Revisionism Is Just a (Cheap) Shot Away

ANOTHER fiftieth anniversary being marked this week is the 1969 Altamont concert by the Rolling Stones at which Meredith Hunter was killed by members of the Hell’s Angels hired as security for the event. A new book has inspired Mark Bannerman to argue the Stones’ selfishness ended the era of peace and love which had been showcased at Altamont’s nice opposite: Woodstock. Bannerman isn’t the first writer to make the unfavourable comparison, mourn the loss of supposed hippie innocence or tout commercial ruthlessness as the sinister backstory to a killing. Whole verses of Don McLean’s American Pie do the same.

A victim with his bandmates of one of the biggest rock ‘n roll swindles ever (by Allen Klein), Mick Jagger certainly wanted to make the concert pay. The headliners were equally greedy for cash at Woodstock. Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and The Who all refused to play until they had greenbacks in hand. As for the Angels, they had been hired by tour point man Sam Cutler through the good officers of the Grateful Dead. It has been said in Cutler’s defence that he was only familiar with the genteel British variety of bikers. Californian Hell’s Angels were something else entirely. They were practitioners of extreme violence.



The Stones and Jagger in particular have been praised for their physical courage. In the dark, they were faced by 300,000 people. Many if not most of them were affected by hard drugs, including a batch of bad LSD. The Angels were drugged and drunk. Hunter’s body had been taken away mid-set. The Stones were no sure thing to get out alive. “I was really scared,” recalled new Stone, Mick Taylor. “I was frightened for all of us, particularly for Mick.” To avoid an even more appalling disaster, Jagger decided not to leave. The show had to go on. Jerry Garcia and his bandmates escaped hours earlier. For some reason, Bannerman claims “not one cent was given to the dead man’s family” by the Stones when the profits from the tour (and a film) came in. They were paid $10,000 (about $65,000 corrected for inflation). That was generous in the circumstances.

A few witnesses said Hunter had been baited by a Hell’s Angel, reacted and was then mercilessly stabbed to death. Others say he was directly in front of the band, high and menacing. Nobody disputes he was armed with a revolver. His killer was acquitted when the jury saw the footage. The use of the Angels is regarded (rightly) as possibly the stupidest decision in the history of concert management. But claiming Woodstock or the so-called movement it came to symbolise were pure in comparison is romantic nonsense. There were 742 overdoses at Woodstock. Raymond Mizsak, 17, was crushed to death by a tractor and 18 year-old Richard Bieler died of a drug overdose. I very much doubt that Jimi Hendrix – who demanded $18,000 for his performance on day four of Woodstock (more than anyone else) – ever heard of them.

Asked about Hunter’s death in a 1995 interview, Jagger was asked how it made him feel at the time:

Well, awful. I mean, just awful. You feel a responsibility … But I didn’t think of these things that you guys thought of, you in the press: this great loss of innocence, this cathartic end of the era … I didn’t think of any of that. That particular burden didn’t weigh on my mind. It was more how awful it was to have had this experience and how awful it was for someone to get killed …

While journalists were saddened by the death of a phony utopia, Jagger saw the nightmarish tragedy with more lucidity than many of them. Altamont wasn’t the antithesis of Aquarius. It was its inevitable culmination. The anything goes selfishness, the drug-taking, the narcissism and greed draped in tie-dye. Thousands more would lose their lives before the “counterculture” was finally buried. It isn’t missed.

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46 Responses to Revisionism Is Just a (Cheap) Shot Away

  1. stackja

    Thousands more would lose their lives before the “counterculture” was finally buried. It isn’t missed.

    Sydney ‘dance festivals’ “counterculture” continues.

  2. His killer was acquitted when the jury saw the footage.

    That convinces me his family deserved NO compensation.

  3. Really, what is so different now from then?

  4. Infidel Tiger

    A timely reminder that the Boomers were awful people.

    Thankfully they are all dead or dying.

  5. mh

    Great concert from what I have seen through the movie doco Gimme Shelter.
    Hells Angels intimidating the musical acts was a highlight.
    And crazed hippies getting the bashing they richly deserved, also.
    And the Stones giving a gritty raw performance while sharing the stage with German Shepherd dogs is a sight to behold.
    Well done to everyone involved.

