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Stones on Top - Altamont: The End Of The Sixties

angels security hell free

The Stones were saddened by the loss of their friend, but they still had a lot of work to do. They had a new album, Let It Bleed, coming out, and they had a huge U.S. tour to support it. The tour was scheduled to take place throughout 1969, with a final, free show to be played somewhere in San Francisco at the end. The success of the Woodstock festival had made free festivals very hip, and the public wanted the Stones to do something similar.

The Rolling Stones decided to perform at the Altamont Speedway. The show's security was being handled by the local chapter of the famous biker gang, the Hell's Angels. The London chapter of the Angels had handled security successfully at the free Hyde Park show, and American Hell's Angels had been doing security for rock concerts for years without problems.

On the day of the show, December 6, it was obvious from the very start that something was wrong. During the set by one of the opening acts, Jefferson Airplane, the crowd started to get rowdy, and the Angels, who had come with pool cues and other homemade weapons, began beating people, including Jefferson Airplane member Marty Balin. By the time the Stones took the stage, tension between the crowd and the security had reached a boiling point.

While the Stones played, small riots were breaking out all over the grounds, and they were forced to stop their show several times while Mick urged people to “cool out.” Finally, while the band played “Under My Thumb,” one of the Hell's Angels stabbed a young man named Meredith Hunter. Hunter died, and the Stones barely escaped the riot that ensued.

Many people say that this marked the end of the feel-good late sixties. Woodstock had been about love and peace, but Altamont had turned into the exact opposite. The Stones, as a band, were born in the sixties, and had now provided a fitting closing chapter to the decade. Now, they had to find a way to survive into the next.

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