Friday, 12 July 2013

Merry Any Day Of The Year

"Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_a0zOLMAfw

Back when the Rolling Stones were my favourite band (a long time ago, back when I still had favourite things), this was my favourite Rolling Stones song. So I guess even when I knew nothing, I knew something. I've been reminded of it because, earlier this week, I heard a radio interview with the director of a documentary called Twenty Feet from Stardom, which is about back-up singers. Among those featured is Merry Clayton, who in this number sings back-up to Mick Jagger and who blows him out of the water despite his being in very fine and graceful fettle himself (it's hard to hear in the mix, but listen for his growl of appreciation and encouragement from behind her for how she's raised a third warning cry about rape and murder during her turn up front).

Yup. It's Ms. Clayton who blows not only Mr. Jagger out of the water, but all the players as well, and lifts the whole thing into an ocean sky of pure aural splendour. Without her, "Gimme Shelter" would be a pretty good punch-in-the-gut rock song; with her, not only does your gut get punched, your flesh gets goosed, you hair raised, your spine tingled, your blood heated, your heart gladdened, and your circuits repaired: you're hearing a true and magnificent Wow! song. I love great female voices singing greatly, as Merry Clayton's does on this song, and even though I can't sing for shit myself, I still do it a lot when I'm alone. But I gotta admit I don't even try to accompany Ms. Clayton here -- hell, I can't even keep up with Sir Mick on this number. Instead, I settle for playing clumsy but energetic air drums to Charlie Watts's primal ferocity, and tell myself I don't need no stinking aerobics and that sometimes it's good just to shut up -- easy to do, as long as I get to listen to "Gimme Shelter" once in a while.
Oh, yes: I have got to see that movie. (Gotta stop spending so much time alone, too, I guess . . . Well, no, maybe not -- if I did that, I'd have to cut down on my singing.)

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