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Fact #76659


Short story:

During a concert by The Rolling Stones, Santana, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young, at Altamont Speedway, Livermore, California, USA, audience member Meredith Hunter is beaten to death by Hells Angels in front of the stage. The Grateful Dead also attend the concert but refuse to play shortly before their scheduled appearance due to the increasing violence at the venue. The Dead's song New Speedway Boogie is inspired by the media response to Altamont. The fifth verse of Don Mclean's American Pie is widely regarded as a reference to The Stones at Altamont. Blue Oyster Cult's Transmaniacon MC makes several direct references to Altamont.

Full article:

During their 1969 US tour, The Rolling Stones made plans to play a free show in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, but it was cancelled because The Stones broke the terms of their agreement with the city authorities by announcing it too soon. In a misguided attempt to cobble a substitute together, The Stones announced an alternative free concert at Sears Point on 6 December. Then, with less than 36 hours before the show was set to start, the location was moved again ... to Altamont.

Sam Cutler (road manager) : America is an armed society; violence is always lurking just beneath the surface, whereas England in those days was a much more placid place. People in America are slightly more hysterical about things. The English, they just take it in, it was considered very uncool to go over the top and get wild about people, they were all laid back and cool about things, but Americans, they are much more silly.
(Source : interview by Andy Ryan on Feb 5, 2007 at http://www.yourgigs.com.au/interviews/?interview_id=114192)

Mick Taylor (guitarist, Rolling Stones) : We were all in Alabama when the thing was organised by the same officials that have always organised San Francisco's free concerts. We wanted to be there to do all the planning ourselves, but that wasn't possible, so it was left in good hands.

Keith Richards (guitarist, Rolling Stones) : We had wanted to do this free concert in San Francisco, in the spirit of the times. We left it all to the Grateful Dead. We just said, "You cats do free concerts in this town all the goddamn time; how's it done?" But there is no blame attached to anybody, including The Angels . The guy who got knocked off, in a way, he asked for it.

Terry Reid (opening act) : We'd all got wind that [promoter Bill Graham] had got the Hell's Angels looking after security. There's a concept for you. Keith said, 'I don't particularly want to go myself, but I suppose I should, shouldn't I?' (Source : The Independent, 3 July 2007)

Jerry Garcia : Originally the idea was that the Stones' thing was going to be a chance for all these various community elements to participate in a sort of a party for The Rolling Stones. That was the original concept, but then we couldn't have it in Golden Gate Park, so that really was the end of the plan as it was supposed to have happened. That eliminated the possibility for any community scene in San Francisco because of the transportation problem - how many Chicanos, Chinese or blacks or anything like that are going to be able to get a bus out to wherever-the-fuck? That was really the end of the original plan.

Bill Graham (promoter, but not of this event) : I remember reading that it was going to be at Sears Point. Then they couldn't get the permit there. When they switched it to Altamont prior to the date, I remember thinking it was insanity. Because there was no preparation. A gig of that magnitude in an era when there weren't the production teams and personnel available as they are now, I couldn't figure out how they could do it.

Sam Cutler (road manager) : The site was the wrong site, it was freezing cold, in the middle of the desert, there were a whole lot of reasons why it turned out to be a nightmare. I mean, I didn't choose the site, the stage was the wrong size, I didn't choose the stage, a lot of the things that went wrong were due to the people who made those decisions not having a clue what they were doing.
(Source : interview by Andy Ryan on Feb 5, 2007 at http://www.yourgigs.com.au/interviews/?interview_id=114192)

Jerry Garcia : And then we began operating on just sheer kinetic energy.... Rolling Stones was in the air, Rolling Stones, Rolling Stones, and thus it was just being swept along; but everybody was feeling - and it was all good people - everybody was feeling very good about it. Chet Helms was there doing stuff, and Emmett and Chip Monck and all these solid, together, hard-working people, but somehow the sense of it escaped everybody.

Bill Graham : I knew what was coming down and I said, 'I've got to get away from this.' I remember this very clearly. I went to New York so that there would be no way I would be available and no way they could contact me.

