In the span of about one hundred and thirty three years, we’ve seen the advent of the recorded form, the phonograph, multi-track recording, and then really crazy stuff like Pro Tools. The fine lad that is Quoperative has illustrated the breakdown of a classic track: “Gimme Shelter” by none other than The Rolling Stones.

Check out the web page. It’s an interesting exercise. Back before the big digital studio sessions of the 80’s and 90’s and high tech bedroom recordings, everything was committed to analog tape. Bands often recorded takes live off the floor. In this case, they didn’t. They recorded the original song on an eight track. They left interesting elements in songs that traditionally would be obliterated out of a mix and considered a mistake. They injected character and “feel” into music by doing stuff like this. Needless to say, this classic song isn’t short on the “interesting element” I’m talking about.  The female vocal is courtesy of Merry Clayton. There’s a bit of a story with her part in the recording of Gimme Shelter. According to Wikipedia:

Jagger said in the 2003 book According to… The Rolling Stones: “The use of the female voice was the producer’s idea. It would be one of those moments along the lines of ‘I hear a girl on this track – get one on the phone.’ ” Clayton gives her solo performance, and one of the song’s most famous pieces, after a solo performed by Richards, repeatedly singing “Rape, murder; It’s just a shot away, It’s just a shot away,” and finally screaming the final stanza. She and Jagger finish the song with the line, “Love, sister, it’s just a kiss away.” To date it remains one of the most prominent contributions to a Rolling Stones track by a female vocalist.[2]

At about 2:59 into the song, Clayton’s voice cracks twice from the strain of her powerful singing; once during the second refrain, on the word “shot” from the last line, and then again during the first line of the third and final refrain, on the word “murder”, after which Jagger can be heard saying “Whoo!” in response to Clayton’s emotional delivery. She suffered a miscarriage upon returning home, apparently due to the strain involved in reaching the highest notes.[3] Merry Clayton’s name was misspelled on the original release, appearing as ‘Mary’.

In an age where things are made easier with computers, this song defines “the take that you keep” in more ways than one.

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