Top 100 singles of all time: 70 – The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter

rolling stones paint it black sleeve art

I think both the inclusion and the placement of the Stones in my list are appropriate. The Rolling Stones are one of the most obnoxiously overhyped bands in the history of music, but this song is f***ing phenomenal. It is, without doubt, one of the very finest pieces of music ever to be committed to vinyl. The 70th finest, in my opinion. 

Gimme Shelter first appeared on the 1969 album Let It Bleed, and was mispelled “gimmie”, though this was corrected in subsequent recordings. Following the death of the hippy dream, the horror of the Vietnam war felt apocalyptic (now) to Mick Jagger, and he reflected that in the song’s dark lyrics. Keith Richards had been working on a guitar melody, and the two roped in Merry Clayton at the producer’s behest to provide the memorable backing vocals. The strain of singing was too much for her: her voice cracks twice on the record, and she suffered a miscarriage on the way home. (I can’t think of anything suitably sympathetic to add here.)

According to Wikipedia, Gimme Shelter was never actually released as a single. I didn’t know this, which of course makes the track ineligible for the list. Given that I don’t really like anything else by the Stones, I’m going to struggle …

… hang on a minute …

OK. Got one. Paint It, Black. (No, I didn’t know it had a comma, either. It didn’t to start with, but Decca added one in.) That was released in 1966 and was the first number one to feature a sitar. So, to satisfy any pedants in the audience, we’ll say that number 70 is this:

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and then the rest of us can kick back and enjoy the Stones’ true justification for their existence:

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