A couple of days before the proposed concert, Chip Monck found me. He called and said, 'Bill, you were right. We've got a disaster on our hands. The show is two days from now, we can't build the stage, the power lines aren't in, there's no sanitation and no medical, there's no water, we're in a sandpit. It's no good.

Michael Wadleigh (film producer) : I was called in to help out at the last minute ... Somewhere along the line I learned that their security was the Hell's Angels.

Jerry Garcia : The idea of using the Hell's Angels as cops, that was ridiculous. If you're going to have the Hell's Angels there, they should have given them a corner of the field where they could rape and pillage and murder and do their shit and just hope that everybody stayed away from it. Kind of obvious, you know?

Keith Richards : I didn't know what kind of people they were. I'd heard about The Angels , but I haven't lived in California and San Jose. I have no contact with those people. I don't know how uncontrolled they are, how basic their drives are.

But when The Dead told us, 'It's cool. We've used them for the last two or three years. Kesey cooled them out.' I was skeptical about it but I said, 'I'll take your word for it.'

Mick Taylor (guitarist, Rolling Stones) : I think we expected probably something like the Hell's Angels that were our security force at Hyde Park but, of course, they're not the real Hell's Angels, they're completely phony. These guys in California are the real thing - they're very violent.

Michael Wadleigh : It was like a speeding train, and you could just help apply some of the brakes and make sure it makes it around the bend, but that was about all you could do.

Bill Graham : I didn't want them to do a free concert. Not without planning. I said to them, 'As big as you are, you can't do a free concert. You can't'. Free was the dangerous word. Anybody and everybody. You can't stop anybody from coming. Doing what? Bringing what? To be part of what?

Jerry Garcia : There was one thing beforehand that we all should have spotted. (Emmett) Grogan wrote up on the blackboard up at the Grateful Dead office, just as the site had been changed from whatever the first one was, he wrote a little slogan up on the blackboard which said something like "Charlie Manson Memorial Hippie Love Death Cult Festival." Something along those lines, something really funny, but ominous.

Bill Graham : The guiltiest one of all is the law. The law had the greatest power to avert this. To me, any time the law sees anything like this coming, which is a holocaust, they can stop anything at any time. They can block a highway or force them by injunction.

They should have taken Mr Jagger, twisted his fucking arms behind his back, put him in front of a radio and said, 'Mr Jagger, if we have to break your arms off, call it off.'

Capt William Bradshaw (California Highway Patrol) : I was contacted at 11 Friday morning by my zone commander in San Francisco, who had just been told himself. That gave us twenty hours and, at the time, we had nobody there but the regular beat patrol.

Richard Fine (medical aid volunteer organiser) : We had one day to mobilize medical personnel and supplies. We got shitty support from the people running the thing, who didn't realize what was crucial from a medical standpoint, and wouldn't give us the authority to do such things as set up a workable evacuation procedure. And we had no time to mobilize community people for help with bad trips.

Jim Marshall (rock photographer) : I went with (fellow photographer) Baron Wolman, and Baron just couldn't deal with it and left. I had a Winnebago backstage with John Burkes, who was an editor at Rolling Stone. We had this Winnebago filled with booze, food, and I was one of the 'official' photographers. I was fairly well-known then, and I was accepted, so I could do whatever I wanted. I knew some of the Hell's Angels so I didn't get any hassles from them.


Keith Richards : I went out there the night before with Mick. Mick went back, I stayed there. I just hung around, met a few nice people. It was really beautiful. That night before, everywhere I went was a gas. People were sitting around their fires, really cool, getting high.

Mick Taylor : When they came back, all they could say was how good it looked. It was going to be a nice day and a nice way to end a tour.

SATURDAY MORNING 7.00am : THE HELL'S ANGELS ALLOW THE CROWDS GATHERING IN THE HILLS AROUND ALTAMONT TO ENTER THE SITErnGrace Slick : It was in one of those places where California is very dry. It wasn't hilly - it was just these bumps. It was a kind of brown/grey day...

Owsley Stanley : It was like a moonscape of crushed auto bodies. It looked like a skull, and I thought, 'This place smells of death.'