  6. A timely reminder that the Boomers were awful people.

    Thankfully they are all dead or dying.

    Just don’t forget that the world will soon be in the hands of the millennials, the SJWs and the ALPHABET crowd. What a bright future ahead.

  7. Infidel Tiger

    No. Gen X are now claiming what is rightfully ours.

    Soon we will end this Boomer madness and righteousness will be restored.

    The Millenials will never hold power. We have an agreement with Gen Y.

  8. stackja

    Infidel Tiger
    #3249736, posted on December 2, 2019 at 10:47 am
    A timely reminder that the Boomers were awful people.

    Thankfully they are all dead or dying.

    Many still very much alive, spoiling the narrative.

  9. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    No. Gen X are now claiming what is rightfully ours.

    Ah, yes, the Gen X mantra.

    “What do we want? EVERYTHING!!!!

    When do we want it? NOW!!!!!”

  10. Infidel Tiger

    Hahaha!

    Ok, boomer.

  11. Roger

    Thousands more would lose their lives before the “counterculture” was finally buried. It isn’t missed.

    It wasn’t buried, it was mainstreamed.

    I can’t remember which – it’s a long time ago – but one of the leading US radicals of the time had become a stock broker in NYC by the late 1970s. That epitomised the entry of the generation of ’68 into mainstream culture – Rudi Dutschke’s long march through the institutions – including, of course, academia and the corporate world, which brings us to where we are today.

  12. jupes

    A timely reminder that the Boomers were awful people.

    Made some great music though.

    (On the other hand, technically the Stones weren’t boomers as most of them were born before or during the war)

  13. jupes

    Of course the greatest anniversary this week is the release of the ‘Stones’ masterpiece: Let it Bleed.

    Quite simply the greatest album of all time. Every track a classic.

    Side one, track one Gimme Shelter.

  14. Infidel Tiger

    Let It Bleed is perfect.

    One of the best album titles of all time too.

  15. I don’t even know what generation I belong to anymore because that Bernard Salty flog keeps on coming up with more ridiculous neologisms every week.

  16. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    the movie doco Gimme Shelter

    If you want to know what happened at Altamont you have to see it.

    Sonny Barger’s monologue at the beginning is priceless, as is Jagger’s and Charlie Watts’ reaction to it. The latter’s is a lot more amusing than the former’s.

  17. mh

    Sam Cutler was living in the leafy western suburbs of Brisbane the last I heard.

  18. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    Members of the Grateful Dead learn of the unusual methods employed by the Hell’s Angels to maintain security, just prior to the former scurrying off with their tails between their legs.

    P.S. Love Phil Lesh’s Levis’ Jacket. Totally San Fran, man.

  19. C.L.

    It was Cutler who introduced the band on Get Yer Ya Yas Out.
    The intro and its central claim became famous.

    He recalls how Jagger reacted:

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-07/sam-cutler-introduces-the-rolling-stones/9401818

  20. Gerry

    The Hells Angels left some younger members to deal with crowd control. The crowd got nastier and nastier as the grog and drug use escalated waiting for the night to come so that Jagger would come on stage ….no entertainment, a pompous Jagger, more and more grog etc and inexperienced Hell’s Angels led to a disaster. The Dead couldn’t get Jagger to come on earlier, saw the writing on the wall and left. The Stones were after money and stayed and watched the crowd descend into chaos …..

  21. jupes

    The Stones were after money …

    FMD

    Who isn’t?

  22. Snoopy

    (On the other hand, technically the Stones weren’t boomers as most of them were born before or during the war)

  23. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    jupes – read the piece above at 1:08pm. It alleges the Stones were totally broke before the North American tour of ’69.

  24. C.L.

    Part of the reason journalists at the time (and ever since) concocted the anti-Woodstock myth of Altamont was that Hunter was black. Had a white man brandishing a .22 been killed, he would have been written off as just another white trash psychotic lunatic – of which there were many on the loose in California in those years. Doing some research for this post, I came across a few old Rolling Stone articles that even tried to excuse his gun possession on the grounds that he was a black man surrounded by whites. The Dead’s manager stayed after his band bolted. He testified that he noticed Hunter in front of the stage and said he exuded a frightening, murderous intent.

