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January 13, 2014

The Rolling Stones at 1969 Altamont Free Concert

The Altamont Speedway Free Festival was a counterculture-era rock concert held on Saturday, December 6, 1969, at the Altamont Speedway in northern California, between Tracy and Livermore. It featured, in order of appearance: Santana, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, with the Rolling Stones taking the stage as the final act. The Grateful Dead were also scheduled to perform, but declined to play shortly before their scheduled appearance due to the increasing violence at the venue.

Approximately 300,000 people attended the concert, and some anticipated that it would be a "Woodstock West." Filmmakers Albert and David Maysles shot footage of the event and incorporated it into a documentary film titled Gimme Shelter (1970). The event is best known for having been marred by considerable violence, including the death of Meredith Hunter and three accidental deaths: two caused by a hit-and-run car accident and one by drowning in an irrigation canal. Four births were reported during the event. Scores were injured, numerous cars were stolen and then abandoned, and there was extensive property damage. (Wikipedia)

Mick Jagger & Charlie Watts with Hells Angel. — Photograph © Ethan Russell. All rights reserved. From the start, the Altamont festival was a disaster in waiting. The stage was too low, the crowd too close, the Hells Angels too wired on beer and bad acid. Such was the rush to stage the festival that there were no food or drink outlets, and few toilets.

12/6/1969, CA – Eager rock fans storm the gate at Altamont Speedway here well in advance of the scheduled opening for a free rock festival featuring the Rolling Stones. A colossal traffic jam developed as rock fans converged on the site of the concert 50 miles southeast of San Francisco. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

1969, CA — Mick Jagger & Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones with Chuck Berry, here backstage. At earlier shows through the South on the Let It Bleed tour, Chuck Berry was their supporting act. Berry was without a doubt the biggest musical influence on the Stones. Early on, Richards and Wyman worshipped Berry and ordered his records from a shop in Chicago before they were available in England– it was mind-blowing for the Stones to have Chuck Berry on their tour. — Photograph © Ethan Russell. All rights reserved.

1969, CA — Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones with Rock ‘n’ Roll legend Chuck Berry, here backstage. At earlier shows through the South on the Let It Bleed North American tour, Chuck Berry (Keith Richards’ hero) opened for the Stones.– Photograph © Ethan Russell. All rights reserved.

Keith Richards, Mick Taylor & Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones warming up backstage in ’69. — photograph © Ethan Russell. All rights reserved.

Keith Richards & Mick Jagger backstage, 1969. — Photograph © Ethan Russell. All rights reserved.

Hundreds of thousands of rock fans were high on either drugs and/or alcohol as they gathered here to enjoy the free Altamont concert by the Rolling Stones and other rock groups. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

12/6/69, CA — Here’s how a crowd of rock fans, estimated at 300,000 to 500,000 gathered at Altamont Speedway for a rock concert by the Rolling Stones (and other musical groups), looks from the air. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden. — Photograph © Ethan Russell. All rights reserved.

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones onstage at Madison Square Garden, NY. – Photograph © Ethan Russell. All rights reserved.

The events at Altamont reached their deadly climax when a young black man, Meredith Hunter, there with his white girlfriend, was ruthlessly taunted by the Hells Angels. Hunter pulled out a pistol and waved it. He was jumped– knifed several times in the neck and shoulders, and ultimately beaten to death while the Rolling Stones, unaware, played on. — Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

12/6/69 — Hells Angels onstage at the Altamont free concert in Livermore. The Alameda county sheriff’s department reopened the case because they believed there may have been a second assailant in the murder of Meredith Hunter.

Mick Jagger looks on as the Hells Angels drag their victim’s body onstage during the concert. After Hunter’s attack, The Stones left the stage, fleeing in helicopters that awaited them. They landed minutes afterwards, shell-shocked, in an LA airport terminal.

(via The Selvedge Yard)

1 comment:

  1. There's a good multi-media piece on the Washington Post about the 50th anniversary of the concert at:




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