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In the Aftermath of Altamont

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The coroner says there were five stab wounds. The film accounts for only two, once again suggesting the possibility that Hunter may have been stabbed earlier.

Then Angels and others carry Hunter away.

According to Bibb, the killer splits immediately after the other Angels gather around Hunter and is not seen again in another frame. No telling where he went.

In one frame, just before he is jumped, there is an unmistakable orange flash at the end of the pistol, Bibb adds. It lasts only for this one frame. Bibb is not saying this is a gunshot, and he's not saying it's not. It might be, say, a reflection off someone's watch or glasses. "The Angels say there was a shot fired," says Bibb. "I can't tell you. It's impossible, really, to tell what it is. None of us heard a shot."

Bibb was eager to make one point: "This film is not going to exploit the killing. We had decided before Altamont to do a film, before we had seen any film of the killing or any of that. It doesn't hinge on the murder. We don't want to exploit the sensationalism of the thing."

The arrangement with the Stones is that they and the Maysles own the film 50-50 and are co-producing it. The Stones will help with the editing, but the Maysles have creative control over the cutting. This should begin before February.

There will be, in addition to the Altamont scenes, footage from the tour in New York, Boston, Florida, and the recording studio sessions in Muscle Shoals.

David Maysles was quoted in Rolling Stone's first Altamont story as telling one of his camera-men not to shoot one especially grotesque scene, to seek out good vibes instead. It's true, he did say that, according to Maysles executive producer Porter Bibb, but that was before the Maysles had truly grasped that ugliness and violence was the true nature of the day.

"We want to make it clear," Bibb said repeatedly, "that this film is going to be about violence — about the relationship between the Stones and their American audience, and about the relationship of both to violence."

It was understood that Allen Klein, the Stones' manager, was going to make some sort of statement concerning Altamont on January 12th. But it never happened, and Klein was said to be en route to England, unavailable for comment, the following day.

Neither did anyone have anything to say about the insurance policy the Stones were said to have taken to pay for any damages during the concert. Plenty of ranchers whose fences were brought down, people whose heads were split, and so on, would like to know about that one.

Though Sam Cutler, who was responsible for paying the Angels $500 worth of beer to police Altamont, claims he's just been taking it easy since Altamont — "my part in it is finished, it's up to others to take care of the left-over details" — Sheriff's investigators have spoken with him twice, it is learned.

Detectives Chisholm and Donovan, who are pursuing the murder case for the Alameda County sheriff's department, say it's very nearly together enough to be presented to the District Attorney and the Grand Jury. They have two eye-witnesses, including Patty Bredahoff, Hunter's girlfriend, and are eager to get in touch with the eyewitness quoted in the last issue of Rolling Stone, since his testimony would make their case that much stronger.

The eyewitness, who preferred to remain anonymous, fearing that the killer and his friends might get him, should be aware that he is one of several who saw it happen, and would not stand alone, and therefore has, the detectives feel, little to fear. To reach them, the phone number is 483-6520.

"It looks good," says Donovan of the information they've got. Asked whether it was an Angel who killed Meredith Hunter, Donovan said that was "reasonable to assume." Porter Bibb, of the Maysles organization, says the killer is quite recognizable in profile, in full face, and in three-quarter view. Donovan agrees (though Rock Scully, one of the Grateful Dead's managers, has seen the same footage repeatedly and claims identification would be very difficult).

One weird Altamont story has to do with a young Berkeley filmmaker who claims to have gotten 8 mm footage of the killing. He got home from the affair Saturday and began telling his friends about his amazing film. His house was knocked over the next night, completely rifled. The thief ripped off only his film, nothing else.

Another far-out (and unconfirmed, because the Angels are not talking with the press) report from someone close to the Angels was that they were in possession of Meredith Hunter's pistol, wanted to turn it over to the Sheriff's investigators — obviously, it would be useful to establish self-defense — but didn't know how to go about doing it. If true, the Angels evidently solved their own problem. It is learned that investigators have had the gun since shortly after New Year's.

Mrs. Alta Mae Anderson, Meredith Hunter's mother, still had not been contacted by anyone involved with the free concert by January 5th, when she appeared before the Alameda County Planning Commission to request that the Altamont Raceway, where Hunter was killed, be turned into a public park.

"My son's blood is on the land," she said, "and I would like to see the land serve a useful purpose for the youth of Southern Alameda County. I cannot bring my son back, but by your action you may prevent any more wrongful deaths at Altamont."

In the end, the commission voted to allow the speedway to continue holding races, but barred any future rock and roll events, and limited the number of spectators to 3,000.

One sympathetic mother whose own teenage son was only a few feet from the killing, Mrs. Cayren King, of Oakland, put Mrs. Anderson in touch with Ephraim Margolin, a respected (and tough) San Francisco civil liberties attorney, to represent her interests in the trial that is (reasonably) certain to come.

Meanwhile, many were growing impatient with the length of time it's taken for the District Attorney to move. He hasn't moved yet. Some claim that Alameda County authorities do not want to damage the fragile truce which exists between police and Hell's Angels.

But Rock Scully said it would be a "drag if it has to go through a courtroom scene." He has tried to put Altamont out of his mind, to concentrate on more positive matters. But Scully, the man who worked with Stones road manager Sam Cutler on advance preparations before the Stones' higher managerial echelons arrived in the Bay Area, says everybody he knows "is still upset about the whole thing."

"We were all dupes," he says, rather cryptically. "The thing wasn't ever straight. Everybody got had."

Having met with the Angels a couple of times, Scully says they don't dig having the film shown, because they feel it would be exploitation of the Angels.

(Another source says that the Maysles showed the film to the Angels in San Francisco, privately, and that the Angels' leaders demanded $6000 each for nine different California chapters. A total of $54,000. No confirmation on this from the Maysles. The Angels are said to have demanded the money or else . . .)

In any case, Scully now feels that the whole thing was a disaster, and feels foolish, in a way, about his participation in it.

"The Stones, man," he says, "they wrote the script. They got what they paid for. Let it bleed, man. There's never gonna be another one like it. Anybody should have seen this would have happened — this whole trip, man — if somebody tried to buy another Woodstock. We should have seen it, but we couldn't see that."

This is a story from the February 7, 1970 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

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