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Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Here's the story of Altamont in quotes from many of the people involved.

December 10th, 1969

The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club all turned up at Altamont over the weekend in the hopes of creating a west coast version of the popular Woodstock festival.

They failed miserably.

In fairness, it made sense to try to recreate the perfection of Woodstock on the west coast. The Rolling Stones just finished their tour of North America last week, having received criticism for their high ticket prices. Being salt of the earth kinda folks, they decided to put on a free concert to make it up to their fans.

The plan was to put on a free show in San Fransisco with The Grateful Dead. There would be peace, love, music and... The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club to guard the stage. You know, just to make sure nothing went wrong.

After multiple venues fell through, The Altamont Speedway was confirmed last Thursday evening, just two days before the scheduled event.

Shockingly, the drug-induced crowd clashed with the drug-induced Angels.

During The Rolling Stones performance, tensions erupted when 18-year-old concertgoer Meredith Hunter was stabbed and beaten to death by a member of The Hells Angels.

Thinking back to what happened at Altamont, I like to remember that Mick Jagger is only 26 years old. As well as being the greatest singer/songwriter and performer the world has ever seen, he was simultaneously expected to be a concert organizer, security manager, doctor and overall peacekeeper of nearly half a million people. Watch a clip below of The Rolling Stones performing "Under My Thumb" just before the murder of Meredith Hunter took place. Clearly rattled and surrounded by Hells Angels gang members, Jagger did pretty well to keep it together.

Rolling Stone Magazine: "It was perhaps rock and roll’s all-time worst day, December 6th, a day when everything went perfectly wrong."

Bill Graham (concert promotor): "The strange thing that went on this past weekend is that in the long run, it may help to eliminate festivals, which I think is one of the best things that can happen to rock and roll."

David Crosby (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young): "I don’t think gatherings that big is where it’s at. I don’t think it’s conducive to making magic."

Sam Cutler (Rolling Stones tour manager): "Dawn broke at Altamont on December 6, 1969, and from the stage, it looked like I was observing the camp of some dreadful invading army."

Robert Christgau (music critic): "Altamont became, whether fairly or not, a symbol for the death of the Woodstock Nation. Writers focus on Altamont not because it brought on the end of an era but because it provided such a complex metaphor for the way an era ended."

Stefan Ponek (radio host): "Our point of reference from four months before had been Woodstock. There was no chance at Altamont to set that ambiance that had such an impact on how people behaved."

Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane): "There was no way to control it, no supervision or order."

Pete (Hells Angels member): "They offered us $500 worth of beer to go there and take care of the stage... we took this $500 worth of beer to do it."

Sam Cutler: "The person who paid it was me, and I never got it back, to this day."

Bill "Sweet William" Fritsch (Hells Angels): "We don't police things. We're not a security force. We go to concerts to enjoy ourselves and have fun."

Sam Cutler: "Well, what about helping people out--you know, giving directions and things?"

Bill "Sweet William" Fritsch: "Sure, we can do that."

Sonny Barger (Hells Angels): "We were told by one of the [other Hells Angels] clubs if we showed up down there [and] sat on the stage and drink some beer... that the Stones manager or somebody had bought for us."

Stefan Ponek (radio host): "This was a speedway out in the hot valley. One day everybody was in a hurry to get high now. Get high fast. Have a good time now. Create Woodstock by 3 o'clock. And that's the spirit that everybody was going in there with. Get out of my way I'm gonna have my Woodstock."

Carlos Santana: "People just got themselves fucked up and wanted to fuck up everybody. You lose control of and respect for yourself, and you lose control of and respect for anybody else."

Rolling Stone Magazine: "That's the way things went at Altamont—so badly that the Grateful Dead, prime organizers and movers of the festival, didn't even get to play."

Spencer Dryden (Jefferson Airplane): "Next to the Beatles [The Rolling Stones] were the biggest rock and roll band in the world, and we wanted them to experience what we were experiencing in San Francisco."

Ralph Gleason (journalist): “Why did Jagger and Cutler put the Angels with a truck load of free beer in charge of stage security? Why did the Grateful Dead people and the other locals involved go along with the idea?

Sam Cutler: “That’s bullshit! Mick didn’t make the arrangements. I did. Put it on me.”

Mick Jagger: "Practical realities can be addressed at a later stage."

Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Mick Jagger: "Man, I wish... I didn’t want it to be like this."

Sonny Barger: “Mick Jagger used us for dupes, man. We were the biggest suckers for that idiot that I ever can see.”

