Sunday, August 23, 2020

Merry Clayton - 50 Years Ago

Merry Clayton
The AM radio show, heard Fridays on iHeart Radio and at Daybreak USA (click on the sidebar), recently highlighted the seminal performances of two of rock's greatest singers; two women whose names you probably don't know: Clare Torry, whose gospel vocal on Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky" is one of rock's shining moments; and Merry Clayton on the Rolling Stones' "Gimmer Shelter." While a myriad of rock's greatest singers have legions of familiar offerings, there are those whose repertoire consists of just one song, and that's all we need.

Imagine "Great Gig" with just Wright's tune and keys and Gilmour's slide guitar – still phenomenal, but, come on…

Same with "Gimme Shelter." Keith's "freaky, tremolo-drenched riff is something straight out of the future — or at least "a very chilling alternate present,” as Guitar World put it, but remove Merry Clayton's howl and yowl and what have you got? A pretty good Stones tune but again that's all.

Jagger remembers that "we randomly phoned up this poor lady in the middle of the night, and she arrived in her curlers and proceeded to do that in one or two takes, which is pretty amazing. She came in and knocked off this rather odd lyric. It’s not the sort of lyric you give anyone — 'Rape, murder/It’s just a shot away' — but she really got into it, as you can hear on the record." Pregnant and getting ready for bed before she got the call from producer Jack Nitzsche, Merry politely bowed out until her husband said: "Honey, you know, you really should go and do this date." The incredible performance, though, would indeed turn tragic. That night, Clayton miscarried. 

Merry, though, turned what is assuredly a good song – but no more – into rock canon.

No comments:

Post a Comment