Thursday, November 28, 2019

50 years ago: The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” released on Let It Bleed

Gimme Shelter

The Rolling Stones

Writer(s): Mick Jagger, Keith Richards (see lyrics here)

Released: November 28, 1969 on Let It Bleed album

First Charted: November 28, 1998

Peak: 29 AR, 1 CL, 42 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.6 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 128.55 video, 377.46 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

One of the Rolling Stones most acclaimed albums, 1969’s Let It Bleed kicks off with “this brooding, apocalyptic salvo – as if, despite the peace and love elsewhere, the Rolling Stones had tapped into an altogether dark vein. ‘Rape, murder – it’s just a shot away’ (as backing vocalist Merry Clayton screams midway through) were not then staples of 1960s songwriting.” XFM At the time of the album’s release, Greil Marcus praised the song in Rolling Stone magazine, saying the group had “never done anything better.” WK

Singer Mick Jagger explained to NPR that “It was a very moody piece about the world closing in on you a bit.” WK He told Rolling Stone magazine, “Well, it’s a very rough, very violent era. The Vietnam War. Violence on the screens, pillage and burning. And Vietnam was not war as we knew it in the conventional sense…It was a real nasty war…People objected, and people didn't want to fight it…That’s a kind of end-of-the-world song, really.” WK

Guitarist Keith Richards asserted that the song wasn’t initially about social unrest or Vietnam, but seeing people scurrying for shelter from a rain storm. WK He wrote the “signature opening riff” in London while his girlfriend, Anita Pallenburg, was filming Performance with Jagger. Richards said the song’s tension grew out of his jealousy at seeing Anita and Mick together and his suspicion that they were having an affair. WK

Clayton’s backing vocals on the song have been called “the most prominent contribution to a Rolling Stones track by a female vocalist.” WK Producer Jimmy Miller thought it needed a female voice and producer Jack Nitzsche called her WK late at night while the Stones were recording in Los Angeles. She said in the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom that she showed up in silk pajamas with curlers in her hair. SF She “delivered a chilling vocal” SF in just a few takes while heavily pregnant and returned home to bed. She later suffered a miscarriage, which some have attributed to her exertion in recording the song. WK

While the Stones never released this as a single, Clayton recorded her own version in 1970 and released it. It reached #73.


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Rolling Stones
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia
  • XFM Mike Walsh (editor) (2010). The XFM Top 1000 Songs of All Time. Elliott & Thompson Limited: London, England. Pages 367-8.

Related Links:

First posted 10/26/2021; last updated 8/3/2022.

50 years ago: The Rolling Stones released Let It Bleed

Let It Bleed

The Rolling Stones

Released: November 28, 1969

Peak: 3 US, 11 UK, 4 CN, 2 AU

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.3 UK, 6.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classic rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Gimme Shelter [4:31] (11/28/98, 1 CL, 29 AR, 42 CN)
  2. Love in Vain [4:19] (Robert Johnson) (13 CL)
  3. Country Honk [3:09]
  4. Live with Me [3:33] (14 CL)
  5. Let It Bleed [5:26] (1/70, 5 CL)
  6. Midnight Rambler [6:52] (5 CL)
  7. You Got the Silver [2:51] (1/70, B-side of “Let It Bleed,” 25 CL)
  8. Monkey Man [4:12] (7 CL)
  9. You Can’t Always Get What You Want [7:28] (7/4/69, 42 US, 34 CB, 36 HR, 1 CL, 1 AU)

All songs written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 42:21

The Players:

  • Mick Jagger (vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitar)
  • Keith Richards (guitar, backing vocals)
  • Brian Jones (congas, autoharp)
  • Bill Wyman (bass, autoharp, vibraphone)
  • Charlie Watts (drums)
  • Mick Taylor (guitar)
  • Nicky Hopkins (piano, organ)
  • Ian Stewart (piano on “Let It Bleed”)


4.617 out of 5.00 (average of 31 ratings)

