The Rolling Stones Disaster At Altamont: Let It Bleed

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Bill Graham, an interested observer of the whole fiasco, had plenty to say after it was all over but the shouting. Graham had loaned out a sound man and an electrician, but only after it was obvious that unless he did so, the thing would have to be called off. He had his own ideas about who was to blame.

"I would offer Mr. Jagger $50,000 to go on coast-to-coast television or radio with me, not stoned, not copping out, but sit down, mister, and rap, open, for an hour. I'll ask you what right you had, Mr. Jagger, to walk out on stage every night with your Uncle Sam hat, throw it down with complete disdain, and leave this country with $1.2 million? And what right did you have in going through with this free festival? And you couldn't tell me you didn't know the way it would have come off. What right did you have to leave the way you did, thanking everybody for a wonderful time, and the Angels for helping out? He's now in his home country somewhere — what did he leave behind throughout the country? Every gig he was late. Every fucking gig he made the promoter and the people bleed. What right does this god have to descend on this country this way?

"It will give me great pleasure to tell the public that Mick Jagger is not God, Jr. And it's worth it to me. I am not trying to blast at someone that is 10,000 miles away, but you know what is a great tragedy to me? That cunt is a great entertainer," Graham thundered.

Next in line for the verbal thrashing was Chip Monck. "There were certain local people who are good people, but who were very stupid in agreeing to this. Without realizing it, they were accessories to the crime. I blame two or three people who could've stopped the festival regardless of what anybody did. Mr. Jagger could've realized what he was doing; his ego wouldn't allow it. Mr. Chip Monck is the best stage manager that I know; I respect him as a man. But the man knew what he was doing, and I can't think that anything but his ego got him to do this. He was one of the engineers of Woodstock; it took him months to build Woodstock, and how could he think that in one day . . .

"Once they took Sears Point from him, which would have only given them three or four days, and he had to move to this location, he must have, as a man, as a logician, known. You cannot tell me that this same person thought, not that he couldn't put up the stage and the lights, but that this person thought it could come off right. And I don't mean just the Angels, because even if the Angels weren't there, peace isn't enough anymore. Where was it held, what did it do to the surrounding areas, where were the first aid kits, where were the sanitation facilities, the emergency crews, who stopped the people from climbing the scaffolding? The stage was four feet high. This one person had the power to stop the whole thing, and he didn't, and I must accuse him of that."

As Graham sees it, about the only good thing that could possibly have come out of this festival is that it means the end of festivals. "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. Woodstock — the film that is coming out of Woodstock, is a masterpiece; I've seen it, but the after-effects of Woodstock and the after-effects of this one and the after-effects of many of the others. The question that I've asked after every one and that hasn't been answered by anyone justifiably is: Who gains? Other than the people in the 50-foot perimeter of the stage? 290,000 others can't see or hear anything. But I think that we are losing the major groups because they're becoming as guilty as anyone else . . . the big dollar very quickly. It's not for me to speak for any of the groups, but if you speak to the Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, any of the heavy groups who have tremendous integrity, they've gone sour. They went sour before this weekend, but this weekend, I think, blew their minds. I knew it blew mine," he added.

"But the guiltiest one of all is the law. The law had the greatest power to avert this. The law is most responsible whenever there's a danger and they don't stop it. To me, anytime the law sees anything like this coming, which is a holocaust, when the law realizes the citizenry of an area is in danger, they can stop anything at any time. You can block a highway, you could force them by injunction, or by force — sometimes force is valid. They should have taken Mr. Jagger, twisted his fucking arms behind his back, put him in front of a radio, and said, 'Mr. Jagger, if we have to break your arm, call it off.' Mr. Monck, the minute he put up one platform, they stop him. If there was no stage, no sound, no lights, and if there was no Rolling Stones, the kids wouldn't have left their homes. Once the kids started, once the ants come down the hill, watch out, make way . . . they're going to eat you. My point is, the law knew what was coming," Graham concluded.

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