One of the darkest and bloodiest days in rock history happened 44 years ago today.
The Rolling Stones’ infamous concert known as “Altamont” took place in north California on Dec. 6, 1969, a show that attempted to emulate the free-wheeling love and spirit of Woodstock but ended with the death of four concert goers.
The show was meant to mark the end of one of the Stones’ biggest tours with a big performance at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival just 60 miles east of San Francisco. The festival also featured live performances by Santana, Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much planning put into the event beyond scheduling the talent for the show.
The concert’s organizers relied on the Hells Angels to provide security for the show and to make matters worse, they paid them in beer for their services instead of money. So by the time the Stones had taken the stage, they were all beered up and teetering on the edge of a full scale riot. The stabbing of a gun wielding Meredith Hunter by one of the Hells Angels during the Stones’ set marked a deadly end to a free festival that had already seen three other accidental deaths.
The tour documentary Gimmie Shelter actually captured the stabbing on film, and the Hells Angel who killed him was acquitted on self-defense grounds. Needless to say, there wasn’t another Altamont festival and like the famous Woodstock show, attending both has become something of a badge of honor for people who went to (and, in the case of Altamont, survived) both events.