  25. Peter Greagg

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edV1Px8NHk4

    I like this version of Gimme Shelter better. YMMV

  26. Narwhal Tusk

    I’m the same age as Mick.
    Invincible pre boomers.

  27. Leigh Lowe

    Infidel Tiger
    #3249758, posted on December 2, 2019 at 11:10 am
    No. Gen X are now claiming what is rightfully ours.

    Sigh.
    I see you are still lying about your age, you codger.
    I have it on good authority that you are in Lizzie’s Mt Druitt Primary school photos (a daguerreotype taken with a phosphorous flash powder).

  28. Leigh Lowe

    Although through misjudgement rather than malice, the hiring of the Hell’s Angels was a deliberate act designed to cultivate an image.
    The Stones were engaged in brand differentiation with the Beatles.
    The Beatles were projecting a nice Liverpool lads image (a little bit cheeky but hearts of gold) whilst the Stones were trying to create a “rebel bad-boy” image.
    Of course, the consequences probably could not be foreseen if you come from the perspective of exposure to relatively mild-mannered Brit bikers (who were constantly hitching rides in vans after their Triumphs and BSAs shit themselves on the motorways).

  29. Dragnet

    “All those nude, fat people were just asking for it”
    Keith Richards

  30. JC

    Infidel Tiger
    #3249736, posted on December 2, 2019 at 10:47 am

    A timely reminder that the Boomers were awful people.

    Thankfully they are all dead or dying.

    I presume, but don’t know.. you arrived before Greta Thumberg, no? And you still consider boomers to be awful people! How dare you!

  31. jupes

    The Stones were engaged in brand differentiation with the Beatles.
    The Beatles were projecting a nice Liverpool lads image (a little bit cheeky but hearts of gold) whilst the Stones were trying to create a “rebel bad-boy” image.

    Yeah nah. That occurred in the early ’60s at the suggestion of ‘Stones’ then manager Andrew Loog Oldham .

    By 1969 the Beatles were near the end, hadn’t toured since 1966 and the ‘Stones had hit their groove. Both bands had no need for manufactured identities by that point.

  32. Bemused:

    Just don’t forget that the world will soon be in the hands of the millennials, the SJWs and the ALPHABET crowd. What a bright future ahead.

    Someone on the Open Thread was speaking of reading the latest Kurt Schlicter book – Collapse. (He has a new one called Crisis) it describes the world the SJW build post 2nd US Civil War.
    Written tongue in cheek – I think – it’s very entertaining.

    Some men pulled a huge monitor to the center of the field. The crowd collectively groaned. The monitor snapped to life and it showed a severe woman in her thirties with focused eyes, pursed lips and incongruous pigtails. She began talking, in accented English, about the need for sacrifice in the face “of those who would steal our dreams and kill our joy.”
    Turnbull recognized her as the Prime Minister of Sweden for Life, installed into the job with extraordinary powers in the face of the climate crisis that was scheduled to have destroyed the world five years before. She segued into talking about the beauty of Sweden’s Fridfull Utgång Plan, “Peaceful Exit.” To save the planet, she had decreed that one in five Swedes must “make way for other life.” Immigrants were excluded, of course – “their culture does not allow this” – but native Swedes were expected to honor the results of the lottery. Of course, the random selections seemed to fall primarily upon those opposing the dictator’s power and, astonishingly, no one in the Prime Minister’s close family was selected to make the ultimate sacrifice to Gaia. What were the chances?
    “How dare you complain about not enough food! How dare you!” the woman on the screen shouted.
    “I love Greta,” said the woman who had wondered about food flatly, looking around at who might be listening. “She’s a role model for us all,” replied her companion, her voice equally flat, her eyes likewise darting around still looking for eavesdroppers.
    “They better have food for us,” the first one said, not flatly, satisfied that it was safe.
    Prime Minister Thunberg finished her speech, and the prior speaker went back up to the podium and proclaimed that “Food treason is our greatest challenge!”
    “I thought it was racism,” Welliver whispered. “Or regular treason treason,” Turnbull said. He noted that the crowd was grumbling. “They better start handing out the slop or its going to get ugly.” “We don’t need food!” the woman on the field shouted, her amplified voice echoing through the stadium. “We need food justice! We need to confront our own food privilege and we will! We are united in saying ‘No!’ to food hooliganism, and ‘Yes’ to the mighty example of Greta Thunberg! We are united in offering ourselves for the good of the People’s Republic!” She paused, expectantly. After a few moments, the crowd cheered, having figured out that it was supposed to.
    Ross, whose size had been getting him quizzical looks all day, spoke up. “I don’t think they are giving out food today. Not even gruel.” “Anyone see anything that looked like a field kitchen or the like?” Quayle polled. No one answered in the affirmative. “I bet you all hell is going to break loose when these people savvy that there’s no chow inbound,” Welliver said, too loudly. Turnbull elbowed him roughly, but the two women in front of them turned around, their faces both confused and angry.
    “Did you say there’s no food today?”
    “He said it’s coming soon,” Turnbull said.
    “No, he said there’s no food!”
    Now more people were turning to look, and muttering.
    “Let’s go,” Quayle said. The team began shuffling to the aisle. The buzz was getting louder – “What do you mean no food?” “Where’s the food?” – and they moved as fast as they could. Mike E got to the archway leading inside to the interior corridors right before Turnbull. There were two PSF guards there, and a female one pointed at Eliopoulos and said, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” …