Capt. William Bradshaw : We had to have two forty-man shifts there, and had to get help from the Tracy and Concord stations. I had to direct the whole thing from a helicopter. There were cars jamming the roads for ten miles in every direction...

Paul Kantner : We got a helicopter and zipped right out there. We had just come off the road - the night before I think - and home was, like, our hotel room. Bags still on the floor, unpacked.

Sam Cutler (tour manager, Rolling Stones) : Everyone says that The Rolling Stones hired the hell's Angels and therefore Sam Cutler is responsible for a guy being killed. But the Stones have never hired anyone to do their dirty stuff for them. They can do that for themselves, if they ever wanted to.

No-one can hire The Angels . Not for $500, not for half a million dollars. In fact, they were once offered a million dollars to star in a film and they refused. It doesn't mean anything to them. What happened was that The Rolling Stones paid for $5000 worth of beer for The Angels to drink and to hand around.

There was a lot of dope at the concert – a lot of alcohol the night before. So everyone was powerless to face the situation. When people can’t control themselves, it gets out of hand.

Albert Maysles (film maker) : These Angels came from neighbouring chapters in San Francisco, San Jose, San Bernardino and Oakland, and they were loaded with weapons - knives, chains, lead pipes, the irons and sawed-off pool cues with lead-weighted ends. The parade of motorbikes was followed by a Hell's Angels school bus that was stocked with beer, rotgut wine and questionable LSD tabs.

Albert Maysles : By noon there were many more (festival-goers) than the 300,000 that had been expected, but they were not in a very festive mood. One reason was the grubby, desolate nature of the place. Another was that there had not been adequate preparations for a crowd of that size. There were only a few portable toilets, and long lines waited to use them.

Michael Goldberg (fan) : It felt different. Not like the other free concerts I'd been to, the ones in Golden Gate Park where the Airplane and the Dead and Big Brother held forth. No, you could feel the evil in the air. Only, at first, I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong. I just knew something wasn't right.

Mick Taylor : Some things were wrong with the layout of the show. We didn’t need three hundred Hell’s Angels to get boozed up before the show and then act as a security force. I guess you need some form of security but, when you bring in an army, that’s the end.

Denise Jewkes (audience) : Somebody threw a beer bottle way up in the air and it came down on me and knocked me unconscious. There were lots of beer cans, still full, being thrown around, and that was the stupidest thing going on.

Dennis McNally (publicist for Grateful Dead) : What it boiled down to was that in front of the stage there was a six-foot-high chain-link fence. The Angels were between the fence and the stage. At some point in the afternoon, Sam Cutler (tour manager, Rolling Stones) put the press in there and the Angels left.

Seeing people there, the audience tore down the fence. It was at that point that all hell broke loose. There were maniacs in the audience who wanted to challenge the Angels.

Ron Schneider (promoter for Rolling Stones) : The Angels were there the entire morning, and what happened is they just got completely out of their heads on acid and everything. There was nothing you could do, it just became a violent thing with them. We tried to get them off the stage once we saw what was happening.

Sonny Barger (Hell's Angels leader) : I just went there to sit on the front of the stage and drink beer and have a good time, like we was told. But when they started kickin' our bikes, man, that started it.

Jim Marshall (rock photographer) : At the time, the atmosphere didn’t seem that heavy, really. The Jefferson Airplane played a great set, The Flying Burrito Brothers played a great set, so did Santana. There was some good music that day, but there was a feeling of tension in the air.

Albert Maysles : When the acts began, leading off with Santana and all that brass, the mood got better, some kids began to get up and dance, and we were getting it all with our cameras. But just when Santana and his group were heating up and creating a kind of fiesta mood, the disturbances began.

Carlos Santana : There was bad vibes from the beginning. The fights started because the Hell's Angels were pushing people around. There was no provocation; the Angels started the whole violence thing and there's no fucking doubt about that. It all happened so fast, it just went right on before us and we didn't know what was going on. There were lots of people just fuckin' freaked out.

Albert Maysles : Some kid tried to get near the stage and the wall of Hell's Angels clubbed him down with their pool cues. A naked, obese man, dazed with drugs, wandered around until the Hell's Angels' pool cues bludgeoned him.