Quotable: --

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

The Rolling Stones were in turmoil when they recorded Let It Bleed. Brian Jones, the guitarist who originally lead the group, was booted during the sessions for his serious drug problem. He died less than a month later. His final work appears on two tracks on the album. Songs “’Monkey Man,’ ‘Let It Bleed’ and ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ cast a sharp writer’s eye on the decay seeping into the Stones’ camp, proving that Mick had become more than a pair of lips and hips.” IB As such, Let It Bleed “finds the band, for perhaps the first time, accurately reflecting the spirit of its age. [They] now found themselves firmly in the center of the social and political post-‘68 whirlwind, and faced up to the challenge magnificently.” CDU

In bridging their past with their future, Let It Bleed showcases “every role the Stones have ever played…swaggering studs, evil demons, harem keepers and fast life riders—what the Stones meant in the Sixties” RS – while also signaling the beginning of the ‘70s as the Stones reached “for an uncertain mastery over the more desperate situations the coming years are about to enforce.” RS

“The erstwhile bad boy outsiders of rock” CDU “confident climb to its artistic peak” CDU “was begun by Beggar’s Banquet, but Let It Bleed is a quantum leap even from that musical milestone.” CDU Those two albums and 1971’s “Sticky Fingers formulated the Stones’ stadium sound and established their louche swagger, camp raunch and sometimes-cod-sometimes-retro sensibilities as the lasting blueprint of international rock’n’roll.” QM

“Refining the country and blues-print of Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed is less of an homage than its predecessor, as the songs begin to reflect the personalities that drive them.” IB “But the entire album, although a motley compound of country, blues and gospel fire, rattles and burns with apocalyptic cohesion.” RS500

Musically, Keith Richards played more guitar than ever and offered up a “musical vision…more intimate than ever, incorporating the restrained rhythm playing that would become his calling card.” IB There are also “spirited, soulful contributions from…Nicky Hopkins, and new boy Mick Taylor,” IB who filled in on guitar on two tracks. In addition, Ry Cooder and Al Kooper appear.

Fittingly, Let It Bleed “contains some of the band’s most eerie hits” AZ as it “extends the rock & blues feel of Beggar’s Banquet into slightly harder-rocking, more demonically sexual territory.” AMG

Gimme Shelter “came to symbolize not only the catastrophe of the Stones’ free show at Altamont but the death of the utopian spirit of the 1960s.” RS500 The song “is the sound of a frantically braking freight train about to crush the ‘60s under its wheels” IB as it “leads us decisively out of Flower Power and into a world where rape and murder are ‘just a shot away.’” CDU

With “its insuating guitar introduction” CDU and “shimmering guitar lines and apocalyptic lyrics” AMG throughout, the song “builds on the dark beauty of the finest melody Mick and Keith have ever written.” RS The song “slowly [adds] instruments and sounds until an explosively full presence of bass and drums rides…into the howls of Mick and…Mary Clayton.” RS “She can stand up to Mick and match him, and in fact, she steals the song.” RS “The Stones have never done anything better.” RS

“The Stones take their last significant look at pure blues…and country…before folding both styles into a cohesive rock & roll vision.” AZ In regards to the latter, the Stones offer up “the spare country settings of Country Honk,” IB “the two-stepping alter ego of ‘Honky-Tonk Women.’” AZ

“It’s thrilling to hear Keith’s exuberance [on that] and his first solo spot, You Got the Silver,” IB “a haunting ride through the diamond mines,” RS that displayed both the country and blues elements. As for the lead vocal duties, Keith He apparently earned the role after an engineer accidentally erased Jagger’s version.

