Culture magazine: The day a Rolling Stones concert turned deadly

Adriana Lima
By Adriana Lima 5 Min Read
origin 1Mick Jagger sings on the Altamont Rock Festival in Livermore, California, Saturday, December 6, 1969, because the Hells Angels cross the stage throughout the melee to assist different bikers. ©Anonymous/AP

Some live shows go down in historical past for all the suitable causes. Jimi Hendrix hacking away together with his enamel earlier than burning his guitar or the notorious Sex Pistols concert on a barge crusing down the Thames come to thoughts.

Other live shows are remembered not for his or her legendary moments however for the worth they paid. For the Rolling Stones, purveyors of all issues rock n’ roll, that concert befell at present on the Altamont Speedway in California.

The concert was a part of the Altamont Speedway Free Festival, a free music occasion described because the West Coast equal of Woodstock. The lineup included different greats of the last decade: Santana; Jefferson Plane; the Flying Burrito Brothers (not us both); Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and the Grateful Dead all carried out earlier than the headline set by the Stones.

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While accounts of what went incorrect have by no means been solely definitive, the clear and problematic choice on the heart of the concert was to rent the Oakland chapter of the Hell’s Angels motorbike gang as safety for the occasion.

Members of the bands concerned took concern with how a lot the Angels had been employed and what precisely they had been requested to do on the occasion. Whatever was initially deliberate, for the Stones concert, bikers lined up on the decrease stage in an try to supply safety for the band.

During the opening acts, the Angels drank the free beer that had been provided to them as a part of their compensation. They confronted the viewers with open aggression, angering the practically 300,000 spectators on the pageant. During Santana’s set, the Angels and the viewers started attacking one another.

origin 1Motorcycles crowd the sector throughout the notorious “Gimme Shelter” rock concert that includes the Rolling Stones.AP/1969 AP

Things simply descend from there. The Angels armed themselves with damaged pool cues and motorbike chains when the Rolling Stones took the stage. By this level, the Grateful Dead had already deserted their set, horrified by the violent scenes already going down.

At one level throughout the first few opening numbers, 18-year-old Meredith Hunter made a break for the stage. One of the angels struck him and pushed Hunter again into the gang. This solely additional infuriated Hunter, who was later seen brandishing a gun as she took the stage once more.

Hell’s Angel member Alan Passaro noticed Hunter come on stage and unholster his gun. At that second, the biker-security guard pulled out a knife and stabbed Hunter twice, killing him.

origin 1Mick Jagger stops performing on the Altamont Rock Festival in Livermore, California, on December 8, 1969, because the Hells Angels cross the stage throughout the melee to assist different bikers. Anonymous/1970 AP

Many different fights broke out throughout the occasion, however it was the killing of Meredith Hunter by a member of the Hell’s Angels that outlined the free Altamont concert. For all of the peace and love of the hippie period, right here it was the exact opposite. A turbulent and violent concert that led to bloodshed.

For some, that is the day the ’60s died. Four months after Woodstock and simply three weeks earlier than the daybreak of the ’70s, the Stones had seemingly ushered in a new era and witnessed its demise in a matter of years.

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