Flashback: Rolling Stones at Altamont
It was 43 years ago today (December 6th, 1969) that the Rolling Stones held their ill-fated free concert at the Altamont Speedway in Livermore, California. The bill, which also included Santana, the Jefferson Airplane, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, is mainly remembered for the violence instigated by the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang, whom the Stones had hired as security — and the murder of concert-goer Meredith Hunter by Hell’s Angel Alan Passaro. Passaro was later acquitted of the stabbing after claiming he acted in self-defense.
Portions of the Stones’ 1969 tour and the Altamont concert were filmed by filmmakers Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, assisted by George Lucas. The film, featuring portions of both the Stones’ November Madison Square Garden concerts and the Altamont concert, was released in 1970 as Gimme Shelter.
Although the Grateful Dead were scheduled to play, they refused to take the stage in the middle of what was obviously a very ugly situation unfolding. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann says that the scene at Altamont was as tragic in real life as it appears in the Gimme Shelter footage: “Yeah, it was horrible. It was a war. It felt really uncomfortable. It was a dark day. It was so dark that that night, we were playing that weekend for Bill Graham at the Carousel, and I refused to play that night, I was feeling so bad about what had happened that day. I didn’t feel like going and celebrating it musically.”
Although only a handful of songs from the concert were shown in Gimme Shelter — giving the appearance that the show was cut short due to the unruly crowd and violence — the band actually performed a full 15-song set.
The Stones’ full setlist at the Altamont concert was: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Carol,” “Sympathy For The Devil,” “The Sun Is Shining,” “Stray Cat Blues,” “Love In Vain,” “Under My Thumb,” the world premiere of “Brown Sugar,” “Midnight Rambler,” “Live With Me,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Little Queenie,” “Satisfaction,” “Honky Tonk Women,” and “Street Fighting Man.”
Out now is Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! The Rolling Stones In Concert 40th Anniversary Deluxe Box Set. The set features three CD’s and one DVD, with the first disc including the full 1970 Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out album, and the second disc including five additional cuts left off the original set. The third disc features performances from Ike & Tina Turner and B.B. King who served as the Stones’ opening acts on November 27th and 28th, 1969 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.