Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste
December 9, 2006 6:36 PM   Subscribe

37 years and 3 days ago, the World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band played a free concert at Altamont Speedway. A second Woodstock was probably the intent, but it was not to be, and the security was provided by the Hell's Angels. During the Jefferson Airplane's set Marty Balin was punched out(youtube). As the Stones played "Under My Thumb" a fan, Meredith Hunter, 19 was killed(youtube). Widely seen as the end of the Utopian ideals of th 1960's this event has been memorialized in song and print (most memorably by Stanley Booth who witnessed the event from behind Keith Richards' amp.
posted by jonmc (94 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a little better than the Cheap Trick post.
posted by interrobang at 6:39 PM on December 9, 2006


read the piece in this link, i-banger. it's a good article about the man who is the forgotten center of the evnt.
posted by jonmc at 6:41 PM on December 9, 2006


I definitely recommend seeing Gimme Shelter; the broken look on Jagger's mug as he watches someone in his crowd get murdered is worth the wait.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:45 PM on December 9, 2006


Watching the Rolling Stones sitting and watching the film footage of the murder in "Gimmer Shelter" is one of the more bizarre and uncomfortable moments in recorded Rock 'n' Roll history, no matter how staged it may or may not be (if the doc camera's were there, I'm sure there was some amount of premeditation, for better or worse). I had no idea so little was known about Merideth Hunter. Thanks for the links, jonmc.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:46 PM on December 9, 2006


What Blazecock Pileon said.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:46 PM on December 9, 2006


Man, that "killed" link was pretty awful to watch.
posted by interrobang at 6:49 PM on December 9, 2006


I definitely recommend seeing Gimme Shelter;

It's a riveting cinematic experience, indeed. My late uncle saw the Stones back in the day (he may have been at the Madison Square Garden show that makes up the bulk of the film's footage. Sadly I can't ask him to be sure). The scenes of the acid freakouts and craziness in the audience (especially Jagger at the door of his trailer where he reveals how impossible it is for him to hang out in the crowd) is revealing and memorable. A sequence where an Angel and his woman are boogieing to "Sympathy For The Devil" is something else as well. The Stones audience (and I say this as a devout Stones fan) were most definitely not the flower children. It was a whole different atmosphere.

For the historical record the Angel who killed Hunter, Alan Passaro was acquitted on self-defense grounds and 26 years later was found dead under weird circumstances.
posted by jonmc at 6:55 PM on December 9, 2006


what did you expect clicking on a killed link interobang, happy puppies eating marshmallows?
I'm shocked that Meredith was a man! Meredith? wtf? must have had parents that believed strongly against genderification.
posted by wumpus at 6:57 PM on December 9, 2006


I definitely recommend seeing Gimme Shelter; the broken look on Jagger's mug as he watches someone in his crowd get murdered is worth the wait.

Er, isn't that the whole point of this post? The clip is one of Jonmc's links, spesifically this one.

But seriously, why were the Hells Angels doing "security"? It seems like such a bizzare decision. Still even at corporate events like woodstock 99 riots and crazy shit can happen.
posted by delmoi at 6:59 PM on December 9, 2006


wumpus: don't be flip. It's not everyday you see a real-life murder espaecially one so brutal captured on film. and a man is dead. Making fun of his name is not cool.

But seriously, why were the Hells Angels doing "security"?


Delmoiu, to understand that you have to take into account the culture of the San Francisco scene and the 'outlaw' culture that the Stones and their audience bought into. Altamont was where the idealistic vision met reality.
posted by jonmc at 7:03 PM on December 9, 2006


(whoops, sorry about that superflous vowel, buddy)
posted by jonmc at 7:03 PM on December 9, 2006


Also, the Grateful Dead had used the Friso and Oakland Angels as security at shows without incident and the Stones had used British chapters of the Angels as security at shows as well. And the Stones music was much closer to the biker mindset/lifestyle than the bands at Woodstock, so there was a weird...affinity, I guess would be the word.
posted by jonmc at 7:06 PM on December 9, 2006


jonmc, I don't know about wumpus, but to me it's not so much 'making fun' of the name as confusion. I've never really heard of this, and when I watched the clip (before reading the article) I was expecting the girl in the dress to be killed - I had to watch a couple of times to figure out what happened.
posted by jacalata at 7:09 PM on December 9, 2006


What is generally overlooked - but is mentioned in Gimme Shelter, I think - is that Hunter pulled a gun before he was killed. Hence the self defense aquittal for the Angel who stabbed him. The day went bad long before that, and plenty of unprovoked violence went down, but in the end it wasn't exactly "the Angels killed a dude for no reason" as it's so often portrayed.

