The 1960s are stereotypically remembered as a time of love, peace, and incredible music. Items freely shared among brother and sister regardless of age, creed, color, or gender.
A sub-culture of like minded individuals who shunned the capitalistic values of their square minded parents. Near the end of ’69, The Rolling Stones decided to perform a free concert at Altamont Motor Speedway in California. This free Stones concert would be a fitting farewell to a decade built upon non-monetary values and the great music of the sixties. Unfortunately, The Rolling Stones at Altamont would only be associated with the horrific events that occurred that day casting a dark shadow on a day of celebration.
At the time, The Rolling Stones were the biggest rock acts in the world and had played only a limited number of gigs on that tour in ’69.
The Stones had been widely criticized that year by fans and the media who accused the band of abnormally high ticket prices. As a result, The Rolling Stones decided to play a free show for their fans somewhere in California. The band envisioned the Woodstock of the west coast, but unlike Woodstock nothing about this was planned carefully in advance. The venue was improvised days before the show when Altamont Motor Speedway was decided upon because it was the last choice promoters in California had left for the massive event which now included: Santana, The Grateful Dead, The Flying Burrito, and Crosby, Stills, Nash.
The Rolling Stones at Altamont was a catastrophe.
The Stones were the biggest band in the world and the tickets for Altamont were given away for free. Hundreds upon thousands of people from all over the country converged upon a venue unequipped for that amount of people and since the venue had not been chosen until days before there were not enough bathrooms and not enough medical tents.
The most notorious problem at Altamont occurred when someone in The Rolling Stones management made a deal with the Hell’s Angels to be security for the concert. This terrible decision was compounded when the payment agreed upon was $500 worth of beer. As the day progressed the biker gang was getting more intoxicated which gradually decreased their levels of patience for anybody in the crowd. Factor that with 300,000 people that are on speed, drunk, or tripping on LSD and something bad was inevitable.
When The Rolling Stones were getting out of the helicopter at Altamont, Mick Jagger was punched in the face by someone in the crowd.
Apparently, Jagger appeared to be visibly shaken when he got up on stage, trembling as he watched the anarchy going on below.
During their set Meredith Hunter, a fan, was pulled back from the stage by a Hell’s Angel. Hunter reportedly flashed a gun, after which he was stabbed to death by a member of the Hell’s Angel gang. The stabbing happened while The Rolling Stones were playing “Under My Thumb,”stopping after fully understanding what had transpired.
One person high on LSD drowned after trying to swim, while two others were trampled to death somewhere in the crowd.
Four dead in total following The Rolling Stones at Altamont is how the sixties came to a close in California.
Ten years of the most intriguing sections in American history occurred between 1960-1970. Culture and music that altered the nation and parts of the world perhaps forever. The horror with The Rolling Stones at Altamont is also part of our American history. This may not have been the best way to end the sixties, but one day could never sour the ten years that came before. Nothing could ruin the greatness that was the 1960s.