Rolling Stones-Gimme Shelter at Altamont





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Published on Jan 5, 2010

The Altamont Speedway Free Festival was an infamous rock concert held on Saturday, December 6, 1969, at the Altamont Speedway in northern California, between Tracy and Livermore. Headlined and organized by The Rolling Stones, it also featured, in order of appearance: Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills & Nash, 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. That's the way things went at Altamont so badly that the Grateful Dead, prime organizers and movers of the festival, didn't even get to play. Approximately 300,000 people attended the concert, and some anticipated that it would be a "Woodstock West." The event is best known for having been marred by considerable violence, including one homicide 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 as well.Lead singer Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones (who had already been punched by a concertgoer within seconds of emerging from his helicopter)was visibly intimidated by the unruly situation, urging everyone to "Just be cool down in the front there, don't push around." Within a minute of starting their third song, "Sympathy for the Devil", a fight erupted in the front of the crowd, at the foot of the stage. After a lengthy pause and another appeal for calm, the band restarted "Sympathy" and continued their set with less incident until the start of "Under My Thumb". Some of the Hell's Angels got into a scuffle with 18-year-old Meredith Hunter when he attempted to get onstage with other fans. One of the Hell's Angels grabbed Hunter's head, punched him, and chased him back into the crowd. At that point Hunter returned to the stage where, according to Gimme Shelter producer Porter Bibb, Hunter's girlfriend Patty Bredahoff found him and tearfully begged him to calm down and move further back in the crowd with her, but he was reportedly enraged, irrational and so high he could barely walk."Footage from the documentary shows Hunter (seen in the film in a bright lime-green suit) drawing a long-barreled revolver from his jacket, and Hells Angel Alan Passaro, armed with a knife, running at Hunter from the side, parrying the gun with his left hand and stabbing him with his right. In the film, Passaro is seen delivering only two stabs, but he is reported to have stabbed Hunter five times Hunter's autopsy confirmed he was high on methamphetamine when he died.Passaro was arrested and tried for murder in the summer of 1971, but was acquitted after a jury viewed concert footage showing Hunter brandishing the revolver and concluded that Passaro had acted in self-defense.

The Rolling Stones were unaware of the killing, and completed the remaining eight songs of their set without further significant incident. On May 25, 2005, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office announced that it was officially closing the stabbing case. Investigators, concluding a renewed two-year investigation, dismissed the theory of a second Hells Angel taking part in the stabbing.The Altamont concert is often contrasted with the Woodstock festival that took place less than four months earlier. While Woodstock represented "peace and love", Altamont came to be viewed as the end of the hippie era and the de facto conclusion of late-1960s American youth culture: "Altamont became, whether fairly or not, a symbol for the death of the Woodstock Nation."In 2008 a former FBI agent asserted that some members of the Hell's Angels had conspired to murder Mick Jagger in retribution for The Rolling Stones' lack of support following the concert. The conspirators reportedly used a boat to approach a residence where Jagger was staying on Long Island, New York; the plot failed when the boat was nearly sunk by a storm. Jagger's spokesperson has refused to comment on the matter.Due to the rumored bounty from the Hells Angels to have Jagger assassinated, Keith Richards carried a .38 caliber revolver during the next American tour in 1972.

  • Category

  • License

    • Standard YouTube License
  • Suggested by UMG

  • Song

    • Gimme Shelter
  • Artist

    • The Rolling Stones
  • Writers

    • Keith Richards, Mick Jagger
  • Licensed by

    • UMG (on behalf of ABKCO); ABKCO Music, Inc., UBEM, SOLAR Music Rights Management, EMI Music Publishing, and 4 Music Rights Societies


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