Rolling Stones at Altamont 1969 - "Gimme Shelter"

ingveingve Posts: 1,616
I don't know if this has been discussed here or not. I just watched the documentary called "Gimme Shelter" last night, and it really disturbed me. For those not aware of what happened, the Stones gave a free concert at Altamont Speedway in 1969 attended by about 300,000 people. In a move of incredible naievety (if not abject stupidity), the "Hells Angels" were hired to provide "security" for the bands on stage.

They were paid in $500 worth of beer. There appears to be at least 50 or 60 of them.  

It is utterly harrowing to watch these drunken, stoned outlaw bikers wading into the crowd, armed with pool cues and bike chains and beating the shit out of people all day long. Even one of the singers with Jefferson Airplane got knocked out mid song by a brawling Angel.

You can see and feel the atmosphere getting heavier and heavier, you can sense the fear and confusion amongst the crowd. You can see several of the audience literally in tears, and calling out to Mick Jagger, "Why?"....

A clearly drunk and aggressive Angel is seen at one point standing onstage, sneering angrily at Mick Jagger as he is singing and dancing, and you just start to wonder what that crazy biker is going to do. It feels like they are holding the crowd and the band hostage, enjoying the violence they are committing, and lapping up the fear they have inspired.

It's difficult to watch it and understand that it's not a re-enactment, it's not a dramatisation, it's all real. Including the on-screen murder of an audience member by the Angels.

Has anyone else seen this? How did it affect you? I actually had nightmares about it. If I actually had to go through something like that, I'm pretty sure it would end my concert going days forever.

Comments

  • Seen it a zillion times since I was a teen.  The Stones come off as kind of clueless dupes who were basically talked into hiring the Hells Angels (by the Jefferson Airplane) as security for the event for the sum of $600 worth of beer. They were in over their heads, and when the shit went down, they had no way of stopping it.
    In the midst of the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament.
  • Seen that video a long time ago and without actually being in a major band lived it a few times.

    My band once had an asshole for a manager who as it turned out was using us as a tax dodge. The one major gig he set up for us was held in a hall in Sydney. We get on stage and surprise, bikers are managing the crowd. Sitting on stage and scattered around, they basically did as they wished and one guy got stabbed that night. The last five minutes of a video from that gig was showing furniture and all sorts of hall crap demolished. I guess this was to demonstrate his loss. Funny enough we actually got the blame for all the shit.

    I've also played gigs in certain parts of Sydney where bikers have taken over the backstage or showed up on stage, picked up the spare guitar and pretend they are playing. Of course, we knew better to object at the time. Welcome to a business called "Show". You don't miss much that's for sure.
  • You are correct. It is indeed a nightmare.  I too have watched this several times since being a teenager. (When you explore The Beatles, you inevitably explore the Stones a little.)  I always remember the image of Mick Jagger calling out from the stage, "Everybody just cool out!!!"  I remember the expression on his face. It's a horrifying black mark on the tapestry of Rock and Roll.  You see clips of that show pop up when you watch or read documentaries about the era. So sad.

  • cvansicklecvansickle Posts: 6,221
    I watched it as a teen too. I haven't seen it in years, but I remember being a little freaked out by it. I have heard of people getting trampled to death at concerts, and people ODing and dying at concerts, but this was this first time I had heard about somebody being murdered at a concert. It truly marked the end of the Peace and Love 60s.

    When I visited the Rock Hall in Cleveland a few years back, I saw the clothing exhibit and Jagger's stage costume was on display. It looked so tiny and fragile, and yet it was part of a historic (not in a good way) event.

    Such a pity too, because I think Get Your Ya Yas Out, the live album recorded on that tour, is one of the best live albums ever.
    Death Or Glory - Who Dares Wins!
  • inmyhandsinmyhands Posts: 11,653
    All in all, 1969 was the end of an era. Altamont, The Beatles last public performance, the Manson Murders, Woodstock. While some cool shit was still going down....... Led Zepp I, Monty Python hits the airwaves, John Lennon and Yoko do their "Bed-In", it just seemed like a strange time. Where '64 through '68 was basically the growth of Peace & Love vs. Vietnam, '69 was a hodge podge of news making events that often came right out of left field. Unlike the prior years, the nightly news in '69 was filled with the unexpected. Ups and downs became the rule. One day great, one day bad. Causes were falling apart. Movements were grinding to a halt. The "norm" was being altered. 1970 followed with the deaths of Janis and Jimi and, although very sad, quite appropriate in completing the end of an era.

