I don’t know if there’s anything new to say about Altamont and the Rolling Stones that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before. But I couldn’t find anything else decent to read at the library.
One interesting tidbit. Meredith Hunter — the 18 year old Berkeley high kid who ended up getting stomped by the Hell’s Angels — surely mis-played that one. His girlfriend wanted to go home before the Stones came on. She had seen more than enough violence from the Angels and wanted to call it a night. And the couple they had come with had already left. But Hunter wanted to stick it out. He went back to his car to get a gun he kept in there to “scare off the Hell’s Angels,” in his words. Now anybody that thinks one guy with a gun is going to “scare off” an army of Hell’s Angels is either nuts or suicidal.
There were multiple reasons why Altamont went wrong. Probably the biggest reason was the “Woodstock myth.” This big myth that came out of Woodstock. That in spite of the rain and the massive overload of people and the equally massive shortage of every kind of supplies, the concert still worked because of the magic of hippie peace and love and psychedelic good vibes. In fact, Woodstock could have ended up as just a big a disaster as Altamont if the two promoters — who had never even put on a concert before — hadn’t realized the potential disaster they were facing. And started writing out checks left and right for hundreds of thousands of dollars to stave off — and just barely — all the desperate problems they were facing one after another.
THAT’S what saved Woodstock. Not hippie good vibes.
And it took the two promoters decades before they were finally able to work themselves out of debt from the Woodstock debacle.
You can even hear Jagger on stage — as the Angels are slaughtering people — appealing to hippie good vibes to save the day. “Brothers and sisters if we’re all one then let’s show it.” Unfortunately the Hell’s Angels didn’t get a contact high from Mick’s rap.
For the genesis of the Altamont tragedy you have to go back about 4 years to the idiot Ken Kesey. It’s hard to know what Ken Kesey was thinking — or if “thinking” is even the operative word to describe the processes that were going on in Ken Kesey’s brain — when he invited the Hell’s Angels to take part in his his Acid Tests. But to “invite” the likes of the Hell’s Angels into your world makes about as much sense as inviting a pack of sharks to a feeding frenzy.