sing this really odd lyric. For her it was a little odd – for anyone, in the middle of the night, to sing this one verse I would have been odd. She was great.”
In a conversation with NPR, Clayton nonchalantly recalled her moment within the track: “We went in the booth to listen, and I saw them hooting and hollering while I was singing, but I didn’t know what they were hooting and hollering about,” she said, before adding: “And when I got back in the booth and listened, I said, Ooh, that’s really nice. They said, well, You want to do another? I said, well, I’ll do one more, I said, and then I’m going to have to say thank you and good night. I did one more, and then I did one more. So it was three times I did it, and then I was gone. The next thing I know, that’s history.”
Although Clayton is absent from this live performance in 1975, the crowd fill her boots with style. The thousands in the audience offer up some spine-tingling backing vocals, which evoke warm memories of gigs from yesteryear that touchwood doesn’t remain too far out of sight before they make their long-awaited return.
The Stones are on flying form throughout the rendition, which epitomises why bands fit to lace their boots in 1975 was so few and far between. It’s an irresistible performance from The Stones, who are firing on all cylinders as they deliver a magnetic version of the timeless ‘Gimme Shelter. Soak it in.