    Schlichter, Kurt. Collapse (Kelly Turnbull Book 4) . Kindle Edition.

  33. Adelagado

    Aquarius… It isn’t missed.

    I don’t know about that. I don’t think young women ever looked more beautiful than in that era. The long soft hair, the loose shirts, the jeans, the light in the eyes. Compare that to the squeezed in, trashy, look of today.

  34. Rococo Liberal

    CL is quite right that the idea that Altamont was somehow a cultural turning point is a load of bollocks. By the time of Altamont the change had already happened. It was in 1967 when what I like to call the ”flares period” of rock began. Between then and 1976, with a few exceptions, rock music became yankified, hippyish, stadium-based waffle that had little to do with the life lived by its audience.
    Thank God punk and new wave came along to give us back some bite.
    Never mind the bollocks …

  35. jupes

    It was in 1967 when what I like to call the ”flares period” of rock began. Between then and 1976, with a few exceptions, rock music became yankified, hippyish, stadium-based waffle that had little to do with the life lived by its audience.

    Fuck off RL. 97% of all the great music ever made was produced during that period.

  36. C.L.

    “All those nude, fat people were just asking for it”
    Keith Richards

    LOL.
    One of the quotes I saw in an article was Keef on his return to the UK after Altamont.
    Reporters were staking them out for shame-shame purposes.
    Asked about it, Richards said the concert was great – no probs.

  37. Infidel Tiger

    The Beatles are the most overrated act of all time.

    Complete shite.

  38. Old School Conservative

    ‘Hey, you two security guards with the girl… f**k off!’ (crowd roars approval)
    ‘Let her up here immediately… come on, you c**ts!’ (crowd ecstatic)
    “You don’t treat girls like that. Leave her alone, you turds” (crowd applauds again)

    Keith Richards 1969?
    No Sir Elton John last Saturday, not knowing his own security detail had asked the two local security guys to remove the girl/woman.

  39. Old School Conservative

    The Beatles are the most overrated act of all time……after they went all Maharishi Yogi on us.

    Before that, superb.

  40. Infidel Tiger

    Apparently the third world security were manhandling some wine mum who was dancing in the aisle.

  41. JohnJJJ

    Woodstock peace and love was not the result of the selfish boomers. Their WW2/depression parents brought them up to get on with each other – well for a few days. Woodstock audience was polite and civilized, and drugged.
    The reality of the world appeared in Altamont. How many people were killed in the equivalent number (300,000) in California on that day.
    Altamont was probably still the safest place to be on that day.
    Let’s keep the perspective.

  42. mh

    Dragnet
    #3249918, posted on December 2, 2019 at 2:38 pm
    “All those nude, fat people were just asking for it”
    Keith Richards

    There is a nude Monty type in Gimme Shelter shaking his manboobs while most likely on acid.

    Once seen, you will view the Angels as the good guys.

  43. Peter Greagg

    Recently watched Woodstock the film. I was struck by the young woman — they were almost all thin, un-inked, un-pieced, and unshaved.

    That got me thinking of all the things we have lost since then.

  44. mh

    Another fav track from the doco Gimme Shelter

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