I wrote “Gimme Shelter” on a stormy day, sitting in Robert Fraser’s apartment in Mount Street.
… I stayed there with Strawberry Bob and Mohammed, who were probably the first people I played it to. “War, children, it’s just a shot away…” It was just a terrible fucking day and it was storming out there. I was sitting there in Mount Street and there was this incredible storm over London, so I got into that mode, just looking out of Robert’s window and looking at all these people with their umbrellas being blown out of their grasp and running like hell. And the idea came to me. You get lucky sometimes. It was a shitty day. I had nothing better to do. Of course, it becomes much more metaphorical with all the other contexts and everything, but at the time I wasn’t thinking about, oh my God, there’s my old lady shooting a movie in a bath with Mick Jagger. My thought was storms on other people’s minds, not mine. It just happened to hit the moment. Only later did I realize, this will have more meaning than I thought at the time. “Threatening my very life today.” It’s got menace, all right. It’s scary stuff. And those chords are Jimmy Reed inspired—the same haunting trick, sliding up the fret board against the drone of the E note. I’m just working my way up A major, B major, and I go, hello, where are we ending up? C-sharp minor, OK. It’s a very unlikely guitar key. But you’ve just got to recognize the setups when you hear them. A lot of them, like this one, are accidents.
Richards, Keith. Life