Altamont 50 Years Later

Where does the time go?

The 1960s truly came to an end on Dec. 6, 1969 at Altamont Speedway with 300,000 stoned concert-goers, no facilities (including bathrooms), no police, and only drunk Hell’s Angels to provide security as the event became increasingly chaotic, unruly, and dangerously violent. Four people died (including one audience member viciously killed in front of a minimal makeshift stage where the Rolling Stones nervously played to close out the most negative musical event of the 1960s. (You kinda knew something was amiss when Mick Jagger stepped from a helicopter and got punched out by one of many deranged ‘fans.’)

The Criterion Collection’s enhanced 2002 DVD of Gimme Shelter has it all. Directors David and Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin were on site to record the ‘happening’ and Albert and Charlotte have recorded an audio commentary to enhance what viewers today can see in the remastered and restored uncensored version which originally came out 20 years ago.There are ample other extras including extra Stones New York footage from the same tour which followed Brian Jones’s sudden death and introduced the brilliant young Mick Taylor on second lead guitar. There are trailers and a photo gallery as well.

If you ever wanted to see “Satan laughing with delight” as Don McLean put it in “American Pie’s history of rock and roll, then this is the essential ‘bummer’ episode when the Love Generation awoke to reality and truth with a resounding crash. An important, defining, resonant visual and musical social event. One of the top sixties documentaries and one of the most memorable musical documentaries of all-time for sure.

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