In this footage shot by the Maysles brothers on December 6, 1969 for the film Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead wait for a helicopter on a pier in San Francisco to take them to the Altamont Speedway.
Jagger, in not so sympathetic devil-mode, foppishly preens and sashays like rock royalty, much to Jerry Garcia’s amusement, while attempting to force an unyielding Charlie Watts to bestow a kiss upon a groupie’s forehead. As Jagger continues to egg Watts on, Charlie responds with the classy retort “Love is much more of a deeper thing than that.. it is not flippant, to be thrown away on celluloid.”
Later that day, the whip would come down.
This footage never appeared in the final cut of Gimme Shelter. It did eventually turn up on DVD as part of the Get Yer Ya Ya Yas Out boxset.
Michael Azerrad has written an insightful piece on The Gimme Shelter outtakes on his blog.
Moody, 2006 short by filmmaker Sam Green meditates on the death of Meredith Hunter, the young man stabbed by a Hells Angel at the Rolling Stones’ Altamont Free Concert, and buried in an unmarked plot, “lot, 63, grave C,” which gives the film its title. While co-directing his documentary, The Weather Underground, Harris heard and read over and over again how Meredith’s death signaled the end of the 60s, the end of hippie, the end of the Woodstock nation, etc, but realized that he never knew anything about, nor had he even seen a photograph of Hunter, whose death was supposedly this pivotal generational loss of innocence event.
It’s interesting to note how time often sands off the finer details of an event like Altamont (even as there is a visual document of the exact moment Meredith was killed in Gimme Shelter, the classic documentary by David and Albert Maysles). Normally, as the story is told, the Hells Angels were hired on the advice of the Grateful Dead for “security,” something denied by Angels leader Sonny Barger (who said they were told that if they kept people from crawling on the low stage area, they could drink free beer all day) as well as the Stones themselves. Still, some 40 years later, it’s generally “remembered” that the Hells Angeles were the ones causing all the problems—not that they were innocent, just ask the Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin, who was knocked unconscious by one—but the not-so insignificant detail that Meredith was brandishing a double-barreled gun tends to be conveniently forgotten by contemporary writers, as if Hunter (who was also on speed at the time) was somehow an “innocent.” caught up in drunken, drugged up biker violence This clearly wasn’t the case.
I’ve even read accounts that said Hunter was targeted by the Angels for having a blonde, white girlfriend, which even if it’s true—and I have no trouble imaging that—still doesn’t excuse the fact that the guy pulled out a big fucking gun and rushed towards the stage! (The jury must have agreed, Alan Passaro, the Angel who was arrested and charged with murder for Meredith’s death, was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense when the jury viewed the Maysles’ footage. Passaro was found dead in 1985 with $10,000 in his pockets).
One final, not exactly “fun” factoid considering the matter at hand, but here goes anyway: George Lucas was one of the cameramen at Altamont. His camera jammed early on, so none of his footage could be used in Gimme Shelter, but how fascinating he was present, eh?
Postscript: As a result of Sam Green’s short, a headstone was purchased for the grave of Meredith Hunter.
Holy shit is this revelatory. Wonderfully demonstrates how the Rolling Stones sound is more than just the sum of its parts, with the component tracks of one of their key songs, “Gimme Shelter,” from 1969’s Let it Bleed album.
The vocal harmonies of Mick Jagger and Merry Clayton are nothing short of astonishing, heard naked here. Clayton’s performance was one of the most significant contributions of a woman to a Stones number. “Rape, murder; It’s just a shot away, It’s just a shot away…” Listen to what happens to her voice at about 2:30 to 3:00 minutes in. Fantastic! (Clayton’s great cover version of “Gimme Shelter” would enter the Billboard Top 100 charts the following year).
The separate tracks for bass, guitar, 2nd guitar and piano, and drums, too, after the jump…