Bonus Q. of the Week: Does ‘Gimme Shelter’ Still Deliver?

Since we’re on somewhat of a Stones jag this month, and I coincidentally spotted the movie on cable the other day, the question occurred. All members seem nonplussed while reviewing the stabbing footage – disaffected, really. The rest views like a template for This Is Spinal Tap.

Does it stand up as well as, let’s say, Woodstock, Monterey Pop or even Rock and Roll Circus and Let It Be?

2 thoughts on “Bonus Q. of the Week: Does ‘Gimme Shelter’ Still Deliver?

  1. Gimme Shelter – like all those late 60s rock films (Monterey, Woodstock, Psych Out, Riot On Sunset Strip) – does take itself seriously. However given its subject matter, more so than most. I loved this film for the Stones and seriousness when seeing it 30 years ago as an impressionable late teen, finding out all about the weird sixties stuff. I still love it now, but because it is serious and funny at the same time. It’s like a lounge party from Hell, a rock’n’roll gig for evil flower children. The naked fat woman, the dog so nonchalantly crossing the stage, the wild black dancing pimp, the menacing looking racoon hatted Hells Angel, and the larger-than-life Melvin Belli.
    These characters never cease to amaze – it’s what a rock film would have looked like if Fellini directed (unlike Reiner with his straightforward American take on Tap). A carnival of lost souls dancing to the tune of the pied piper, except that the best the piper can offer is “Will you all cool it?” and “Brothers and sisters why are we fighting?”. Clueless really. So much so, that the Angels and the man with the gun really are the pipers. So why it may be like Tap in being funy and serious, it stands apart from it and other rock films in that it is edgy, nervous, and addled. As for the Stones reactions, one senses they didn’t fully comprehend what happened, that they still had to come to terms with it. Any reaction would have seemed glib. And, oh yeah, the music is great.

  2. I concur whole heartedly with Mark Fichera. Whilst inherently disturbing at one level, Gimme Shelter is in my opinion one of the most remarkable rock films I have ever seen. I also recall the legendary rock critic, Lester Bangs, writing that he was actually at Altamont and that he really dug it and much preferred it to Woodstock. There are two other notable characters in Gimme Shelter of course. One was the Stones road manager, Sam Cutler, who culturally brought a certain “chips and gravyness” to the whole event. The other was Sonny Barger, Hells Angel supremo, whose opening radio interview remarks in the wake of the Altamont fiasco must surely go down as one of the greatest firebrand speeches of the 20th Century. There will never be another concert like it…(thank goodness I hear from some quarters)

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