Carlos Santana : During our set I could see a guy from the stage who had a knife and just wanted to stab somebody. I mean, he really wanted a fight. There were kids being stabbed and heads cracking all the time.

John Young (photographer) : I'd never seen a Hell's Angel before and I didn't really know they could do that... It felt like they were hitting me with a hammer and a broken bottle.

Albert Maysles : Unopened beer cans were lobbed from the Hell's Angels' school bus, aimed at members of the Santana band.

Tim Cahill (journalist) : There was this big, fat guy in Bermuda shorts, real woozy. He sat on a guy and grabbed his girl's tits. Nobody in this place where we were all mellow said anything, including - I'm afraid - me.

Andy Levine (photographer) : This one cat was all dressed in white and he got in this big hole and started dancing to try to calm things down. There wasn't any music going on, he just started dancing, and one Angel just hit him in the head with a pool cue. And then the cat was still dancing, he was in a daze, and they just started smashing him from Angel to Angel. You could see his teeth coming out. They kept beating him up and then they just left him on the ground.

Albert Maysles : The medical tents were over-run with kids who had used bad drugs being peddled by syndicate pushers.

Richard Fine (voluntary medical staff) : A lot of the bad trips were violent because there was so much violence in the air. There were a lot of beatings. Girls were beaten. I sewed up a lot of girls.

Dr Richard Baldwin (medical aid co-ordinator) : With all our units, we treated probably about 700 freak-outs... We got one big wave early in the morning, and then another one when the violence broke out with the Airplane.

Albert Maysles : The Stones' manager, Sam Cutler, tried to calm everything down before the Jefferson Airplane came on with Grace Slick. The Airplane had always been friendly with the Angels, raised money at benefits for them, so we expected Grace to get them under control but no sooner had she started to sing We Can Be Together than the Angels put their pool cues back in action. Grace Slick stopped the music and appealed to the Angels, 'Hey, you guys, why are we hurting each other?' Did no good.

While the Airplane played their aggressive song Volunteers, a group of Angels moved in on a black kid and started to club him mercilessly. One of the members of the band, Marty Balin, jumped off the stage to help the kid but was himself immediately clubbed into unconsciousness....

Grace Slick : I didn't have on my contact lenses. So, I could see, at that point, maybe eight to ten feet in front of me, and then it starts getting fuzzy. So I was over by the drum riser, and I saw some scuffling going on over at stage left. And Spencer looked horrified. I asked him, 'What's going on?' He said, 'Well, the Hell's Angels are beating up Marty.' And he keeps on playing. And Paul's saying 'Now, people...' and all this kind of stuff. So the whole thing was ugly.

I think a Hell's Angel hit him with a pool cue or something. I don't remember exactly what happened. But Marty, after that, I know, somebody knocked him down, and the Hell's Angel said to Marty, "Never say 'Fuck you' to a Hell's Angel." And Marty said '"Fuck you." again from the floor that he was knocked down on.

So I guess the roadies came out and either grabbed the Hell's Angel, or helped Marty up or separated them, or something. Because I couldn't really see what was going on.

Bill Wyman : It quickly became obvious, as we helicoptered in from our San Francisco hotel, that tension was in the air.

Jan Vinson (Stones' helicopter pilot) : I was put in a position which was dangerous to both me and the machine and the crowd. Those people were messed up on everything - dope, wine, needles. They were higher than any altitude I've ever flown at.

Albert Maysles : They went immediately to their trailer, which was parked behind the stage. Some kid, high on acid, took a punch at Mick and yelled obscenities at him.

Mick Taylor : About five minutes after we arrived, just after we got out of the helicopter, I was with Mick and there were a couple of security guards with us, and a guy broke through and punched Mick in the face. That put me off a bit but, even after that happened, I didn't expect all those other things.

?? Rolling Stone writer : Somehow the simple verities of their (Flying Burrito Brothers) countrified electric music soothed the warriors. There were no fights. As luck would have it, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards chose to emerge from the backstage trailer where they'd been holed up, to have a look at the stage and the audience during this period of calm. They strolled about, wound up on stage, smiling, for a bit. Then, back to the trailer where, in true super-star fashion, Jagger was signing autographs.

