This song is one of the most primal songs ever recorded*, which is appropriate, because the whole song is a desperate cry for survival, for an end to all violence. “Gimme Shelter” is my favorite Stones song and one of my favorite songs period. I’ve always felt like they tapped into something deeper in “Gimme Shelter”, something that claws at my soul or my heart or something inside me whenever I hear it. You don’t get that with other classic Rolling Stones songs, like “Satisfaction” or “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, great as they are. “Shelter” is a singular song, overflowing with rage and passion, exemplified nowhere better than when guest vocalist Merry Clayton’s shrieks “Rape, murder!”, cutting through the guitars. Ironically, “Shelter” is associated with a notorious act of rock concert violence, when, at a concert at Altamont Speedway, security provided by the Hell’s Angels stabbed and killed 18-year-old Meredith Hunter as he tried to rush the stage. The song the Stones were playing at the time was actually “Under My Thumb”, but the name of the documentary that caught the murder on film was Gimme Shelter. It’s almost fitting- “Gimme Shelter” strikes me as a violent song, as if the Stones are zealous enough that they just might resort to violence in order to put an end to violence. They sound as if they’ll throttle you to get your attention. But that’s a testimony to the intensity of their performance and not to any actual violent intent. Regardless- this is the best Rolling Stones song ever.
*I say “ever recorded”, but the truth is, I’m 22, and I haven’t heard every song ever recorded. So what I really mean is “most primal songs my 22-year-old ears have ever heard.”