I am always amused, however, at the stage footage from the Altamont film...at one point you can see an obviously tripped out guy really enjoying himself right at the side of the stage, until a Hell's Angel spots him and removes him with a quickness.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 7:11 PM on December 9, 2006


What is generally overlooked - but is mentioned in Gimme Shelter, I think - is that Hunter pulled a gun before he was killed.

Yeah, it looks that way on the clip. But then again he was a black guy with a white girl surrounded by stoned bikers. And from the autopsy report in the linked article, he was also tweaked out of his skull. But regardless, the point is that the whole scene was chaotic. This was the Stones, they were not peace, love and flowers. they were 'get loaded, get rowdy and boogie,' and that's a whole different thing.
posted by jonmc at 7:17 PM on December 9, 2006


those turkeys are sooo far from being the world's greatest rock-n-roll band it's pathetic.
posted by quonsar at 7:18 PM on December 9, 2006


quonsar, I dig your funky vibe, but on that tour and the albums of that period, they most definitely deserved that title and the stuff they did then still holds up. But that's not the point of the post.
posted by jonmc at 7:21 PM on December 9, 2006


He clearly didn't have the gun in his hand when he was stabbed.
posted by delmoi at 7:23 PM on December 9, 2006


quonsar, it totally makes sense if it's written like this:

The World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band™

But yeah, they do suck, big time.
posted by interrobang at 7:26 PM on December 9, 2006


matter of taste, interrobang. and I used that phrase because that's how they were billed and how they were introduced to the audience on that tour. Quite frankly, I'm not really interested in another debate on the relative artistic merits of the Stones. I'm a fan, obviously but that's kind of beside the point, here.
posted by jonmc at 7:31 PM on December 9, 2006


Interesting post. Danke.

jonmc: shhhhhh! Stop moderating your thread, you rascal! Eight posts in the first twenty? ;)
posted by The God Complex at 7:52 PM on December 9, 2006


Nice post all around, but this has to be the most heavily moderated post I've seen without exception -- even to the point of debating musical taste?

C'mon, jonmc. Let the links stand, man.
posted by dreamsign at 7:53 PM on December 9, 2006


love it
posted by caddis at 7:58 PM on December 9, 2006


(I'm not moderating, I'm conversing. and when my name is attached to anything-even 'hello'-I'm gonna have to defend it, so..)
posted by jonmc at 8:02 PM on December 9, 2006


it's a compulsion (obsessive, even)
posted by spock at 8:08 PM on December 9, 2006


But seriously, why were the Hells Angels doing "security"?

Actually, Sonny Barger said later they weren't there to do "security," they were there to keep people off the stage, which they did. Rather violently. Also, they were paid in beer. Would love to know whose brilliant idea that one was.

Earlier this year an indie documentary about Meredith Hunter - "Lot 63, Grave C," and allusion to his gravesite - was released:

Had he been murdered today, in the front row of, say, a Coldplay concert, our personality-driven media would have gone into a feeding frenzy on the story, churning out countless articles about him -- probably even a documentary film. At that time, however, there was almost nothing. No quote from his mother. I couldn't even find a photo of Meredith Hunter. It probably didn't help that he was poor and Black.
posted by kgasmart at 8:12 PM on December 9, 2006


...And anyway, where's the Cheap Trick post? I love Cheap Trick...
posted by kgasmart at 8:14 PM on December 9, 2006


Earlier this year an indie documentary about Meredith Hunter - "Lot 63, Grave C," and allusion to his gravesite - was released:

yeah, kgasmart, I linked to the same article in the post. Click a link.

Actually, Sonny Barger said later they weren't there to do "security," they were there to keep people off the stage, which they did. Would love to know whose brilliant idea that one was.

By all accounts, it was Rock Scully, the manager of the Grateful Dead. They had worked security for them before without incident, but then again Deadheads arent exactly known for getting rowdy. David Crosby (of all people) put it well: 'They told the Angels to guard the stage. To them guard it means guard it.' The Stones were probably too loaded to grasp that.
posted by jonmc at 8:17 PM on December 9, 2006


Why does it smell like patchouli and sweaty butt leathers in here?
posted by loquacious at 8:18 PM on December 9, 2006


Click a link.

My bad.

'They told the Angels to guard the stage. To them guard it means guard it.'

I'd read something at one point where the Angels said there "only" pounded on those who had screwed with their bikes. A pretty obvious lie just from watching the Airplane clip.