Keith Richards : When I heard what they'd done to Marty Balin - they're gettin' out of hand. It's just gonna get worse, I thought. Obviously it's not going to get better.

Wavy Gravy (Hog Farm organiser) : The medics were squaring off against each other. It was really funny, man. This other medic wasn't working hard enough, so they were punching away at each other. It seemed like a pretty convenient place, in the hospital and all.

Stephen Stills : David (Crosby) and I pushed for us to do that gig, but I sensed real danger the minute we got there. I was literally flinching on stage. And I had a horrible feeling someone was going to shoot Mick.

Keith Richards : There were all these rumours flashing around everywhere - "There's a bomb gone off and twenty people been blown to bits, man." You say "I think you got it wrong, man, I'm sure you got it wrong." Cause you been hearing crazy rumours all day - that you're dead - as ridiculous as that.

Albert Maysles : For some reason, when Crosby Stills and Nash started to perform, the Angels' violence escalated. They began to beat people for no reason at all, men and women, whoever was in their vicinity. There were bodies all over the ground.

Stephen Stills : When we finished our set, I started barking orders and picked up two guitars. David picked up two. And with Neil's wife, Susan, between us, we carried all of the above to the chopper on a dead run. Dallas and Cros understood completely and moved right out. We cleared the area in ninety seconds flat. The others were a bit nonplussed, but followed.

Dennis McNally : One of the Grateful Dead's managers got laid out that day. That was when the Grateful Dead decided they weren't going on stage. They flew back to the city, where they were supposed to work at Fillmore West.

Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead) : We felt that it would not have done any good for us to play, and would only have prolonged the agony. Unfortunately, the Rolling Stones were waiting for sundown so they could make a film.

Michael Goldberg : By the time The Stones went on - naturally they waited until the sun had gone down and darkness fell on the creepy crowd, a crowd that had been drinking from gallon jugs of Gallo all day - my friends and I were cold and tired.

Albert Maysles : Sam Cutler tried to get everyone off the stage before The Stones came on but, in response, the Angels rode their bikes right through the throng and positioned them in a solid line in front of the stage.

Sonny Barger (Hell's Angels chief) : We come down on our bikes because we were told that we were supposed topark in front of the stage and so, like, when we started coming down through the crowd, everybody, you know, just out of sight, got up and moved. We come down in low gear, uh, like, you know, didn't try to run into anybody or do any of that kind of thing.

Albert Maysles : When Mick left the dressing room, a swarm of uninvited Angels surrounded him and went right up on the stage with him, leaving him little room to perform in. Mick pleaded with them to move aside, and they gave a little but not much.

Keith Richards : I realized I'm surrounded by 400 Hell's Angels. I didn't lose my bottle, but I swallowed. My thoughts went out the window. Actually I don't give a shit about a few guys who ride Harley-Davidsons. Why should I? I'm a guitar player.

Albert Maysles : As soon as The Stones started their first number, the whack of pool cues could be heard just beyond where Mick was performing.

Michael Goldberg : I'll never forget Keith Richards, playing his clear Dan Armstrong guitar, his utterly unique rhythms cutting through the suddenly chilly air. Jumpin' Jack Flash. The Stones were loud, they rocked, they were scared shitless.

Gram Parsons (Flying Burrito Brothers) : The Angels are worse than cops.They're so dumb. Michelle (Phillips, Mamas And Papas) and I were standing by the side of the stage, not bothering anybody, just standing as far away as we could be and still see, and one Angel kept trying to push us back, every two minutes. Every two minutes I'd have to explain to him all over again, just like the first time, that we were supposed to be there.

Jim Marshall (photographer) : The sound was crappy, and everyone felt bummed by that. There was no community feeling here at all.

Mick Taylor : After about five numbers there seemed to be fights breaking out everywhere. I don’t know who was starting them, for I was on one end of the stage and I couldn’t see clearly.

Albert Maysles : Most of the photographers were too frightened to take pictures, having seen what the Angels did to a couple of their colleagues.

