Mick Jagger once picked “the best song The Rolling Stones have ever written”

The 1960s saw the transformation of pop culture unlike ever before, with youth-led movements defined by innovative fashion, music and art changing the course of history. Leading this cultural revolution were many British bands, such as The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones.

While The Beatles remained the most successful and influential act of the period, The Rolling Stones have continued to release music, enduring for decades as one of the most accomplished British bands of all time. With 30 studio albums and counting, the band aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. However, many fans are wondering if the band will ever be able to top their greatest hits, such as ‘Gimme Shelter’, which Mick Jagger once called “the best song that the Rolling Stones have ever written”.

The song was released in 1969, appearing on the band’s eighth album, Let It Bleed. Many people consider ‘Gimme Shelter’ a highlight of the Stones’ career, as does Jagger. The song is one of Martin Scorsese’s favourites too, who has used it on the soundtrack of his films Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed.

The song features female vocals from Merry Clayton, who recorded the take late at night before going back to bed. The result is a tremendous accompaniment to Jagger’s vocals, nearing on screams as she delivers prominent lines such as “Rape, murder! It’s just a shot away! It’s just a shot away!”

According to Jagger, who was speaking via NPR, “We thought, ‘Well, it’d be great to have a woman come and do the rape/murder verse,’ or chorus, or whatever you want to call it.’ We randomly phoned up this poor lady in the middle of the night, and she arrived in her curlers and proceeded to do that in one or two takes, which is pretty amazing. She came in and knocked off this rather odd lyric. It’s not the sort of lyric you give everyone — ‘Rape, murder/ It’s just a shot away’ — but she really got into it, as you can hear on the record. She joins the chorus. It’s been a great live song ever since.”

During an interview with Rolling Stone, Jagger further discussed the song. He explained: “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. The thing about Vietnam was that it wasn’t like World War II, and it wasn’t like Korea, and it wasn’t like the Gulf War”.

“It was a real nasty war, and people didn’t like it. People objected, and people didn’t want to fight it … That’s a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It’s apocalypse; the whole record’s like that.”

Listen to the song below.

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