Un-named musician on Mick Jagger: “If I ever get that asshole up against the wall, he ain’t never gonna walk away.”

Sam Cutler: "I was talking with [The Hells Angels], because I was interested in the security of my band--everyone's security, for that matter. In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. They were the only people who were strong and together. They had to protect the stage because it was descending into absolute chaos. Who was going to stop it?"

David Crosby: “You can’t have that big a gathering that sloppily, and it wasn’t sloppy for lack of effort, but for lack of time. The people made a heroic effort. But doing it that sloppily, we could have paid much heavier dues. We could have dumped a helicopter full of two or three good rock bands into a crowd of about a thousand people and killed them all; we could have paid much heavier dues."

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. Anybody getting in the way of anybody had himself a fight, whether he wanted it or not.”

Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane): "The vibes were bad. Something was very peculiar, not particularly bad, just real peculiar. It was that kind of hazy, abrasive and unsure day. I had expected the loving vibes of Woodstock but that wasn't coming at me. This was a whole different thing."

Sonny Barger: "Everybody got up really nice, some people offered us drinks on the way down and like... we must have come into approximate contact with at least a thousand people and outta them thousand people we had trouble with one person."

Sam Cutler: "I remember filling up a bottle of cheap wine with Sunshine LSD, and another guy I was with handed it to the Hells Angels. They punched him in the face and took the wine and drank it."

"Chick at the front of the stage": “It’s weird. They consulted the astrologers before setting the dates for Woodstock, but they couldn’t have consulted an astrologer about today. Anyone can see that with the moon in Scorpio, today’s an awful day to do this concert. There’s a strong possibility of violence and chaos and any astrologer could have told them so. Oh well, maybe the Stones know something I don’t know.”

Stewart Brand: "I went to Altamont and thought it was terrific. The hubris of hiring the Angels to work as security was both ballsy and bad judgment. It seemed entirely appropriate that there'd be people beating each other to death in the midst of all that."

Sam Cutler: "The only agreement there ever was ... the Angels would make sure nobody tampered with the generators, but that was the extent of it. But there was no way 'They're going to be the police force' or anything like that. That's all bollocks."

David Crosby: "The mistake that was made was in thinking security was needed, and that the Angels should do it. The Stones don’t know about Angels. To them, an Angel is something in between Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. That’s not real, and they just found out the reality of it. Unfortunately, we all had to pay some dues for that."

Ron Schneider (Transport/security manager for The Rolling Stones): “If you were 50 feet away from the stage, you thought you were at a fantastic concert because nobody there knew what was happening; the kids who were on the outskirts thought it was the best, everybody raved about it, it was really good.”

Frisco Pete (Hell's Angel): “What I feel the roughness is if we say we’re gonna do somethin’, we do it. Do you understand that? That’s our whole thing. Now if these people asked us to do this thing, we did it. What are we supposed to do? We ain’t cops. We’re not into that thing. We decide to do somethin’, it’s done, no matter how far we have to go to do it.”

Carlos Santana: “There was bad vibes from the beginning. The fights started because the Hells Angels were pushing people around. There was no provocation; the Angels started the whole violence thing and there’s no fucking doubt about that."

Gwen Hunter (Meredith Hunter's sister): “The Rolling Stones are responsible because they hired the Hell’s Angels as police and paid them. But they don’t care.”

Concertgoer (witness to Hunter's murder): "The Hell’s Angels were responsible. They’re really the whole thing."

David Crosby: “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. I don’t dig everybody blaming the Angels. Blame is the dumbest trip there is; there isn’t any blame."

Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead): "It wasn't just the angels. There were weird kinds of psychic violence happening around the edges that didn't have anything to do with the blows. Shit, I don't know--spiritual panic or something."

Watch below The Rolling Stones perform "Sympathy For The Devil" at Altamont.

Sonny Barger (Hells Angel): “Ain’t nobody gonna get my bike. Anybody tries that is gonna get got. And they Got got.”

Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones): "About five minutes after we arrived, just after we got out of the helicopter, I was with Mick [Jagger] and there were a couple of security guards with us, and a guy broke through and punched Mick in the face."

Fan: ‘Fuck you, Mick Jagger. I hate you!’

Chip Monck (Rolling Stones stage manager): "The stage was one metre high – 39 inches for us – and [at Sears Point] it was on the top of a hill, so all the audience pressure was back upon them. We weren’t working with scaffolding, we were working in an older fashion with parallels. You could probably have put another stage below it... but nobody had one."