Then again, the kind of freakouts you see throughout "Gimme Shelter" very probably were the kind of freakouts common at a Dead show at that point in time (and in fact still were 20 years later). Just people wigging on acid, falling/flailing into everyone else, etc.
posted by kgasmart at 8:29 PM on December 9, 2006


And in any event, one of the scariest scenes in the movie isn't necessarily Hunter's murder - at one point the camera cuts to this huge dude (Angel?) on the side of the stage, just quietly tripping his head off, clutching at his hair, grimacing... he looks like he is going to do violence at any moment.
posted by kgasmart at 8:31 PM on December 9, 2006


#1. "World's greatest Rock 'n Roll band" is a stupid title for the Rolling Stones.

#2. Self moderation of posts is lame.
posted by Eekacat at 8:32 PM on December 9, 2006


Er, isn't that the whole point of this post?

*sigh*
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:35 PM on December 9, 2006


#1. "World's greatest Rock 'n Roll band" is a stupid title for the Rolling Stones.

Sigh.

You wanna know what's lame, eekacat?

Did you read the preceeding posts or did you just zip right down to the comment box to lay that turd, eekacat?

Once more: At the time of the incident, that's how they were billed. (And it's probably close to the truth.) We're not talkin' about the mobile multinational concern of today but the group of yesterday.
posted by docgonzo at 8:43 PM on December 9, 2006


But seriously, why were the Hells Angels doing "security"?

The Stones had also used British Hells Angels as security/crowd control at the Brian Jones memorial concert in Hyde Park, but failed to understand the different nature of the SF Angels..
posted by nonemoreblack at 8:47 PM on December 9, 2006


I'm shocked that Meredith was a man! Meredith? wtf? must have had parents that believed strongly against genderification.

Meredith is a unisex name. Mostly women are named Meredith today is the US, but it's a male name too. Same with Leslie, Kim, and many others.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:52 PM on December 9, 2006


I heard someone died during the filming of that Cheap Trick video. Of boredom.

And the Hell's Angels smacking Marty Balin around? Maybe they were just trying to put him out of commision for a little while so everyone would be spared his dreadful caterwauling...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:57 PM on December 9, 2006


Keif... Keif...
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:58 PM on December 9, 2006


I wish I could have lived through the 60s just to see what all the hoopla was about concerning the music. On its own merit into my ears, vapidity.

This story is a great reference for the sign of the times. Thanks for the links.
posted by Mach3avelli at 9:03 PM on December 9, 2006


Let he who is without sin cast the first Stones.
posted by pips at 9:36 PM on December 9, 2006


wish I could have lived through the 60s just to see what all the hoopla was about

You would have had to live through the 50's to really appreciate it.

Get some historical perspective, youngin'.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:45 PM on December 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


I recall watching a documentary about this incident and basically the Hell's Angels didn't exactly offer...they kind of said, "Yea, we're doing security whether or not you like it."
posted by jmd82 at 9:49 PM on December 9, 2006


cheap trick indeed
posted by jouke at 10:16 PM on December 9, 2006


Awesome post, jon. I've seen Gimme Shelter, but I never knew that so little was known about Meredith Hunter.

Horrifying as it is, it's always fascinating when things like this are captured on film, especially when it ends up being the case that what you end up watching becomes something much more than it started out as. It's the distilled end of the sixties.
posted by biscotti at 10:33 PM on December 9, 2006


So, was Transmaniacon MC the song link? I didn't understand.


The World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band™

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha. Even if I like the stones (although the coked-up-junky-drinking-wine-evading-taxes-version is my fave), that shit's hilarious.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:47 PM on December 9, 2006


I'm always struck by Mick pleading, hopelessly, for some peace -- "Brothers and sisters." It's so pathetic, in the truest sense of the term. He's witnessing the death of both Hippie and Rocknroll idealism, and he can do nothing to stop it. The Hell's Angels were total assholes, but in many ways the appropriate conclusion to the Love Generation.
posted by bardic at 11:20 PM on December 9, 2006


yeah, yeah, you hate the Stones, so who's good?
posted by caddis at 11:43 PM on December 9, 2006


I wish I could have lived through the 60s just to see what all the hoopla was about concerning the music. On its own merit into my ears, vapidity.

Well, it was almost all current music and not yer parents', there was a bigger disconnect between then and earlier music than there seems to be now. Back in the day youngin's weren't spending time listening to stuff from previous decades, during the 60's music from the 50's barely mattered anymore and music from the 30's and 40's was bizzarely different, people felt no connection with it whatsoever.

Nowadays with yer fancy ipods and such people in their 20's actually spend time listening to stuff from before they were born... interesting phenomenon and I think unanticipated. No one imagined at the time that anyone would still be listening to the Stone's music with any regularity 40 years later.

