Altamont Free Concert - 12/6/1969

MoeDude

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN
Recently finished a book about the Rolling Stones and there was a whole chapter devoted to this free concert. It really was a disaster from the start, and was nothing like Woodstock which had occurred just a few months earlier that year. There are conflicting stories on whether the Hells Angels were actually hired by the Rolling Stones to police the concert or not. Here's a write up about it on Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altamont_Free_Concert




The book I read was very interesting. I knew The Rolling Stones were regarded with a little more rebel view than the Beatles but I didn't realize how much turmoil surrounded the Stones during the late 60s and early 70s. It's highly suspected that the Hells Angels actually put a contract out on Mick Jager and Keith Richards after the Altamont disaster. Supposedly there was a Navy Seals like attempt to kill them at a beach front house but the guys who were trying to carry it out were dumped into the ocean with all their supplies so they aborted the attempt.

Have any other Yappsters heard about this concert and if so what did you hear about it through the years?
 

clarkgriswold

Well-known member
Altamont, the Rolling Stones, the Hell's Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day by Joel Selvin is a great read on the topic. Everyone thought it was going to by the California version of Woodstock but it turned into a nightmare.
 

Auggie

Well-known member
The Stones 1969 US Tour is arguable one of the most (in)famous in the history of the concert business. It was basically the first full blown arena rock tour as we know it today with the raised stage at one end of the arena pumping out cranked up rock through a PA to 20,000 fans. Before this arena shows were mostly label sponsored packaged tours with a MC and each act getting 2 or 3 tunes and off they went, think of the show in the film That Thing You Do. The serious rock acts were still in theaters like the Fillmour because they were more controlled but the Stones wanted to play to the masses and better yet make some serious $s. Lighting was basically a couple spot lights and a handful of static colored lights on the side of the stage. The PA was an old movie house system cranked up to 10 so the sound was heavily distorted. Ticketing was GA and the ushers were so terrified of the crowd they let it basically have free reign of the arena. Check out this picture of Madison Sq Garden, the folks at the front were resting on the stage>



For the most part nobody got seriously hurt but there were tons of problems yet the Stones themselves could care less, they just wanted to plug along and make those $s. So they take this same sort of set up to Altamont and this is what you get>



Remember that there are 100,000 folks behind the people you see in that image, needless to say the concert industry decided that it was a good idea to raise the stage and put a barrier up between it and the crowd.
 

Auggie

Well-known member
As for the Hells Angles debacle there are a lot of serious conflicting reports but the bottom line was that no uniformed security detail was going to police this thing during the height of the late '60s political discourse so the Dead, who was use to their cozy theater shows, suggested the Hells Angels since they had helped them in the past to keep things in check. Well the Angels were over whelmed and they did what they were trained to do when confronted, fight back. Mick didn't help things out as he was so aloof and treated everything like it was a big joke. I think this is the gig that woke up everyone that there needed to be an adult in the room and the do it your self ethos of the '60s was thrown out the window and the acts started to listen to the promoters.

 

clarkgriswold

Well-known member
Such a damn mess, from its inception to its conclusion. The Dead (along with the Stones) were to be the focus of the concert and were a substantial part of the Hells Angels presence, but even they bailed and got out when they saw what was going down.
 

MoeDude

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN
Mick stated they kept playing even though they all knew somebody had been stabbed right in front of the stage. He felt that if they walked off it would have gotten even uglier than it already was. The Hells Angels were pissed afterward because they said they never agreed to being security, they just wanted 500 beers to stand around the stage and keep people off the stage. They did not appreciate the Stones laying the blame on the Hells Angels. This was really bizarre from the start. When Jefferson Airplane was playing one of their band members went into the crowd to help break up a fight and he ended up getting punched and dazed. It's sad it ended this way but from the way it sounds they should have never put on the show because of all the problems they had just putting it together. Some blame it on taking some of the innocence out of rock n roll with how it all ended.
 

clarkgriswold

Well-known member
The people in charge of it were clowns. I was supposed to be in San Francisco but the authorities and police wanted nothing to do with it given the hostility between the hippy culture and the establishment. It was then to take place at Sears Point but that fell through. The owner of Altamont then offered his place and they took it as a last chance venue despite the fact that it was so remote and inappropriate for such a large gathering. By the time people got there they were good and angry. Add in the drunken hostile Hells Angels, no real law enforcement or crowd control, the escape of the Grateful Dead and the soured expectations of people who were not getting Woodstock, and you had a recipe for disaster.
 

Gardens35

Active member
Another good read..........RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP (Dominic Priore, revised 2015, Jawbone Press), just about 400 pages, w/excellent photos.

Cool Story: I still go to the Whisky a Go-Go/ Rainbow Grill when in LA.
End of cool story.
 

Zunardo

Well-known member
I can remember a radio ads 30 or 40 years ago for a screening of "Gimme Shelter"during the weekend midnight movies at the old World Theatre, a run-down X-rated house on the OSU campus. I didn't know anything about the movie or the incident, so hearing the ad voiceover intone "Watch as the Hells Angels stomp a fan to death!" always made my eyebrows go up.

Now I'm glad I didn't watch it. I did go there to see "A Boy And His Dog", though.

Remember that there are 100,000 folks behind the people you see in that image, needless to say the concert industry decided that it was a good idea to raise the stage and put a barrier up between it and the crowd.
Auggie, that is one cool photo. You don't see many high-definition images like that!
 
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