Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter (on Ed Sullivan)

That ranking of Stones’ tunes I posted about earlier in the week ends, if you get that far, with You Can’t Always Get What You Want edging Gimme Shelter because it’s less of a cliche about the Stones. Happy song wins, dark song finishes second.

Fair enough.

But then there is this clip. The Stones on the Ed Sullivan show promoting Let It Bleed. And they do a version of Gimme Shelter without Merry Clayton! Still a good song, but stripped down, without the fire, is this close to the Stones’ best song?

I leave that for you to decide for yourself. For me the issue is how much does what we love hinge on the tangential, or not the core of the tune or the performance. Is it the singer, the song, or the backup singer and the mix? Each and every cut varies because the circumstances of the performance, the particulars of its creation, differ.

So, why rank them? If something can be both this and that, and something else also, isn’t the ranking of them a narrowing of vision, a squinting (in this case with the ears) that restricts the experience?

3 thoughts on “Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter (on Ed Sullivan)

  1. Interesting that Mick is singing but the band isn’t playing. That’s the album track. I think it’s absurd to rank their songs beyond a certain point – maybe categories from “top shelf” to “bottom of the barrel” would work – but any way you slice it Gimme Shelter is among their best. Three chords too. But it definitely misses Merry Clayton. The third time she sings “murder” is like the smile on the Mona Lisa. I saw her do it live BTW, in Central Park opening for BB King, and I regret to report that she didn’t come close to hitting it just right.

  2. Sorry it took me so long to get to this.

    1) Gotta love lip-synchs, especially band-synchs. Especially fun to hear Charlie do the fundamental fill down the drums while he’s tapping lightly on the high hat.

    2) What’s that cool clear guitar Keef is pretending to play?

    3) I think the song is still killer enough without the Merry Clayton part. In fact, I think the song has kinda been buried by the Merry Clayton part over the years.

    4) I was just a little kid when Ed Sullivan was happening. Never quite realized how he’s sort of his own species. The same was said about Charles Nelson Reilly.

  3. The guitar is a Dan Armstrong. I had one for a few months in 1974. They were cheap. JT also played one in the early Dolls. Keith played that guitar all through the ’69 tour, with a wall of Ampeg amps.

    Ed Sullivan was a big New York Dailly News gossip/theatre columnist way before and during his long TV run. I just looked it up: he was on from 1948-1971. He wrote for newspapers in the 19-teens.

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