So the hoopla in part was intensified by the shared experience, pretty much everybody was listening to the same material at the same, and it was exclusively theirs, they were listening to very little stuff from previous eras, and their parents weren't connecting with it at all.
posted by scheptech at 11:56 PM on December 9, 2006


Gimme Shelter is a great documentary about Altamont. And you know what Cheap Trick can do.
posted by squirrel at 12:45 AM on December 10, 2006


I'm surprised how no one ever seems to notice one of the obvious root causes of the whole fiasco; the pathologically low stage! When people can simply walk right up onto the stage you are asking for trouble.
posted by Tube at 1:30 AM on December 10, 2006


Interesting post, jonmc, thanks. This has long stood as a sort of bookend to a mythic time, and it's fascinating to get a bit more of what little history is known.

On a more profoundly important note - is this the movie they're showing in the Punk Rock Theater in "Desperately Seeking Susan"?
posted by freebird at 1:40 AM on December 10, 2006


I have the feeling that half of our contingent here would vote the monkees the "Greatest Rock n Roll Band in the World™"

As Marie Antoinette so aptly said it, "Let Them Go Fuck Their Hats

The erroneous oversite of these quibblers is that Altamont wasn't just another rock n roll show of egomaniacs claiming to be the best in the world, but was the event that mostly killed the 60's ideology in one fell swoop. It helped usher in the awakining of the entire nation to the notion that no one could be trusted, that the previous peace and love movement was impotent and that the murder of innocents was more endemic in many ways than simply about an 'angel' snuffing a single trippin black man at altamont who allegedly waved a gun around whilst dancing.

"I don't see any connection to Vietnam, Walter. "
"Well, there isn't a literal connection, Dude."
posted by isopraxis at 3:18 AM on December 10, 2006


I though the myth/story was the Dead 'recomended' that the Angels be used as security since they had provided security for Dead shows in the Panhandle. Mostly they kept their PA equipment from getting stolen. They were paid with 500 cases of beer, or so the legend goes...
posted by fixedgear at 4:02 AM on December 10, 2006


You would have had to live through the 50's to really appreciate it.

although the early 60s would have done just as well in the midwest ... people have no idea how different things were then

the event that mostly killed the 60's ideology in one fell swoop.

in the rock and roll media ... look, the average person ... the average rock and roll fan of that time barely heard of altamont if it registered at all ... unless they were reading rolling stone or happened to be in california

no one talked about altamont in michigan ... they did talk about goose lake and what a bummer that seemed to be

by the way, did you know that as many people died at woodstock as at altamont?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:52 AM on December 10, 2006


I've spoken to Albert Maysles, a lovely man by all accounts. Maybe one day I'll transcribe our conversation, he had (of course) a lot of interesting things to say.

Great post!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 5:58 AM on December 10, 2006


Dude, The Monkees were really good. Let's not even go there.
posted by bardic at 6:21 AM on December 10, 2006



Woodstock was promoted as a music and arts fair. The first day’s lineup was all folk-scene featuring the likes of Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie. Everyone knew that Dylan was holed up somewhere in the area and a surprise appearance by him looked like a pretty good bet.

Altamont had all the earmarks of a conscious pre-meditated attempt to re-create what Woodstock had done thru serendipity. Such things rarely end well.
posted by Huplescat at 6:48 AM on December 10, 2006


My favorite part of Gimme Shelter is when a large german shepherd strolls across the stage in front of Jagger. (Not in the You Tube link...gotta watch the film).

Chaos indeed.
posted by punkfloyd at 6:52 AM on December 10, 2006


I grew up surrounded by people who were there. It was odd going through these links with all the information I already have filed away.

See, I grew up listening to some vastly different stories, depending on which side of the stage they were (front or back, left or right)...Hunter drew the gun and pointed it at Jagger, Hunter got hit with a bottle, then pulled the gun, Hunter pulled the gun because Passaro was giving the woman in the video shit...but there was only one constant running through all the twisted tales: an abundance of meth flowing through the Oakland chapter.

Yes, I do think the Angels were out of control at several points in the evening, but I've also never had a gun with a barrel of that size brandished in my immediate vicinity...I don't know how I'd react straight, and I certainly don't know how I'd react in a paranoid angsty wired state.
posted by squasha at 7:34 AM on December 10, 2006


Well, it was almost all current music and not yer parents', there was a bigger disconnect between then and earlier music than there seems to be now. Back in the day youngin's weren't spending time listening to stuff from previous decades, during the 60's music from the 50's barely mattered anymore and music from the 30's and 40's was bizzarely different, people felt no connection with it whatsoever.

