Altamont

December 6, 2019

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Altamont

I don’t remember exactly where I was when the Hells Angels stomped the delicate, fragile flower that was 1960s idealism.

I  am pretty sure I was somewhere in the vicinity of either An Khe, Pleiku or Bong Son. I remember Christmas. Christmas was nice. We got turkey out of a big can. But I particularly do not remember December 6. I remember a baby faced Captain named Colgan bought it on the first. I liked him. He was pretty cool. But I just know the date he died because I found it out later. The sixth of December, 1969 is a blur to me or a smear or a lost man in a thick fog.

I didn’t even find out that a black youth named Meredith Hunter had been stabbed to death by an Angels prospect when he started waving a gun around in front of the stage. But I am pretty sure that if you had told me that news then I would have deadpanned something callous and inappropriate like “Oh fucking well” and then tried to bum a cigarette off you.

Nevertheless, today, December 6, is a very big deal for those who are veterans of small liberal arts colleges, day care cooperatives, communes, free clinics, Wall Street and the peace movement. This day, according to a dude named James Thornton Harris writing for the History News Network, an online publication of George Washington University, commemorates the the “Day the Sixties Died.”

Big Deal

I know what you’re thinking. When your number’s up your number’s up. Well, okay. Look. Maybe that’s just one of the voices in my head. But many Americans, the best Americans, still grieve for bell bottoms, girls who say yes to boys who say no, The Lovin’ Spoonful songs, 27 cents a gallon gasoline and dashikis. So just for them, this week all the most important news outlets, from Yahoo News to The Telegraph are running special news features about the free concert at Altamont.

My favorite is Yahoo Entertainment’s “Did a tarot card reading predict the Rololing Stones’ Altamont disaster 50 years ago?” I like it because it says to much more about contemporary journalism than anybody could ever find to say about a rock n’ roll show. But honorable mention has to go to the SF Gate’s “If Jesus had been there, he would have been crucified’.”

The reserved Telegraph has “In search of Altamont, 50 years after the hippie dream died.”

Thomas S. Hibbs, the president of the University of Dallas, has a notable think piece about this seminal event in American History in the Morning News today titled “From Altamont to the mountaintop: Did we take the wrong message from the ’60s?”

Hibb’s lede is:

“‘Rock and roll’s all-time worst day, December 6th.’ So wrote John Burks in February 1970 in Rolling Stone, referring to what might be the genre’s most infamous concert – the Rolling Stones’ 1969 Altamont Speedway appearance that was intended as a kind of West Coast complement to Woodstock. Instead, it erupted in violence and is best remembered for the murder of a young black man, stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels, who – at the suggestion of the Grateful Dead – were inexplicably hired as security. The violence reached a crescendo early in the Stones’ set, as the band played ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’”

Wanna read more? Me neither.

The San Francisco Chronicle thinks “Altamont wasn’t the end of the ’60s, it was the start of rock ‘n’ roll disasters.” Forbes thinks, “Altamont At 50: The Disastrous Concert That Brought The ‘60s To A Crashing Halt.” There are more. Collect them all if you want – like pogs or Pokemon cards.

The best piece, which goes on forever and includes numerous rare phonographs is in The Washington Post. You can read that one here, if you have nothing better to do.

 

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24 Responses to “Altamont”

  1. Rebel Says:

    Dear Skippy,

    I knew him. He was a better man than I.

    Rebel

  2. Dr.G Says:

    Not a bad read. Simplistic read with plenty of pics of a scrapper in the right time at the right age. See true scooter bum.

  3. Rebel Says:

    Dear Dr.G

    I don’t know. I don’t know the book. I read Joel Selvins account and didn’t think much of that.

    Rebel

  4. Dr.G Says:

    Was wondering. Are the 2 San Jose prospects often seen swinging the pool cues Gypsy Jack & Theo with longer hair from Phil Cross’s book? I know Phil said he was a patch by then but maybe those guys weren’t voted in yet.