Michelle Phillips (Mamas And Papas) : Everything took on a surreal quality. The fighting, screaming, hollering ... I saw kids on stage picking up tabs of acid and putting them in their mouths.

Dr. Richard Baldwin : The biggest wave (of bad trips) we got was near the end, when the Angels started picking up again. They were leading each other in two and threes, totally confused and totally freaked-out by it.

Eric Saarinen (cameraman) : It was like hell. Mick Jagger was strutting around in this red robe. It looked like fire. Everybody was on acid, it was getting dark, everything was upside down.

Grace Slick (vocalist, Jefferson Airplane) : I felt sorry for Jagger, because the day had been building up to their act, and he dressed in his tour outfit, which was kind of a devil’s sort of suit. And I just thought, ‘Oh, man, you just stepped into a pile of shit.’ Sympathy For The Devil and the whole aura of the thing was just real yin/yang.

Albert Maysles : Mick wrapped his cloak around him and the band struck up Sympathy For The Devil, Mick's definitive Satan song, in which he introduced himself as 'a man of wealth and taste'. The Angels went berserk...

Jerry Garcia : I realized when the Rolling Stones were playing at the crowd and the fighting was going on and the Rolling Stones were playing Sympathy for the Devil, then I knew that I should have known. You know, you can't put that out without it turning up on you somewhere.

Mick Taylor : Most of the violence was going on right in front of the stage, right in front of our eyes, and I've never seen anything like it before. I just couldn't believe it.

Paul Kantner : They were a bit cowed, I think, by what had gone on that day and what was still going on. You could feel it in the air. it was maelstromic...

Keith Richards : The violence was incredible. I thought the show would have been stopped, but hardly anybody wanted to take any notice.

Mick Taylor : It got so bad at one point that we just had to stop playing, we had to keep stopping in the middle of numbers. Mick did his best to cool the people out.

Sonny Barger : I told him to tell the people to sit down ... if you tell these people to sit down and be cool, the people in the back can see a little and this show will get on and we can get it going and do it ... there was one girl, if you remember, that was, uh, quite a large girl that was going around topless, and kept trying to climb up on the stage ...

Albert Maysles : No sooner had Mick gone back to the song than the violence erupted again; this time a young girl was clubbed right in front of Mick, who stopped singing again and rather helplessly said, 'Fellas ... does it take five of you to handle her?'

Keith Richards (guitarist, Rolling Stones) : I asked for it by opening my goddamn trap. It's amazing, in retrospect, that it wasn't far worse. I ain't very prudent. I jeopardized everybody there at Altamont, but it was something that had to be said or all control would have been lost. Mick was sort of begging, "Please, please." I'd seen the way things were goin', pointed to a Hell's Angel and said, "That guy there, make him stop." I knew the retribution of the Hell's Angels would have been immediate - some motherfucker would have just turned around and shot me.

The cops had disappeared; they didn't wanna know shit. There were too many people and they weren't prepared for it. As far as they were concerned, one kid got born there, one died there, so there was the same amount of people who came out as went in. They said, "Well, we look at the ticket numbers - you mean you didn't charge for the baby?" It was chaos. "What children do is grow you up, make you think, What the hell am I gonna leave behind?"

Sonny Barger : This broad keeps climbing up on the stage and, like, uh, Mick Jagger's in some kind of panic and everything, and we got five guys there and, like, he's telling us don't hurt anybody ...

Eric Saarinen : I was right at the front of the stage and all these guys are getting pool-cue-whipped by these Hell's Angels. An Angel was actually guarding me. I was thankful.

Paul Cox (audience) : An Angel kept looking at me and I tried to keep ignoring him and I didn't want to look at him at all, because I was very scared of them ... He kept on looking over, and the next thing I know, he's hassling this Negro boy (Meredith Hunter) on the side of me. And I was trying not to look at him, and then he reached over and shook this boy by the side of the head, thinking it was fun, laughing, and I noticed something was going to happen so I kind of backed off.

Jim Marshall (rock photographer) : The Angels didn’t like black guys and, when the guy pulls out a fuckin’ gun, he’s gonna get hurt.