Yes, I still can't quite get used to this. I mean, I'm glad you kids appreciate the greats of my generation (most of you, anyway—*glares at Mach3avelli*), but my God it's weird to me that young people are still listening to music from 40 and 50 years back. I try to imagine kids in my college years listening to (or even being aware of) Al Jolson, say, and my head hurts.

And yeah, Gimme Shelter is an amazing, terrifying, and saddening film. See it if you can. Thanks for the post, jonmc, you talkative bastard.
posted by languagehat at 7:34 AM on December 10, 2006


t's the distilled end of the sixties.

crap like that is only uttered by people whose knowledge was gained in hindsight by reading what self-serving journalists (and bozos like david crosby) had to say. there wasn't anything glorious about the 60's to end. a lot of smelly people doing a lot of smelly dope and blathering about revolution. woodstock was a giant muddy clusterfuck of an attempt to cash in big-time by some promoters and when it got mobbed and the fences came down they just framed it as a sort of aquarian touchstone. we are stardust, we are golden. what a crock!!!!
posted by quonsar at 7:39 AM on December 10, 2006 [8 favorites]


When we finally got to Meredith Hunter's grave, I was profoundly moved by what we found. I don't want to spoil the movie by saying too much, but it did confirm my sense that although Meredith Hunter lives on as a symbol, as an individual, he's been pretty much completely forgotten.

Anyone know the secret of the grave that was revealed in the film?
posted by Mitheral at 7:42 AM on December 10, 2006


but my God it's weird to me that young people are still listening to music from 40 and 50 years back. I try to imagine kids in my college years listening to (or even being aware of) Al Jolson, say, and my head hurts.

Well, the Stones themselves were a bunch of young guys listening to music 30-odd years older than themselves, as were Led Zeppelin and countless others.

But it is more true of my (and subsequent) generations that we kind of see the whole history of music as available to us and 'ours,' so to speak. This probably has a lot to do with it's availablity.

And yeah, Gimme Shelter is an amazing, terrifying, and saddening film. See it if you can. Thanks for the post, jonmc, you talkative bastard.

The True Adventures Of The Rolling Stones, by Stanley Booth (he was with the Stones that entire tour. he's the guy in the leather jacket dancing with the Stones in the motel room and the last guy in the copter at the end) is equally illuminating and harrowing.

a lot of smelly people doing a lot of smelly dope and blathering about revolution.

Well, to be fair, the Stones only gave lip service to the flower child scene. They never really bought the pastoralism of the hippies, so they appealed to a different audience. More the hard-living borderline nihilistic bunch and it shows in the audience at Altamont. They were ...wilder, I guess you'd say.

I also gotta admit to being pretty impressed with Paul Kantner. He's the only one who had the balls to confront the Angels directly, right after they knocked out Marty Balin. That's some serious balls.
posted by jonmc at 7:57 AM on December 10, 2006


but my God it's weird to me that young people are still listening to music from 40 and 50 years back. I try to imagine kids in my college years listening to (or even being aware of) Al Jolson, say, and my head hurts.

I think teenagers can relate to the lyrics and the heavy, intricate guitar and drums. It sounds similar to today's music. I loved the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, etc., when I was a teen and I was born in 1972. I even read that Hammer of the Gods book with much enthusiasm when I was 17.

I would imagine that just about every city has a classic rock station. That's how I started listening when I was a kid. Plus my parents liked a lot of rock music.

I will have to rent Gimme Shelter now.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:27 AM on December 10, 2006


I actually just watched this film again last night - it's equally disturbing and fascinating. The Maysles brothers' almost superhuman instincts in their camera work set them apart.

Interesting to note that George Lucas served as a cameraman, but none of his footage was used in the final print due to a camera jam.

As for Merideth Hunter, when they slow down the print, you can clearly see that the gun is pointed towards the stage. The cut to Jagger's face as he watches this footage is pretty amazing as you see his realization of exactly how much danger he was in at that moment.

Thanks for the post, jonmc.
posted by jazzkat11 at 8:35 AM on December 10, 2006


Well, the Stones themselves were a bunch of young guys listening to music 30-odd years older than themselves, as were Led Zeppelin and countless others.

Yeah, of course musicians listen to all the music they can get their hands on, always have and always will. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the average teenager and popular culture, which used to be about the Latest and Greatest (the twist? that was last year, man!) and is now basically a frozen mass of permanent hits, with a few added every now and then. I'm not saying that's bad, it's just weird to me.

I think teenagers can relate to the lyrics and the heavy, intricate guitar and drums. It sounds similar to today's music.
[bold added]

Exactly my point. Popular music hasn't really moved on since the '60s, with the exception of rap; sometimes the poppier end is more popular, sometimes the punkier end, but pop radio sounds a lot more like it did in the '60s than the latter did to the '50s. Which is weird. We're stuck in a stasis warp, Captain!
posted by languagehat at 8:44 AM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


Popular music hasn't really moved on since the '60s, with the exception of rap; sometimes the poppier end is more popular, sometimes the punkier end, but pop radio sounds a lot more like it did in the '60s than the latter did to the '50s.