Sonny Barger: “I don’t wanna do it, man, but I’m a violent cat. I ain’t no cop. I ain’t never gonna police nothin’. 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. I ain’t no peace creep, man, but if a cat don’t wanna fight me, I wanna be his friend.”

David Crosby: "We didn’t need the Angels. I’m not downgrading the Angels, because it’s not healthy and because they only did what they were expected to do. I don’t know why anyone would expect them to do anything other than exactly what they did."

Mick Taylor: “The Hells Angels had a lot to do with it. The people that were working with us getting the concert together thought it would be a good idea to have them as a security force. But I got the impression that because they were a security force they were using it as an excuse. They’re just very, very violent people."

Richard Brody (journalist): "The idea that, left to their own inclinations and stripped of the trappings of the wider social order, the young people of the new generation will somehow spontaneously create a higher, gentler, more loving grassroots order. What died at Altamont is the Rousseauian dream itself."

Rolling Stone Magazine: "Altamont was the product of diabolical egotism, hype, ineptitude, money manipulation, and, at base, a fundamental lack of concern for humanity."

Sonny Barger: "I didn't go there to police nothing, man. They told me if I could sit on the edge of the stage so nobody could climb over me, I could drink beer until the show was over. And that's what I went there to do."

Bill "Sweet William" Fritsch: "We like beer."

Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Stefan Ponek (Radio host): "These guys--the Angels--had been hired and paid with $500 of beer, on a truck with ice, to essentially bring in the Stones and keep people off the stage. That was the understanding, that was the deal. And it seemed like there was not a lot of disagreement over that; that seemed to emerge as a fact, because it became rather apparent that the Stones didn't know what kind of people they were dealing with."

Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane): "The Hell's angels just smashed Marty Balin in the face and knocked him out for a bit. And I'd like to thank you for that."

Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane): "I heard a commotion. I opened my eyes and the Hells Angels are beating this guy with pool cues. I saw the whole crowd, this mass, just back up and allow it to happen. I said 'to hell with the song, this guy needs some help.' So I went down there and started fighting, helping the guy out."

Sonny Barger: “These people call themselves flower children. There is some of them lousy people ain’t a bit better than the worst of us, and it’s about time they realized it.”

Concertgoer: "We were all in terror of them."

Animal (Hells Angel): "That mother fucker insulted my people. He talks like that to my people he's going to get it."

John Young (Photographer): “I want your film or you get hit. It felt like they were hitting me with a hammer and a broken bottle.”

David Maysles (filmmaker): "Don’t shoot that [naked woman]. That’s ugly. We only want beautiful things."

Porter Bibb (cameraman): “How can you possibly say that? Everything here is so ugly.”

Mick Jagger: "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."

Porter Bibb: “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."

Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Rock Scully (Grateful Dead manager): "That whole crowd could have easily passed out, and rolled down onto the stage. There was no barrier."

David Crosby: "There were several big mistakes. They weren’t necessarily mistakes of intent, but people just didn’t really know certain things. The Rolling Stones are still a little bit in 1965. They didn’t really know that security isn’t a part of anybody’s concert anywhere anymore. I mean, our road managers could have covered it."

Ron Schneider (Transport/security manager for The Rolling Stones): "I’d like to mention that a few times I saw the Angels picking up children that were being squashed in the crowd, they picked up a man and his baby and carried them out. Even though they had this incident with the Airplane, you can’t control every single thing. They came -- we really didn’t want them there, with the harshness and violence, because it affected all of us. During the show the Stones stopped and tried to get them out of there, but it was a little too late to have any kind of control."

Dennis Jewkes (The Ace of Cups): “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. I was between the stage and the bus to the right, and the vibes weren’t very good at all around there."

Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Hell's Angel to Mick Jagger: "You better get the fuck out there before the place blows. You’ve tuned up enough. I’m telling you. People are going to die out there. Get out there. You’ve been told."

David Crosby: "When you’re trying to do something that’s as fragile as making music, to have a couple cats pick some dude off, fire on him with blows that are out of his order of magnitude entirely, lay him out cold and then kick him for 15 minutes right in front of you, you just can’t do it."

Sonny Barger: "They come back fightin’. And when they come back fightin’ they got thumped. And a lot of times there were six or seven Angels on one guy, and a lot of times there wasn’t."

Concertgoer: "The main thing we saw all day was bad trips and freakouts. It was really heavy. I don't know if they had this much at Woodstock. A couple of medics and one doctor that was at Woodstock said that they didn't see this many bad trips. It seemed like there was bad vibrations from the start."

Mick Taylor: "I’ve always heard about the incredible violence in America, but I’d never actually seen it. They’re so used to it over there, it’s a commonplace thing. They find it easier to accept. I’ve just never seen anything like that before."

Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival
From Left: Jefferson Airplane, fans watching and Meredith Hunter

Keith Richards: “Either those cats cool it, man, or we don’t play...”

Mick Jagger: "Just be cool down in the front there, don't push around."

Keith Richards: “Keep it cool! Hey, if you don’t cool it, you ain’t gonna hear no music!"

Hell's Angel: “Fuck you!”

Concertgoer (witness to Hunter's murder): "[Hunter was] really straight, he was really . . . Feeling really weird about being pushed around and stuff, but he was really pretty straight."

Patty Bredehoft (Meredith Hunter's girlfriend): "[Hunter was]so high he could barely walk"

Gwen Hunter (Meredith Hunter's sister): “He was a very highly educated boy. He almost never raised his voice; he talked very quietly. That would make people mad when they wanted to fight; he’d talk very quietly, and he was so educated in the way he spoke. His job just came through . . . his job at the Post Office.”

Rock Scully: "I saw what [Hunter] was looking at, that he was crazy, he was on drugs, and that he had murderous intent. There was no doubt in my mind that he intended to do terrible harm to Mick or somebody in the Rolling Stones, or somebody on that stage."

Gwen Hunter: “My brother was a very respectable person, and I was closer to him than to anyone in my family.”

Mick Jagger: "You couldn't see anything, it was just another scuffle."

Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Concertgoer (witness to Hunter's murder): "I didn’t know his name or anything, but he was standing along side of me. You know, we were both watching Mick Jagger, and a Hell’s Angel, the fat one. I don’t know his name or anything, he reached over — he didn’t like us being so close or something, you know, we were seeing Mick Jagger too well, or something. He was just being uptight. He reached over and grabbed the guy beside me by the ear and hair, and yanked on it, thinking it was funny, you know, kind of laughing. And so, this guy shook loose; he yanked away from him."

Concertgoer (witness to Hunter's murder): "[Hunter] shook loose, and the Hell’s Angel hit him in the mouth and he fell back into the crowd and he jumped off stage and jumped at him. And he tried to scramble, you know, through the crowd, to run from the Hell’s Angel, and four other Hell’s Angels jumped on him. They started mugging him and he was running straight into the crowd, you know, pushing people away, you know, to run from the Hell’s Angels... one Hell’s Angel pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the back.

Concertgoer (witness to Hunter's murder): I just saw the flash of the blade. Everything was happening too fast. And he hit him in the back and he pulled out a gun and held it up in the air you know... like that was kind of his last resort, you know... and...

Concertgoer: [Hunter] was too scared to shoot because he could have shot anyone in the crowd or anything. So he didn’t shoot. And one of the Hell’s Angels grabbed the gun from him . . . and then stabbed him again in the back.

Hells Angel: “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. Everybody was on him and that was the last I seen of him... 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.'”

Gwen Hunter: “[His gun] was almost always in the house; he had it for his own protection. He only took it with him when he’d go out to big affairs. I know he took it with him to the festival. He pulled it out and showed it to them, but only to make them stop and think when they were beating him. I know he would never have used it. The Angels have the gun now. Patty saw them take it.”

Concertgoer (witness to Hunter's murder): "He fell down on his face, you know. He let go and he fell down on his face. And then one of them kicked him on the side and he rolled over, and he muttered some words. He said, “I wasn’t going to shoot you.” That was the last words he muttered."

Concertgoer (witness to Hunter's murder): One of the Hells Angels said, “Why did you have a gun?” He didn’t give him time to say anything. He grabbed one of those garbage cans, you know, one of those cardboard garbage cans 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 of them started kicking his head in. Kicked him all over the place. And then the guy that started the whole thing, the fat guy, stood on his head for a minute or so and then walked off. And then the ones I was talking about, described to you, he wouldn’t let us touch him for about two or three minutes. Like, “Don’t touch him, he’s going to die anyway, let him die, he’s going to die.”

Concertgoer (witness to Hunter's murder): "We tried to carry him on the stage. Tell Mick Jagger to stop playing so we could get him on the stage and get some attention for him."

Mick Jagger: “We need a doctor here, now! Look, can you let the doctor get through, please. We’re trying to get to someone who’s hurt.”

Mick Taylor: "I think at one point we might have walked off stage, but that would have been a disaster."

Robert Hiatt (first Doctor to see Hunter): "It was obvious he wasn’t going to make it."

Mick Jagger: "We've really got someone hurt here... is there a doctor?"

