Altamont, 40 Years Later: Looking Back at "Rock & Roll's Worst Day"


This Sunday, December 6th, marks the 40th anniversary of an event Rolling Stone called "Rock & Roll's Worst Day": The Altamont Speedway Free Festival in California. Taking place just four months after the triumph of Woodstock, Altamont featured the complete opposite of "peace and love." Hell's Angels hired as security for a rumored $500 infamously got into altercations with the crowd, resulting in a homicide captured in the documentary Gimme Shelter.

"The violence just in front of the stage was incredible," the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards said in the days following the festival. "Looking back I don't think it was a good idea to have Hell's Angels there." The Stones were onstage (the performance actually featured the live debut of "Brown Sugar") during the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter. Earlier in the day, the Hell's Angels also punched Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin, knocking the singer unconscious. The Grateful Dead were also scheduled to perform at Altamont but absconded, sensing the escalating violence between the crowd and the Angels.

For more on about the history of the Altamont Festival, check out Rolling Stone's features below, including our original report from February 1970:

Rock & Roll's Worst Day: The aftermath of Altamont
"Let It Bleed": Behind the Rolling Stones' 1969 U.S. Tour
Seaborne Hells Angels Bent on Killing Mick Jagger Foiled by Storm

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