Well, rock and roll has always been basically endless variations on the Chuck Berry/Elvis/Little Richard/James Brown/Buddy Holly formula, and that was as true in the sixties as ever.

And if it's so much like the stuff from back then, how comes it's so hard for me to find new music that I like (and has been since the mid 90's)?
posted by jonmc at 8:52 AM on December 10, 2006


Weird. I watched that footage 3 times and couldn't see Sha Na Na in it anywhere...
posted by felix betachat at 9:00 AM on December 10, 2006


All dead or grandparent now. 37 years later. Man
posted by A189Nut at 9:03 AM on December 10, 2006


It's what they play on the radio, languagehat. I didn't break out of Classic Rock Hell until I found a good college station to listen to. The, I suddenly discovered that there were quite literally about two decades worth of music that I hadn't even listened to. Went from the Stones (fuck off, haters, I still love 'em, warts and all) and Zeppelin to Aphex Twin and online mix sets, kind of overnight. It isn't the listeners that refuse to change, it's the people deciding what we listen to.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:06 AM on December 10, 2006


It isn't the listeners that refuse to change, it's the people deciding what we listen to.

Nobody can "decide what we listen to." You can listen to a college station, and I can listen to my CDs, but if vast masses of people weren't happy to listen to Classic Rock, they wouldn't play it on the commercial stations. Do you think they could switch to Gregorian chants or Bulgarian women's choruses and continue making money? Do you think The Man decided to replace the Four Freshmen with Elvis and Johnny Cash around 1956? The Man would just as soon keep playing the records he already has in his stash, as long as the sheep keep listening. They didn't use to keep listening for long; now they do.
posted by languagehat at 9:20 AM on December 10, 2006


Anyone know the secret of the grave that was revealed in the film?

Yeah, this is in rot13 not to spoil it for everyone else.

Gurer jnfa'g n znexre ng gur fvgr naq gur svyzznxre gbbx n pbyyrpgvba gb unir bar chg va.
posted by pieoverdone at 9:57 AM on December 10, 2006


Favorite part of Gimmie Shelter: Chaos is starting to overwhelm the music but Keith is in another place, just keeps noodling away, finally Jagger is like, Keith! Keith! Stop playing! Keith, stop! Then you hear keith reluctantly shut it down with a crunching power chord, like a petulant kid being shushed by his mom.

someone noted above that as many people died at Woodstock as at Altamont. Interesting also to note that the Altamont bill included Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Santana, and the Grateful Dead, in addition to the Stones. That's just one Joan Baez short of a classic "peace and love" hippie concert like Woodstock, and Woodstock included an intense set by the Who that featured Townshend getting physical with Abbie Hoffman on stage. So the point is that I think people who pin Altamont on the Stones' supposed hardcore, satanic vibe are playing into the received narrative to some extent. I think if you'd taken the stones off the bill but the logistics, security, low stage, etc. were all the same, you'd have probably had Meredith Hunter being killed during Friend of the Devil instead of Under My Thumb. (And I know the Dead did not play, skedaddling after the Airplane's experience on stage).
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:01 AM on December 10, 2006


I'm adding nothing useful here but, my god, Mick Jagger was TEH HOTNESS when he was younger.
posted by pieoverdone at 10:21 AM on December 10, 2006


The one image that has stayed with me from Gimme Shelter is not the killing itself, horrible though it is, but that one naked woman with the dead eyes, mindlessly crawling over the crowd towards the stage. The kind of summed up the whole event for me.

(And if we're going to talk about the Old Days, my favourite level of difference is in the accessibility of music, and mobility-- hell, in my day, if you wanted to hear music while you were out and about you had to load your stereo onto a shopping cart and get a two-mile extension cord. Seriously, though, when I was a teenager, finding new and good music was a bit like buying drugs-- you needed to know people, people with decent record collections, and you needed to listen to what was then called "underground" radio. If you were lucky, they told you what they played so that you could write it down. Otherwise, you just had to try to commit to memory what you just heard, and hope to hear it again. It was like this secret that you had to earn.)

Thanks for the post, jon. I do happen to agree that at that moment, at least, the Stones deserved their title. What a band they were.
posted by jokeefe at 10:22 AM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


Mick Jagger was TEH HOTNESS when he was younger.

Indeed. Sexbomb.

