The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter Cover Mick Jagger once said about the aforementioned song 'That's a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It's apocalyptic. The whole record's like that'. Yet, the thing is, one the weirdest aspects about this very true statement is that it can also be said about this 91-minutes documentary made in 1970! Yeah. If you don't believe me. Just ask Mick.

The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter

Imagine that you're a member of the legendary Rock Group, 'The Rolling Stones', and that you're standing on stage at the Altamont Free Concert, California, on the 6th of December, 1969. Next, I want you to decide what member of the Stones you might want to be. Mick Jagger. Charlie Watts. Mick Taylor. Keith Richards. Bill Wyman. Whoever. It doesn't really matter all that much if truth be told. Because you're still going to try and play the following songs to all in sundry.

  • Jumpin' Jack Flash
  • (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
  • You Gotta Move
  • Wild Horses (in studio at Muscle Shoals)
  • Brown Sugar
  • Love in Vain
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Street Fighting Man
  • Sympathy for the Devil
  • Under My Thumb
  • Gimme Shelter

Oh! But wait up. I best mention the supporting artists performing at this gig as well...
  • I've Been Loving You Too Long -- with Ike and Tina Turner
  • The Other Side of This Life -- with Jefferson Airplane
  • Six Days on the Road -- with the Flying Burrito Brothers

Now to top off this rather bohemian experience with a touch more candour, I best refer to the subsequent inserts scattered throughout this staged set. Such as: (1) 'The Stones' in concert at NYC. (2) A radio broadcast, where one of the members of the Hell's Angel justifies killing a member of the audience at Altamont. (3) How a lawyer tried to arrange for the band to play at said venue prior to this tragic incident happening. (4) Numerous scenes capturing the guys at the studio, at their hotel, and at a press-conference too. Plus (5) The sad set of circumstances full of love, riots, hate, joviality, drugs, and peace, resulting in music to be played, and a disaster in the making.

And with that, music lover, you can now go back to your normal lives a changed person. Nuff said.  

Now after quite a bit of deliberation, I thought that it would be very astute of me to explain how I thought about 'Gimme Shelter', by elaborating on a tale of times past.

The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter Poster
Picture the scene. Me. Roughly eleven years old. Walking home from school with one of my mates. Now after about five or six minutes of jovially walking and talking together, me and my pal part ways. I turn right and walk through the park that's adjacent to my parental home. And she crosses the road on the left to catch a local bus nearby. When suddenly -- BANG -- a car hits my mate full on, and propels her limp body up into the air, before landing bang-smash onto the hard surface below her.

I don't know what to do. Honestly I don't. I just freeze. I'm stunned. I can't think. People around me call the emergency services to save my mate's life. And all I can seem to muster is stand -- motionless -- to see what happens next.

Listen. Don't get me wrong. I want to do something. Anything. But I can't bring myself to do it. I'm paralysed. Numb.  Unsure of my very own actions.

However, as time passes by a tick at a time, I begin to see everything gradually unfold before my very eyes. The police turn up and take names. Passers-by give statements and gossip amongst themselves. Plus the ambulance service eventually arrives and whisks my mate away.

She's dead. She's no more. And now -- as I write this very review -- I can't even remember her bloody name.

My bad. My bad. My bad.

Mick Jagger at Altamont

Mick Jagger at Altamont
Anyway -- phew! --  I do apologise for rambling on like that, dear reader. I just felt that this incident basically summed up my feelings towards 'Gimme Shelter' to a tea. Parts of me liked the joviality of its inception and the music it played. Part's of me was shocked by the strange series of circumstances that led up to the tragic demise which happened at the end of it. And other part's of me was just stunned at how this death unfolded in the first place.   

Well, it's very strange you know. Seeing someone get stabbed at a venue meant for peace and love. For the life of me, you could tell that everything was going to end badly as soon as it begun.

Not only was the planning stage rather slap-dash to say the very least, but once the shindig eventually kicked off, you could almost tell that the mixture of drug-addled peace-nix and hard-core Hell's Angels, was a recipe that spelt disaster.

The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter

The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter Poster
Here. Just look at some of these facts for the full 411. (1) 'Maysles Films' first released this production on the same day that the Cleveland Cavaliers achieved their first home victory by beating the Buffalo Braves in the NBA -- the 6th of December, 1970. (2) 'Gimme Shelter' was the lead track on the 'Rolling Stones' 1969 album, 'Let It Bleed'. (3) Originally this concert was going to be held at Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco, or Sears Point Raceway, in Sonoma. But to cut a long story short, both of these venues didn't want to hold a 'Stones' concert, and that is why they ended up at Altamont, a mere 24 hours before it started. (4) Now some of the supporting artists who weren't recorded for this film, included: B.B. King, Santana, plus Crosby Stills Nash & Young. Also, on a side note, The Grateful Dead refused to play at all, because of an incident earlier in the day involving a member of the 'Hells Angels'. (5) The director of this concert movie, Albert Maysles, once said that George [Star Wars] Lucus was one of the many cameramen who recorded this show, yet none of his stuff was used in the final film because his camera suddenly jammed during production, and it was deemed unusable. (6) No wonder 'Premiere' magazine voted this movie as one of 'The 25 Most Dangerous Movies' of all time! Not only was a member of the audience, Meredith Hunter, killed upon the opening verse of 'Under My Thumb' [not 'Sympathy for the Devil', as it was previously presumed], but after this event, two more people died in a hit-and run incident, and another fell into a ditch and died of suffocation. (7) I kid you not, when Mick Jagger first arrived at Altamont in a helicopter, he was quickly punched in the face by an unruly fan whilst making his way to his trailer. (8) 'The Stones' wouldn't play 'Symphony for the Devil' for six long years after this performance, because the press stated that this song was 'jinxed', and caused the aforementioned deaths.

Meredith Hunter in Gimme Shelter

The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter Music
All in all I'd say that 'Gimme Shelter' is a very emotional experience indeed. The songs were great. The death was tragic. The style of this piece was enveloping and told a very earnest series of events. Plus the way that the band was allowed to comment on what happened, was undeniably timely and bold.

But still, the question remains, why?  Huh? Why did the person who died bring a gun along with him to a concert? Why did the organisers arrange for the Hell's Angels to be security guards? Why couldn't the Hell's Angels handle the crowd in a more diplomatic fashion? And why, why, why, oh why, can't I remember my school mate's name?

I suppose sometimes shit happens, huh? Class concert. Needs to be seen to be believed.


THE ROLLING STONES - GIMME SHELTER THE ROLLING STONES - GIMME SHELTER Reviewed by David Andrews on September 04, 2013 Rating: 5
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