Uncharted: Music and Mayhem in the Music Industry, episode 011: The Truth About the Rolling Stones and Altamont

By 1965, change was in the air. A new generation of young people was coming of age, and they did not want what their parents did. Theirs was the counterculture, a rebellion, and repudiation of the status quo. And for a while, it was all peace and love—or at least it pretended to.

Yes, we had the “summer of love” in 1967. The Beatles sang “All You Need is Love.” John Lennon asked everyone to give peace a chance. And there were demonstrations against the war in Vietnam and the military-industrial complex.

Hippies, pacifists, and proponents of civil rights and women’s rights were sure they could make a difference. And some of them did.

But there was a dark side to the 60s. Parts of society weren’t keen on granting certain parts of the population equal rights. Some groups believed that society needed to be reformed by any means necessary, including the use of violence and domestic terrorism.

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. There was violence at political conventions.

But many people kept the faith and the thing that faith ran on was music. Music was at the centre of all this promise of cultural change, social change, justice, civil rights, progress, and more.

In August 1969, somewhere between 400,000 and 600,000 people converged on Woodstock, a festival billed as three days of peace and music. A noble idea, the concept that music could bring everything together to make the world a better place. The legend of Woodstock continues today, decades later.

Some loved what Woodstock symbolized. “We need more of that,” they thought. So, they came up with a plan to end the year and the 1960s with a similar event in California, It would be the culmination of the good embodied by the counter-culture and send the world into the 1970s.

It did not turn out that way. Instead, the stones got something that has gone down in history as an event that symbolized the dark side of the decade. This is the truth about Altamont. And wow, do I have a story for you.

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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.

Alan Cross has 38165 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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