That's another thing that makes the movie so jarring-- Mick standing there in his limp satin cape, then attempting a few dance movies in the face of overwhelming chaos. And that girl standing at his elbow with a rose, timidly, but desperately, trying to get his attention.
posted by jokeefe at 10:27 AM on December 10, 2006


Mick Jagger was TEH HOTNESS when he was younger.

Indeed. Sexbomb.


Oh, hell yeah. I would've done the young Mick. Plus he had the ultimate rock and roll badass (Keith) as a sidekick. And Bill & Charlie for a kickass rhythm section.

One of the other arresting images is that of Sonny Barger staring at Jagger from the side of the stage with rage in his eyes. (The Criterion Collection DVD of Gimme Shelter includes a booklet feating commentary from both Stanley Booth and Sonny Barger).
posted by jonmc at 10:31 AM on December 10, 2006


And if it's so much like the stuff from back then, how comes it's so hard for me to find new music that I like (and has been since the mid 90's)?

If you're like me, it's because it reminds you a bit too much of what came before, without adding much new of its own. If a band constantly reminds me of the Kinks, why not just put on them instead?
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:37 AM on December 10, 2006


Oh, hell yeah. I would've done the young Mick

Anyone would have done the young Mick. And, from what I understand, they did.
posted by jokeefe at 12:12 PM on December 10, 2006


The so-called Utopian ideals of the 60s were limited to the first two editions underground newspaper and any magazine or newspaper article in 1967. About tow mintues after the phrase the Summer of Love was coined came heroin, speed, crime, race riots, assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and Nixon's election, not to mention the ongoing war and general cultural polarization over all the preceding. Other people list the Manson murders as the end of the 60s but in truth, the Utopian ideals of the 60s ended almost before they began. These so-called ideals were long gone by the end of 1967, and cold, dead ashes by 1969. Altamont is a milestone because it, like Woodstock, was caught on film. Neither of those cliches were as important at the time as they appear in retrospect.

Another thing to be pointed out about music then was that the media then was broadcast TV, Top 40 radio, some regional country stations, a very few urban R&B stations and a handful of independent FM stations in very few cities. Everything else was word of mouth or underground newspaper. Rolling Stone magazine was a revolutionary development in its time.

For that matter, in most places ethnic restaurants came in Mexican and Chinese and that was it.
posted by y2karl at 12:35 PM on December 10, 2006


pieoverdone writes "Gurer jnfa'g n znexre ng gur fvgr naq gur svyzznxre gbbx n pbyyrpgvba gb unir bar chg va."

Thanks, that's cerggl fnq naq vafcvevat nyy ng gur fnzr gvzr.
posted by Mitheral at 12:57 PM on December 10, 2006


Footage of Altamont puts me in mind of a junior high party that gets crashed by some rowdy seniors.
'Wow dude, it's super cool that they're here, but I'm a little... '
'Terrified?'
'Yeah.'
'Me too.'

NMTB, good post, jonmc.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:31 PM on December 10, 2006


someone noted above that as many people died at Woodstock as at Altamont.

Uh, yeah, but the risk of dying would have been greater at Altamont as there were more people at Woodstock.
posted by docgonzo at 2:12 PM on December 10, 2006



The one image that has stayed with me from Gimme Shelter is not the killing itself, horrible though it is, but that one naked woman with the dead eyes, mindlessly crawling over the crowd towards the stage. The kind of summed up the whole event for me.

Sonny Barger said in an interview (which I can't find, I thought it was linked from wikipedia) that Keith Richards taunted him by saying "You guys are supposed to be so tough, you can't even handle a naked chick", so he went over to the edge of the stage and kicked her in the face and then went back over and asked Keith "So how's that".
Somebody must know who she is (was).
Also, the DVD commentary by Albert Maysles is really excellent, including a description of a later episode similar to the beat down that Hunter S. Thompson experienced (i.e. Angels wanted a cut from any profits). Speaking of which, that book also helps put some things in perspective, like the fact that the Angels, though they hung out (and tripped) with Ken Kesey and Allen Ginsberg, were very pro-war, and had attacked peace marchers. Conversely 3 Angels were later killed by a radical left organization (details excape both me and google).
posted by 445supermag at 4:08 PM on December 10, 2006


The Stones do not "suck bigtime" and never did, before and somewhat after Altamont anyway.

I cannot guarantee your results with Klein's horrible CDs (will *anyone*ever* get to fix that?) but if you can find a decent copy of the Beggar's Banquet LP and tell me straight up that it "sucks bigtime", you don't know jack.

The usual warnings about judging bands in the context of their times also apply.
posted by Twang at 5:23 PM on December 10, 2006


@quonsar: there wasn't anything glorious about the 60's to end. a lot of smelly people doing a lot of smelly dope and blathering about revolution.