Nowhere was the Stones bluesy nature on better display than the “spooky” AZ and “brilliant revival of Robert Johnson’s exquisite Love in Vain,” RS “a mandolin-accompanied highlight.” CDU That song and “Silver” “were as close to the roots of acoustic down-home blues as the Stones ever got.” AMG

In the album’s middle trifecta, “the Stones prance through all their familiar roles, with their Rolling Stones masks on, full of lurking evil, garish sexuality, and the hilarious and exciting posturing of rock and roll Don Juans.” RS There’s “the sex-mad desperation of Live with MeRS500 alongside “the druggy party ambience of the title track.” AMG

Then, for good measure, there’s “ some steam-powered harmonica” IB on “the murderous blues” RS500 of “Mick Jagger’s menacing Midnight RamblerAZ in which he sounds like a bloodthirsty stalker.

On “the drug-reality anthem Monkey Man,” AZ the Stones “grandly submit to the image they’ve carried for almost the whole decade, and then crack up digging it: ‘All my friends are junkies! (That’s not really true...).’” RS The song also serves up “Keith Richards’ lethal, biting guitar.” RS500

“The stunning” AMG You Can’t Always Get What You Want, with its “epic moralism…honky-tonk piano and massed vocal chorus” RS500 “is one of the most outrageous productions ever staged by a rock and roll band.” RS It “was the Stones’ ‘Hey Jude’ of sorts, with its epic structure, horns, philosophical lyrics, and swelling choral vocals.” AMG “Every note…works to perfection: the slow, virginal choral introduction; the intensely moving, really despairing sounds of Kooper’s horn and Keith’s slow strum; and then the first verse and first chorus by Mick, singing almost unaccompanied. From there it dissolves and builds again with surges of organ, lovely piano ripples, long lead electric runs by Richards, drumming that carries the song over every crescendo—music that begins in a mood of complete tragedy and fatigue and ends with optimism and complete exuberance.” RS

The song “looks for satisfaction in resignation” RS as it tells the tale of “a party in a Chelsea mansion, the singer meeting a strung-out, vicious girl he apparently knew from some years before, when things were different all around. It moves from there into street-fighting and frustration, and then to the strangest scene of all, a young man trying to strike up some sort of friendship with an old man who’s past it.” RS It was “a song about…learning to take what you can get, because the rules have changed with the death of the Sixties.” RS

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First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 9/4/2021.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Dave’s Music Database Hall of Fame: Album Inductees (Nov. 2019)

Originally posted 11/22/2019.

January 22, 2019 marked the 10-year anniversary of the DMDB blog. To honor that, Dave’s Music Database announced its own Hall of Fame. This month marks the fourth batch of album inductees. Only 11 albums have achieved the trifecta of winning the Grammy for Album of the Year, being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and being named to the National Recording Registry. Two of these have already been inducted into the Dave’s Music Database Hall of Fame – The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Michael Jackson Thriller (1982). A third album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart is not eligible as it is a comedy album, not a music album. That leaves eight albums to be inducted this month.

See the full list of album inductees here.

Fleetwood Mac Rumours (1977)

Inducted November 2019 for “The Trifecta: Grammy for Album of the Year, Grammy Hall of Fame, National Recording Registry.”

“Intense, internal drama always adds a kick to a final piece of work…[and] few bands can equal Fleetwood Mac…[for] their angst.” DV “Keyboardist Christine McVie sparred with husband/bassist John, and singer Stevie Nicks scrapped with boyfriend/guitarist Lindsay Buckingham.” CDU “The resulting romantic pressure-cooker” AZ produced “a tour de force” BN which made Rumours “the ultimate hangover album for the lovestruck.” DV and “an album that defined a decade.” DV Read more.

Judy Garland Judy at Carnegie Hall (1961)

Inducted November 2019 for “The Trifecta: Grammy for Album of the Year, Grammy Hall of Fame, National Recording Registry.”

Judy Garland became Hollywood royalty, thanks to performances in classics like The Wizard of Oz, but struggled personally and professionally in the late ‘50s. “This live recording…would (rightfully) bring the legendary icon back into the spotlight.” AZ “This is easily one of pop music’s greatest live recordings and a fine testament to Garland’s recorded legacy.” AZ “With relentless verve, Garland takes on her entire musical catalogue with astonishing aplomb. There is little sign of the decades of self-abuse which had left her frail by the early ‘60s.” AMG Read more.

