Remembering Altamont, the music festival that killed the 60s

Mick Jagger had an idea. What if the band were to headline a massive music festival as a way of ending off the 60s? “It’ll be like a west coast version of Woodstock,” he enthused. “And it’ll be free!”

And so began plans for a giant gig at Altamont Speedway in Livermore, California, not far from San Francisco. Over 300,000 showed up on December 6, 1969, for what was supposed to be another “peace and love” event.

It didn’t turn out that way. One fan drowned in a nearby irrigation canal before he even made it to the show. Then an 18-year-old Black man named Meredith Hunter was stabbed by Hell’s Angels who were hired to do security for the event.

Fifty years on, the disaster that was Altamont continues to fascinate. The Washington Post has a new feature on what happened.

“The helicopter landed just before 3 p.m. and Mick Jagger, 26 years old, bushy-haired and chewing gum, peacocked onto the pavement. That’s when a stranger ran toward him. “I hate you!” the man screamed, and then he punched the Rolling Stones singer in the mouth.

“Standing next to Jagger, the band’s business manager, Ron Schneider, watched in horror.

“‘I wanted to kill the guy, but Mick’s immediately, ‘No, no, no,’ ” he recalls.

“The stranger was wrestled away, and Jagger and his small entourage pressed on through a sea of hippies to a location backstage where the Stones would huddle for the next three hours until it was their turn to play.

“What Jagger didn’t fully realize is that by the time he arrived, the Altamont Free Concert wasn’t just underway, it was already out of control.”

This is a fantastic story. Read it here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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