Paul Cox : The boy yanked away, and when he yanked away, next thing I know he was flying in the air, right on the ground, just like all the other people it happened to. He scrambled to his feet, and he's backing up and trying to run from the Angels, and all these Angels are - a couple jumped off the stage and a couple was running alongside the stage, and his girlfriend was screaming at him not to shoot, because he pulled out his gun.

Mick Taylor : I didn’t really see the incident that lef to Meredith Hunter’s stabbing either, but we all saw him leaping about before he was bundled away into the crowd. I do think he was waving a gun around in the air as he ran.

Sam Cutler : The gun is on the film and the guy with the gun is on the film…

Patty Bredehoft (Meredith Hunter's girlfriend) : They (Hell's Angels) came towards him and they reached for his arm and then they were all kicking and fighting and stuff ... and the fight more or less moved towards where the scaffold was on the edge of the stage.

Albert Maysles : A short distance from the stage, there was a sudden violent movement. The mass of people pulled apart, creating a narrow path, and we caught sight of a young black man running frantically towards the stage.

Anonymous Hell's Angel (on KSAN radio) : This black guy had come toward the stage and been pushed off by Angels. He flipped over, and he's got this revolver - It looked like a cannon. It was pointed right at me. I hit the deck and this gun was pointed right at Jagger...

Paul Cox : And then some Angel (Alan Passaro) snuck up from right out of the crowd and leaped up and brought this knife down in his back. And then I saw him stab him again, and while he's stabbing him, he's running.

Bill Kreutzmann (Grateful Dead) : I was sitting on a big flat-bed truck, off the stage, and I saw it happen, that horrible knifing, and we had a show elsewhere to play that night for Bill Graham and I was just so blown away that I said, 'I can’t possibly play after that. How can you get up on stage and play after such an awful event?' I refused to play. And Bill Graham charged the band for not appearing.

David Maysles : The cameraman filmed the murder, and he didn't even know it was a murder, he didn't see it. We just saw a guy dancing in a green suit and then it looked like a scuffle. The murder took place between Love In Vain and Under My Thumb, incidentally, not as Rolling Stone reported, during Sympathy For The Devil. The film is corroborative evidence...

Eric Saarinen : It was a great act of heroism that the guy stabbed the guy with the gun. I got the footage back in Los Angeles, California. I was the first person to know about it and I called Maysles and told him, 'I think you might have a murder on film.' I got the dailies and I played them back and forth, back and forth. Sure enough, the Hell's Angel pulled the knife from his boot and transferred it from one hand to the other and stabbed the guy.

Paul Cox : The Hell's Angel grabbed onto both of his shoulders and started kicking him in the face about five times or so, and then he let go, and he fell down on his face. And then one of them kicked him in the side, and he rolled over and muttered some words. He said, 'I wasn't going to shoot you.' Those were the last words he muttered.

Paul Cox : One of the Hell's Angels said, 'Why did you have a gun?' He didn't give him time to say anything. He grabbed one of those garbage cans, the cardboard ones with the metal rimming, and he smashed him over the head with it, and then he kicked the garbage can out of the way and started kicking his head in. Five or six of them started kicking his head in. Kicked him all over the place. And then the guy that started the whole thing stood on his head for a minute or so and then walked off.

Patty Bredehoft : He (a Hell's Angel) was holding the gun in his hand, laying in the palm of his hand, to show it to me, and he said something like, 'This is what we took from him. He was going to kill innocent people, so he deserved to be dead.'

Angel : When it was all over, man, Jagger looks at me and says 'Why?' I says, 'I dunno, man, that's just the way people are.'

Robert Hiatt (medical services) : I carried him myself, back to the first aid area. He was limp in my hands and unconscious. He was still breathing then, though quite shallowly, and he had a very weak pulse. It was obvious he wasn't going to make it...

He had very serious wounds. He had a wound in the lower back which could have gone into the lungs, a wound in the back near the spine, which could have severed a major vessel and a fairly large wound in the left temple... each was about three-fourths of an inch long, so they would have been fairly deep.