Ralph Gleason: “Now it has ended in murder. And that was a murder, not just a ‘death’ like the drowning or the hit-run victims. Somebody stabbed that man five times in the back."

Alan Passaro (Hells Angel member who killed Hunter): "I think some fear came over me. I was looking after my people."

Ron Schneider: “What if the police had been there when the guy pulled the gun? Keith saw him pull it. The guy would probably have been shot to death by the police instead of being stabbed. That’s the only difference. And the kids would probably have immediately attacked the police thinking it was their fault."

Gwen Hunter: “I don’t know if their being a mixed couple had anything to do with it; it may have had quite a lot to do with it. The Hell’s Angels are just white men with badges on their backs.”

Mick Jagger: "Is there anyone there who’s hurt? Okay, I think we’re cool, we can groove. We always have something very funny happen when we start that number.”

Concertgoer: They wouldn’t let us through. They knew he was going to die in a matter of minutes. They wanted him to die probably so he wouldn’t talk or something, you know. And so we carried . . . we turned around and went the other way. It took about 15 minutes to get him behind the stage.

Ralph J. Gleason (Esquire magazine): "The day The Rolling Stones played there, the name Altamont became etched in the minds of millions of people who love pop music and who hate it as well. If the name 'Woodstock' has come to denote the flowering of one phase of the youth culture, 'Altamont' has come to mean the end of it."

Sam Cutler: As far as I’m concerned [The Hells Angels] were people who were here, who tried to help in their own way... You know... these people didn’t dig it. I’m sorry. I didn’t dig in fact what a lot of people did yesterday.”

Ron Schneider: “The man died, it’s regrettable. The man shouldn’t have pulled a gun like he did, but that’s no reason to die. We were trying to have a good time and entertain people.”

Keith Richards: "The concert was basically well-handled, but lots of people were tired and a few tempers got frayed"

Mick Taylor: "It was just completely barbaric."

Sam Cutler: “I myself, feel that the Hell’s Angels were as helpful as they saw that they could be in a situation which most people found very confusing, including the Hell’s Angels. Everybody found last night very confusing so everybody acted on their own initiative. If you want to ask me what the Hell’s Angels were doing last night then I’m not qualified to speak for the Hell’s Angels, you’ll have to talk to the Hell’s Angels yourself.”

Wavy Gravy: “The Angels were together and the people weren’t together — they didn’t have time to get together, you know? If they had wanted to get rid of the Angels, honorably, they could have taken up another collection and laid another five hundred dollars on them to split, which they would have done, man.”

Gwen Hunter: "No one has contacted us. The Stones should have. But I didn’t expect them to, because I know they don’t care. The Stones should have called my mother, but they didn’t, because it doesn’t matter to them. They’ll just go off somewhere and have another ‘rock festival.'"

Ron Schneider: "We haven’t talked to the family yet, but we’ll have to do something about that. If we come up and say we’re going to give $500,000 to the family, it all sounds so tacky. As far as I’m concerned, if we gave the family $50 million it still doesn’t make up for the kid being killed. So whatever you give it doesn’t matter, you’re just giving something to them. What could I say to them? I don’t know what to say to them, that’s the problem."

Ralph Gleason: "The name of the game is money, power and ego, and money is first and it brings power. The Stones didn’t do it for free, they did it for money, only the tab was paid in a different way. Whoever goes to see that movie paid for the Altamont religious assembly."

David Crosby: "I think the major mistakes were taking what was essentially a party and turning it into an ego game and a star trip. An ego trip of ‘look how many of us there are’ and a star trip of the Rolling Stones, who are on a star trip, and who qualify in my book as snobs. I’ve talked with them many times and I still think they’re snobs. I didn’t want to talk to them at all Saturday, once I saw what was going on. I’m sure they don’t understand what they did, and I’m sure they won’t understand my thinking they’re snobs, but they are in my book. I don’t like them."

Ron Schneider: “Anything we get out of this will either go to a charity or else directly back to the kids in San Francisco, so they can buy some land out there and have lots of free concerts without the hassles we’ve had. That was Mick’s idea, that’s the best idea because we want the people there to have their own piece of land. The trouble with giving it to some organizational charity is that by the time they take off their fee and everything, the money doesn’t get to the people you wanted to have it. But we don’t want any money from this, we never wanted to make a profit and we were never trying to like people said.”

David Crosby: "I’ve talked to my friends in the Airplane and they’re kind of the same way, and the Dead, too, and we’re three of the bands you’d call if you want to do that kind of hugeness, and we won’t go now. We won’t play this kind of show anymore."

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