    Bikers were all the rage in '68 and '69. Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" came out early in '68 and the badges of Harley, Norton, and Triumph became as popular as any "band" patch for sewing on your jacket. Biker clubs were the latest "cool". In June of '69 the movie "Easy Rider" hit the theaters and seemed to magically meld the world of Bikers, Hippies and Rock bands. Hardcore bikers, like the "Angels", used this image to gain support in the news and in the courts of law. You couldn't get more anti-establishment than being an outlaw biker. Bikers on the left, "The Man" on the right. Bikers at rock concerts were as common as hippie girls with flowers in their hair.

    In hindsite, it's pretty obvious that the "Angels" were more Al Capone than Jack Nicholson. Still, at the time that Altamont was being put together it really wasn't that great of a stretch to choose hiring bikers rather than police / security. The police had been labeled badly the prior year during the '68 Democratic Convention by the Chicago police's handling of the protests that had occurred. At the time leading up to Altamont the police were seen as bad guys. Uniforms, be they army, police, or security or whatever were as uncool as you could get. JA's idea to hire bikers rather than cops for security, while now known to be a major mistake, might have seemed like a very cool idea going in.

    Rick
  • Thanks Rick. I loved reading this.  It reads like about a dozen books on my shelf and a couple dozen VHS tapes I have about the era. 

    I think this is very poignantly worded:
    "In hindsite, it's pretty obvious that the "Angels" were more Al Capone than Jack Nicholson. Still, at the time that Altamont was being put together it really wasn't that great of a stretch to choose hiring bikers rather than police / security. The police had been labeled badly the prior year during the '68 Democratic Convention by the Chicago police's handling of the protests that had occurred. At the time leading up to Altamont the police were seen as bad guys. Uniforms, be they army, police, or security or whatever were as uncool as you could get. JA's idea to hire bikers rather than cops for security, while now known to be a major mistake, might have seemed like a very cool idea going in."

    And by the way, everytime I've been to New Olreans I've taken a picture of the big marker in the graveyard that Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson were hanging on in Easy Rider. Don't know why it always tickles me so much; I guess because I am a huge fan of both the movie and of New Orleans itself.
  • Smoking GunsSmoking Guns Posts: 4,547
    If you have ever seen the video to Paradise City, during the outro at the Donnington Gig, someone dies in that crowd as well....  They didn't tell the band till later that night, they were pissed. 
  • ingveingve Posts: 1,616
    There's quite a difference between accidental deaths and deliberate murder. Even at the Altamont show there were three other deaths that were accidental (drowning, OD'ing etc). And four babies were born. 
  • I really don't think I knew about the births.  That's very era-appropriate.  If I ever read or heard that, it's escaped my memory. 
  • BreakfastimeBreakfastime Posts: 2,152
    Yeah that's one of the worst days in rock and roll history.  The video is pretty brutal and you can really tell by that time Peace and Love had gone out the window in favor of greed.

    The only humorous aside I can offer is-I was reading a book about the Grateful Dead once, and they discussed Altamont.  the Dead were there but they did not play.  Anyhow, the funny part is (I thought it was funny anyhow) this book had some sort of astrological chart for the date of the Altamont concert, and supposedly if you believe anything about astrology (i don't but that's typical of a Taurus  :smile: ) you can look at this chart and see all the 'bad vibes' that were destined to go down that day.  

    Hippies.  They can explain anything cosmically once they get their stone on.  :weed:

    BTW-there's a film called "Sympathy for the Devil" and it documents the Stones in the studio working on the recording of the song and it's very cool....you get to see them sort out the song.  Plus nobody gets stabbed.
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