Roland W. Prahl (coroner's investigator) : They pronounced him dead at the site. If anyone had thought he was alive, they'd have helped him.

Keith Richards : The other memory was the getaway: everyone running up this hill to a hovering helicopter. It was like Vietnam. You had to jump and climb up this rope ladder. Gotta get away.

Ethan Russel (official tour photographer) : I was scared for my life. All I wanted to do was get out. We left as soon as we could. We had a helicopter designed to hold eleven people and it took off with seventeen of us, including the band. (Source : interview with Mel Bradman, Sunday Times, May 18, 2008)

Bill Wyman : It couldn't even lift off, that's how full it was. We piled in there on top of each other and we took off going slantways, and when we landed we were going in sideways and couldn't come to a stop properly because it was too heavy. It was terrifying.

Bill Kreutzmann (Grateful Dead) : We had a show elsewhere to play that night for Bill Graham and I was just so blown away that I said, I can’t possibly play after that. How can you get up on stage and play after such an awful event? I refused to play. And Bill Graham charged the band for not appearing.

Pamela Des Barres : It was the most intense room to be in on earth. Everyone was high; Gram was there, leaning against the wall, nodding out. There was a whole discussion about what to do.Mick was actually thinking of quitting, retiring.

Porter Bibb (Maysles brothers representative) : We really didn't even want to make this film when we sat down Saturday night back at the hotel. Mick didn't want to make it. He said, 'I don't want - it's not that it didn't happen, I don't want to try to muzzle it, but I don't see any sense in trying to exploit what happened.' His first reaction about the concert was, he said, 'Man, I wish - I didn't want it to be like this.'


David Crosby : Remember, the Angels were asked to be there... They've always showed up at gatherings, but they were not asked to guard a stage. This time they were and they did it. In their mind, guard a stage means guard it. That means, if anyone comes near it, you do them in and, in the Angels' style, if you do them in, you do them in.

Mick Jagger : It was our show. Whosoever's fault it was, it was our fault because we weren't on top of it. You've got to be careful.

People tell me all the time they had a good time there. Kids arrivin' the day before ... campin' out and all that. Sometimes I think the only two people who didn't have a good time were me and the guy that got killed.

Devon Wilson : Mick said he was going to go on vacation to Morocco for a couple of weeks when he got back. He asked me to meet him in the south of France and we'd drive to Marrakesh...

Mick Taylor : All we wanted was a great free day for everyone to have fun so the tour would end on a good note. The trouible is that people haven’t learned to get together in numbers quite that large yet.

Ethan Russel (official tour photographer) : The band never travelled commercially again, they had private jets. They had limos. Every member had received a death threat from the Hell’s Angels and had an armed guard. The stage got raised higher and the band became untouchable. (Source : interview with Mel Bradman, Sunday Times, May 18, 2008)

Bill Graham : Altamont really was a tragedy because it became an adjective for the negative aspect of rock and roll... the word conjures up an event which was more costly to rock and roll than any single day in the history of entertainment. No other liesure-time activity has that dark a cloud over it. We've never been able to wipe that stain from our record. It's tragic. Far beyond the fact that at least one person was killed.

It will always be something for the critics of rock and roll to use. "You can't let all these people gather here for a concert. They may hurt each other. Look at Altamont."

Grace Slick : Woodstock was a bunch of stupid slobs in the mud, and Altamont was a bunch of angry slobs in the mud.

Bill Thompson (manager, Jefferson Airplane) : Altamont was the end of the sixties. It was December 1969, and that was the end. Of the whole feeling. We kept on going, but it was a different kind of feeling.

Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones) : Of course some people wanted to say that Altamont was the end of an era. People like that are fashion writers. Perhaps it was the end of their era, the end of their naïveté. I would have thought it would have ended long before Altamont.

You feel a responsibility. How could it all have been so silly and wrong? But I didn't think of these things that you guys thought of, you in the press: this great loss of innocence, this cathartic end of the era . . . I didn't think of any of that. That particular burden didn't weigh on my mind. It was more how awful it was to have had this experience and how awful it was for someone to get killed and how sad it was for his family and how dreadfully the Hell's Angels behaved.