Carole King Tapestry (1971)

Inducted November 2019 for “The Trifecta: Grammy for Album of the Year, Grammy Hall of Fame, National Recording Registry.”

Carole King made a name herself in the 1960s as a songwriter with her husband Gerry Goffin, but on Tapestry “reaches even greater heights as a performer.” AMG She “created the archetype of the female singer-songwriter” TL by insisting she be heard as “human, with all the cracks and imperfections that implies.” RC “The music is loose, earthy, L.A. session-pop” AZ delivered “with a sharpness worthy of a Brooklyn girl.” RC Read more.

Henry Mancini Music from Peter Gunn (1959)

Inducted November 2019 for “The Trifecta: Grammy for Album of the Year, Grammy Hall of Fame, National Recording Registry.”

In 1958, “Peter Gunn was one of the unexpected hits of the new television season, capturing the imagination of millions of viewers by mixing private eye action with a jazz setting. Composer Henry Mancini was more than fluent in jazz, and his music nailed down the popularity of the series.” AMG He created “a key piece of jazz and pop music history” AMG that is a “ valuable addition to any jazz or soundtrack collection of the era.” AMG Read more.

Paul Simon Graceland (1986)

Inducted November 2019 for “The Trifecta: Grammy for Album of the Year, Grammy Hall of Fame, National Recording Registry.”

In 1984, Paul Simon was inspired by a bootleg tape of South African music and, despite the United States’ economic sanctions against the country because of its apartheid government, he arranged a visit. He threw “his ears open to a host of new players and singers” TL and created “exotically fanciful collaborations” UT with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and others. The resulting introduction of world music into a pop arena gave listeners “that magical combination: something they’d never heard before that nevertheless sounded familiar.” AMG Read more.

U2 The Joshua Tree (1987)

Inducted November 2019 for “The Trifecta: Grammy for Album of the Year, Grammy Hall of Fame, National Recording Registry.”

In the early 1980s, U2 built a following first with college radio and then album rock. By the mid-‘80s, they were “spending more and more time with rock legends like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan” QM and were, as Rolling Stone magazine declared, “a band utterly determined to be Important.” RS With its “inspirational, larger-than-life gestures...that’s precisely what [The Joshua Tree] sounds like.” RS It wasn’t just the band’s blockbuster, but its “most varied, subtle and accessible album.” RS Read more.

Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

Inducted November 2019 for “The Trifecta: Grammy for Album of the Year, Grammy Hall of Fame, National Recording Registry.”

After securing an unprecedented $13 million contract with Motown, Stevie Wonder took two years – “an eternity in R&B” TL – to write his “longest, most ambitious collection of songs.” AMG His “Grand Artistic Statement” EK “featured more true classics than even most great artists write in a lifetime.” TL It is “like stumbling into a cave full of treasure” JM and not knowing “which piece of gold to stuff into [one’s] pocket first.” JM It “touched on nearly every issue under the sun, and did it all with ambitious (even for him), wide-ranging arrangements and some of the best performances of Wonder’s career.” AMG Read more.

Various Artists (including the Bee Gees) Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (1977)

Inducted November 2019 for “The Trifecta: Grammy for Album of the Year, Grammy Hall of Fame, National Recording Registry.”

“Every so often, a piece of music comes along that defines a moment in popular culture history;” AMG The disco soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever epitomized the latter half of the 1970s and made the Bee Gees the biggest group since the Beatles. They had “been exploring disco and funk rhythms on two albums before this one.” TM However, “the disco boom had seemingly run its course, primarily in Europe, and was confined mostly to Black culture and the gay underground in America.” AMG “The soundtrack “made disco explode into mainstream…with new immediacy and urgency.” AMG Read more.