Joel Selvin

Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hell’s Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day

Published by Dey St.

Sep 14, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The full story of the free festival at California's Altamont Speedway in 1969 has never been told. Sure, the concert film/documentary Gimme Shelter was released in 1970, but that was a movie, an edited account produced by Albert and David Maysles and with tacit approval of The Rolling Stones themselves. Horrors of the day were revealed, but the full scope of said horrors was never explored. Until now.

Joel Selvin's Altamont is the definitive account of the event, from its conception as a finish to the Stones' 1969 US tour to the courtroom drama that found Hells Angel Alan Passaro acquitted in the murder of Meredith Hunter. To tell the tale, Selvin interviewed over a hundred individuals, including musicians who played at the concert, members of the medical staff, Hells Angels, police, and fans who bore witness to the tragedies of the day.

Altamont is told as a narrative, to superbly engaging effect. Quotes are not interspersed into the text. The book is not presented as a look back at Altamont. Its construction is that of a story. Selvin begins his perfectly sordid tale with details of the Stones' 1969 tour and the initial germination of an idea of a free concert, and follows it through the technicalities (and technical difficulties) of finding a site for the event and the infamous decision on Hells Angels security, all the way to the violent, fevered end of the event itself.

Selvin unearths details about the event's planning that have not been revealed before. His telling of the concert itself makes one feel like one is there, engulfed in darkness and danger. And by the book's end, Selvin wraps things up by putting the event in context, of its place in the '60s, of the hippie dream (or end of it), and of the Rolling Stones' career. He brilliantly sums up what Altamont meant, the lessons it taught, and the reasons it was fated to disaster from the jump.

Altamont is an incredible book. It reads like a rock bio, a suspense thriller, and a murder mystery all in one.


Author rating: 8/10

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Altavoces Bluetooth
November 7th 2017

Funny story :)