  5. Mike T Says:

    Fuck hippies, draft lottery #69, born June 13, 1950. Fucking hippies spit on the veterans that were drafted and doing their time and then come home to have some fucking bell bottomed low life spit on you after being got shot, close to dying and come home to be welcomed with spit. I dislike them. As for the asshole pulling a gun, yeah I vividly Remember it. The fake news didn’t publish the facts, only the sensational so called bogus journalism that the fact the idiot who was stabbed to death was threatening people with a gun. Yes, often you can bring a knife to a gun fight and win. And then big lipped Jagger wimps out and apologizes.

    Are those days better …I think so even with the corrupt government and the pathetic hippies. Biker life style, never could see how hippies fit in unless you wanted an easy piece of liberal ass.

  6. Steve Smitherman Says:

    HA doing their job & doing it well.

  7. Kenny 1%er Says:

    Got book halfway thru. 1%ers make great security. I used to sell a unnamed singers sighned property as well as keep the ronmors at Bay. Merry Christmas

  8. growlingfhardt Says:

    Altamont ! I was there. Sure thought it was earlier in the year though, come to remember, it was a bit chilly in the back of that 50’s pickup truck in which we hitchhiked from el ley to sf all night long. Walked in the next day after parking on the median between the hiway lanes, as the road was at a standstill.{everyone got parking tickets, as there weren’t enough tow trucks to tow away all the vehicles !) An older biker with a really bad hip and pirate-style crutch, from a rigidframe crash walked with us for a while. Santana was playing when we got there. Of all the bands, Santana had the best music and energy !!! Love that band !!! Heard about the sleeping bag dude, and the gun waving dude, that day. Shit happens. It was right to have the Angels there, they did a good job !!! (a lot better than the fucking cops would have done, they’d have shut down the music, as it’s always “All about Them”. fucking assholes) Watched Jagger dancing during ‘Sympathy’ thru a telescope someone had brought ! Kind of weird as the sound was delayed from the light. By then it was dark already as the Stones didn’t go on till after sundown. Long day, big crowd had thinned by Stones time. Glad our friend’s car was still on the hiway median ! as it was cold again. December 6th, sure didn’t remember that was the date ! Thanks Rebel, you complete many circles.

  9. Brasso Says:

    Meh. Rehashed hippies that want to blame the evil bikers for protecting themselves and other people.

  10. Igo Says:

    That video clip shows a poster for the concert, when in fact there was never any advertising posters, as there was no time to make them. Much more tragic was the guy who got run over with a car by a campfire. He was just sitting there, never mind waving a gun around, and shooting.

  11. Diceman Says:

    is your book available now Rebel? Thank you.

  12. Ben Says:

    This was not a “seminal event in American History.” Would anyone remember or care about Meredith Hunter and this concert if it wasn’t filmed? What overshadows, and sustains, Altamont the event, is Altamont the movie. Innumerable overdoses and tragedies happened at rock concerts before Altamont, but they’re forgotten, because they weren’t filmed and put on the big screen. Mostly, what made this rockumentary remarkable was the footage of Hunter’s death, giving it the allure of a snuff movie, something never seen in mainstream movie theaters. Film critics could have responded in any number of ways. They could have denigrated it as a trashy, distasteful spectacle, capitalizing on a snuff, but it was the “death of the sixties counterculture or the freedom movement” interpretation that snowballed. The assertion that the end of a widespread movement, like the counterculture, which effected change, internationally, on various fronts, i.e. political, artistic, and philosophical, could have it’s endpoint fixed in any single, localized event is ridiculously oversimplistic. The interpretation tells more about the mindset of the critics, than the actual events. The snuffing of a man, gets exaggerated to the snuffing of the counterculture. Although it’s not logical, it may have brought them comfort to say it, if it’s what they wanted to believe, and everyone else to believe. They can take comfort that 50 years later someone still calls it a “seminal event.” I call it a media blowup.

  13. Neuro Says:

    One of my all time favorites, Band of Gypsys NYC New Year’s Eve ’69/’70. Dead in September. Thanks for the heads up.

  14. Trebor Says:

    One way the 60s died was the shows Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys played at the Fillmore East in New York city.Two shows New Years eve 1969 and two shows New Years 1970.50 years later they have released all four shows on 5 cds.Just got the box from Amazon Holy fuck what great music.Hendrix was on it!His rendition of Auld lang Syne was amazing.On a side note Rebel your book needs to be sold Worldwide Wherever Motorcycle clubs exist they need to know the depths the governments will go to get rid of this lifestyle.Being a 1%er Ive seen it but Goddamn.Your book is a true eye opener

  15. Stoney Says:

    I can only imagine what the headlines would be if it happened today.
    but I know the bikers would be blamed.

  16. warmick Says:

    Imprinted in the national memory far beyond December 6 is December 7

  17. Shovelhead Says:

    Meredith Hunter was going to die a violent death at some point. I think it was inevitable. Wonder how many times he had already pulled that gun to scare people on the street?
    Well, he didn’t scare the Angels who were just protecting their Brothers and that idiot Jagger.

    Choices we make!!

  18. BigV Says:

    I was not born in 1969.

    Most of my mentors and first people to show me brotherhood and teach me the rklife are dead. A pretty good size buck from is dead.

    One of those dead men was alive in 2007. We were in THE BAR. One TV had the Altamont Story playing on the “History Channel” in the background. O.B. says “V, you know what killed the 60’s ?”

    I said “No, I don’t…”

    He says “I’ll tell ya… December 31st 1969, 11th hour, 59th minute, 59th second expiring. That running down the last 60 seconds. That killed the 60’s. Not Altamont. Not Vietnam. Not no bike club.”

    I says “Where were you ?”

    O.B. says “The late night started right with me fuckin up my knee on a stroked out 47 EL I had swapped a stroked FL motor into. Cop sees me trying to kick it over repeatedly, and it was a cold collared motherfucker. Got arrested that night because the frame happened to have had some ASSHOLE stamp an EL case number on it and rivet a little copper plate on it- I never thought nothin bout the plate, it was obviously home made, and back then your registration was your title was your case’s numbers. The shit of numbers on the neck was 70’s. I kep’ splain’ that the registration and my papers went with the motor. Cop told me he heard that from car thieves all the time. It took me sitting in chains at the substation ’til the shift change and the L.T. come in and he asts the patrol cop what I did and is a bond set for the charge ? They confer. I hears the L.T. ream his ass, before that ass chewing that youngin’ was shitting through a .25 Raven and after that L-T was thru with him, his colon hadda be like a Howitzer. The patrol who arrested me, he comes over and says “You are free to go. The numbers on your engine cases match the numbers on your registration. Restore the frame. He snorted in my face like he was gonna hock a loogie.” He then takes his sweet time unchaining me, mumblin’ and motherfuckin’ me. They had a little black and white RCA playin’ ol’ Guy Lumbardino on the tube, and the ball was dropping and Guy was sayin’ he hoped we all had someone to share the New Years with. I grabbed the skinny kid’s face and I laid a sloppy french kiss on him tongue and all, b’for he ever knew what went on. My chains was off, and I yell “HAPPY NEW YEAR” with them cops. Every cop in the place is dyin’ laughin at kid, hell I’d been hearin whispers of them telling him it was bunko wrap in hush tones, he wouldn’t listen. The kid would not take me to impound across the river, said “Walk” and never spoke another word to me, wouldn’t look at me. The old sarge workin’ the desk give me a ride over in his car, probably an old ’56 Ford patrol car- it was old then- somethin like that. Old cop asks me where the last big Christmas for me was ? I told him “Living thru Tam Quan was pretty cherry.” Old cop tells me, and I swear I could see it playing like a motion picher on his eyes, “I was in Korea, son. I seen our BAR men mowin them gooks down one row after another after another and it didn’t make a whit of difference, there was men coming as we melted the barrel off the guns and it freezing cold. Had M1 rifles and carbines, it was like trying to fight King Kong with a flyswatter. Them gooks overrun our men like they was the ants in The Naked Jungle.” They wanted $8 total to get my scooter out of hock. The old desk sarge told the punk to waive it, I was cut loose, bum wrap, mistake. It kicked over fine. Old cop shook my hand, laughed and told me Officer Darl needed somebody to put him in his place, that he’d had the red ass since everyone at the substation told him he looked ridiculous with his mustache. I tol’ the old sarge to tell the kid that just before he cuffed me, I been eatin’ out an ol girl with a full bush who had a bad case of crabs and they was eatin me up in mah beard but no more. Figured they jumped to his mustache.”

