Monday, November 14, 2016

Books: Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day (Day Street Books, 2016)

Altamont has become a touchstone, and one of the most important events in rock 'n' roll history. When Meredith "Murdock" Hunter was murdered by a group of Hell's Angels on film and right in front of where The Rolling Stones were playing a free concert, the event came to be seen as the climactic moment for the 1960's counterculture. Selvin dives deep behind the scenes to leave the cliches behind and expose what really happened. The Rolling Stones tour of the United States in 1969 was massively successful in terms of the quality of their performances, and the amount or money they raked in with very high ticket prices. This led to pressure being put on the band to perform a free concert to reach those who couldn't afford to see the band. What was originally the brain-child of Grateful Dead insider Rock Scully, quickly spiraled out of control with different people vying for influence and money. When the concert venue had to be changed literally at the last minute, they would up at the derelict Altamont Speedway, with inadequate transportation, medical facilities, and portentously, no police. The Hell's Angels were paid in beer to keep order and with the bikers and the crowd imbibing poor quality LSD cut with amphetamines in combination with alcohol, the show quickly descended into chaos. The Angels beat the crowd, musicians and organizers without mercy, and when Hunter foolishly pulled his pistol, his fate was sealed and ensured that the concert would go down in history. Selvin's research is excellent, pulling together contemporary interviews with historical  sources, and immaculately plotting the fateful steps that led to the disaster and the fallout of the debacle. He is not afraid to name names and put everything on the line, making this a masterstroke of rock 'n' roll literature. Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day - amazon.com

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