A documentary on the Rolling Stones' 1969 US tour and the tragic events that concluded it. We see footage of their concerts and of them making the Sticky Fingers album in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. However, the main focus of the film is on one concert - Altamont Speedway, outside San Francisco, 6 December 1969. A free concert, it is the Stones' idea and it was meant to be the Woodstock of the West (Woodstock having occurred four months earlier). Other bands performing included Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner, Crosby Stills Nash and Young and Santana. However, it is far from being the peace and love of Woodstock. Part of the problem is that the Stones hired the Hells Angels as security. The other problem was that a large portion of the crowd were high on drugs. Friction ensues. During the Stones' set, Meredith Hunter, high on methamphetamine and armed with a gun, makes a lunge for the stage and is stabbed to death by the Hells Angels. The peace and ... Written by
The concert originally was originally going to be held at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, but the city wouldn't give a permit after hearing that The Rolling Stones would be on the bill and feared a huge crowd. The concert was then moved to Sears Point (now Infineon) Raceway in Sonoma, but after a dispute with the track's owner, the stage and all the sound equipment was moved to Altamont within 24 hours before the concert was to take place. See more »
In November of 1969 I attended a Rolling Stone Concert at Boston Garden. The Stones were nearing the end of their fabulously successful 69 American tour and they were as good as I had ever heard or seen them. The sellout crowd was mesmerized and surged to the stages edge without violence and just rolled to the music. It was a brief period in rock history when such things were possible. The Peace and Love generation had settled into a groove with just tripping on the music and nothing more. Woodstock had been the prototype. A month after I saw them hypnotize Boston Garden the concert at Altamont put an end to the dream.
David and Albert Maysles recorded this nightmare in their brilliant documentary Gimme Shelter. The film opens with the Stones, flush with success planning a free concert for fans at Golden Gate Park. The venue is switched to a racetrack in Altamont and things slowly begin to deteriorate from there. The Stones naively hire Hell's Angels ("The Dead said they were cool") for security. When things become unruly the Angels respond harshly. As Jagger sings a man with a gun rushes the stage and is stabbed. The Maysles cameras are in the right place many times. The emphasis is not on Jagger as he and the band perform, instead it is the threatening and tripped out people near him on stage that fascinate.
The concert itself only takes up a small but gripping portion of the film which follows the Stones on a some of their tour and their reactions from watching the documentary's rough cut. Seldom do rock stars allow themselves to filmed in such compromising a position. The Maysles also capture the logistics side of the concert business with famed lawyer Melvin Belli and tour director Sam Cutler at task.
In less than half a year the Utopian dream of Woodstock lay in ruin at the Altamont Speedway. The Maysles provide much of the proof in Gimme Shelter.
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