    I got home to the clubhouse about 5am the first of 1970.

    I can honestly say that 11:59:59, to say the 23 hour, 59th minute, and 59th second, and then that 59th second expiring ? That killed the 60’s.”

    O.B passed 2007.

    1%ERS
    RIP O.B
    RIP O.MM
    RIP O.C
    RIP O.SH
    RIP O.T
    RIP O.RB
    RI$P.WB
    RIP P.TC

    DOWN MOTHERFUCKING ASSOCIATES
    “Jabba” aka Jabba Dave

  19. slow-n-low Says:

    Interesting. I just heard Under My Thumb on the radio today, and it reminded me of this.

    Welcome home Rebel, thank you for your service. The new book is incredible.

  20. FF Says:

    It never gets old, does it? LOL GIMME SHELTER “I want to see Mick Jagger!” that chick… LOL

    Anyway the worst day of rock and roll was December 3, 1979, in Cincinnati Ohio.

    Hunter WAS NOT MURDERED. That was death by misadventure. The Grateful Dead should have stuck around, and played. I think things would have ended differently.

    The Frisco and Oakland Angels saved the Stones lives that day. They were outnumbered 3,000 to 1. Against overwhelming odds, they managed to maintain a safe perimeter for performers and production crews. I get so sick and tired of the bullshit stories about the “violent” and “menacing” Hells Angels that day. The Flying Burrito Brothers had no problem playing. And the drummer for Jefferson Airplane, Spencer Dyryden quit the band after they left him there on the flightdeck. I’m not sure if Jorma and Jack Cassidy quit shortly thereafter because of Grace Slick and Paul Kantner leaving Spencer on the ground as the helicopter took off, but if they were truly as scared for their lives as they said they were (The Grateful Dead turned around and left because of the shit they said), leaving Spencer Dryden behind was a pretty scummy fucking thing to do.

    Of course, it was all bullshit, any way. The truth? They all got scared because their wasn’t any cops around to protect them. All the shit those hippies and “anti-establishment” assholes talked about the cops, when the rubber met the road they fucking punked out. And nothing has changed. Even today, the ONLY REASON these leftist “anarchist” punks can get away with the shit that they do is that the cops actually protect them from US.

    Some commie punk burns an American flag? Who stops us from getting to his ass? The cops.

    Even as a ten year old kid watching Gimme Shelter I was rooting for the Hells Angels.

    Even then, I could see right from wrong.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc6DvChtRes

  21. jrino Says:

    I was working for my father delivering cylinders over the Woodstock weekend, so I was at military school when Altamont took place lol. Life’s a Gas….

  22. Sieg Says:

    “Murder”?!?!?!?!?!

    Boy pulls a gun in a crowd of Angels, that isn’t murder, that’s suicide.

    Not to worry, though there are still terrible, horrible, unthinkable events that overshadow this suicide.

    All I heard on the news the other day, especially the “Orange Man Bad Infotainment’. (CBS) network was drivel about John Lennon getting smoked.

    Who cares? Fucking hippies were assholes then, and they’re worse now that they’re all grown-up and in cush gigs selling stocks and so forth.

    FTF / FTP
    TOSIAR

  23. Paladin Says:

    The authors of the quoted opinion pieces all share a commonality. None were old enough (Thomas Hibbs: born 1960) or even born (Lyndsey Parker) to have a qualified understanding or perspective on an event that occurred during an era they so freely opine about.

    Paladin

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