Sorry you missed it. Rather completely.
posted by Twang at 5:49 PM on December 10, 2006


Keith Richards is an acknowledged immortal. I think feeding on the energy of stadium crowds is the only thing that stops him from being a ravaging beast, raising an army of long haired guitarist vampires and decimating the population of small towns for fun. In the name of all that is holy, let the nice people worship at the alter of the funny looking ancient ones.

I didn't know about the movie, "lot 63, grave c" , I'd like to see it. Good post Jon, thanks.


languagehat said: Yes, I still can't quite get used to this. I mean, I'm glad you kids appreciate the greats of my generation (most of you, anyway—*glares at Mach3avelli*), but my God it's weird to me that young people are still listening to music from 40 and 50 years back. I try to imagine kids in my college years listening to (or even being aware of) Al Jolson, say, and my head hurts.

Couple of reasons for that, I think. A lot of those groups are still touring...even though up to half of some bands are replacement members born after the band's heyday. The bands are as much brand as band.

I also think that the availability of music is so much broader than in any other time in history. Thus, I can listen to Zepplin, but I can also listen to Ella, or Vivaldi. Not all of the music from the 60's and 70's is getting airplay. Thus, just as every generation has created work that stands the test of time, so too did the 60's and 70's. It's just become easier for subsequent generations to have access to previous generation's music.

For instance, I have CDs of radio shows from the WWII era. But my grandmother, at my age in that era, probably couldn't have easily gotten vinyl of records of bands from the 1890's.

Also, most of the currently produced bubble gum, bimbo pop sucks.
posted by dejah420 at 7:12 PM on December 10, 2006


Quonsar, you’re a stupid, lying swine. Your comment made me feel like weasels ripped my flesh.
posted by Huplescat at 7:35 PM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


Great post, jonmc.

Yes, I still can't quite get used to this. I mean, I'm glad you kids appreciate the greats of my generation (most of you, anyway—*glares at Mach3avelli*), but my God it's weird to me that young people are still listening to music from 40 and 50 years back. I try to imagine kids in my college years listening to (or even being aware of) Al Jolson, say, and my head hurts.

Going by my parent's record collections, this is nothing new - in the late '50s/early '60s, they were buying lots of pre-war blues, presumably a result of bands like the Stones covering and name-checking blues artists. And even prior to that, in the '40s and '50s trad jazz was hugely popular - UK bands trying to play exactly like New Orleans dixieland bands from 1900.
posted by jack_mo at 6:46 AM on December 11, 2006


"So the point is that I think people who pin Altamont on the Stones' supposed hardcore, satanic vibe are playing into the received narrative to some extent."

Although I was very young, I was at Altamont. It was a mess long before the Stones showed up. We went to lots of outdoor concerts in California back then, and Altamont was the only one we left early. There was a bad vibe in the air that had nothing to do with the bands or the security.

When Hell's Angels showed up at the outdoor concerts it was always a problem of one sort or another. But it was just one of those things you learned to deal with. This concert was different, but not because of them.

It's just my opinion, but I think Altamont happened to intersect the point in time where the California hippies started to become disillusioned with their own counterculture. Their ideals started to crumble. In '67 the peace and love thing was real. But in '69 I remember lots of drunk hippies getting into fist fights. A lot more drunk people mixed in.

Frankly I'm surprised it wasn't worse.
posted by Bael'Gar at 10:13 AM on December 11, 2006


Sonny Barger's view of the events.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:36 PM on December 11, 2006


It's just my opinion, but I think Altamont happened to intersect the point in time where the California hippies started to become disillusioned with their own counterculture. Their ideals started to crumble. In '67 the peace and love thing was real. But in '69 I remember lots of drunk hippies getting into fist fights. A lot more drunk people mixed in.

T.C. Boyle's Drop City is all about this ideal-crash among the California Hippies. Great book, and you could follow it up with Hunter Thompson's Hell's Angels for extra Altamont flavor.
posted by COBRA! at 2:43 PM on December 11, 2006


Understandably, the Stones were under some pressure to get their show off after being bumped from two venues, but why, oh lord, the Altamont Speedway? It is remote, ugly and generally unpleasant out there. One could scarcely pick a worse location in the Bay Area or its vicinity. Maybe Antioch, but barely.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:25 AM on December 12, 2006


madamjujujive:

From your link:
By the time I got to Hunter he had already been stabbed. We picked him up and passed him over to the medics.

Uh huh......
posted by jckll at 11:07 AM on December 14, 2006


« Older "It's hard being me." Other Dudes it's been hard ...  |  How did we miss ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments