Days of Rage: the Rolling Stones Road to Altamont (2020) Movie Script

[film reel clicking]
[dramatic music]
[rock music]
[Narrator] In February 1964
The Beatles brought optimism to America.
Only four months later
The Rolling Stones arrived.
They made themselves an antithesis, really,
of what the Beatles were in terms of image.
The Beatles may want to hold your hand,
but The Stones want to
come and burn your town.
Rebellious, dangerous, druggy,
sexy, that is The Stones.
[Narrator] But as peace and
love spread from California,
The Stones tougher
vision seemed out of place.
The Stones are hardened.
They never fully bit on
all the idealism of the '60s.
"We can transform things by smoking pot."
It was just not realistic.
In a sense, The Stones' vision was truer.
[Narrator] And then, within months of
The Summer of Love,
the whole world changed.
By '68 the darkness that was
associated with The Stones
definitely chimed with what was happening
on the streets of Chicago,
and Paris, and London.
Blood was running in the streets.
The temperatures were
rising, rising really fast.
It was as if this is their time.
[Narrator] This film traces
The Stones through this
turbulent era, all the way to
the Altamont Festival in 1969,
the concert that brought
the decade to a shocking end.
Much as there was an element of The Stones
that loved chaos, and loved
disorder, they had no idea
what they'd gotten into at Altamont.
This didn't turn out like that.
You'd see real ugliness,
savagery right in front of your eyes.
The Hell's Angels were horrible.
It's like a car crash.
You can't do anything
about it, you're just in it.
Things just went from bad to worse,
and there's no controlling it.
It was probably, one of the
worst days of my life, ever.
[dramatic music]
[Narrator] October 17, 1969.
After a prolonged break
from live performance,
The Rolling Stones touched
down in Los Angeles to begin
preparations for the biggest
concert tour of their career.
Due to play at 16
arenas across the country,
for the booming youth
culture, The Stones' return
to the American stage
was hugely anticipated.
It was looked forward to as a huge event,
a big event, and a lot was expected of it.
People wanted to hear
what The Stones had to say.
The Rolling Stones hadn't played
in America for three years or so.
Things had changed
radically in that three years.
When The Rolling Stones
before were playing,
girls would literally wet
themselves and scream
the house down, and the
show might last 20 minutes
before all 10,000 people rushed the stage.
So The Rolling Stones were
confronted with something which,
at first, completely
kind of freaked them out.
Which was audiences that
sat there and wanted to listen.
[Narrator] Announced as
the greatest rock and roll band
in the world, despite a
changed environment,
The Stones' seminal performances
became the stuff of legend.
Everybody was on fire, you'd
get the energy from a group,
and you'd get an energy from the fans.
I'd love the fact that I
could go and watch them
every night, and it would
be a little different each time.
But it was great, the
shows were spectacular.
The boys knew how to perform.
Everywhere I hear the sound
of marching charging feet, boy
'Cause summer's
here and the time is right
For fighting in the street, boy
In 1969 The Stones were
incredible, they were brilliant.
I mean those shows were raucous.
The Stones were the biggest
rock and roll band on the road.
The Beatles had pulled
back, Dylan had pulled back.
But The Stones were out there in 1969.
And coming to America in 1969 was no joke.
The Stones were in
the thick of whatever was
racketing around in America at that time.
America in '69 is in a
state of some turmoil.
We'd moved on from
The Summer of Love in '67.
Obviously things have got a lot darker,
partly because of the Vietnam War protests.
We've had the assassination
of Martin Luther King,
and Kennedy, so there's a
much darker mood abroad.
There's still that air of
hippy optimism. '69 is,
in some ways, the high water mark of that,
rather than The Summer of Love in '67,
because this is the summer of Woodstock.
[Narrator] Held in August 1969,
with nearly half a million in attendance,
the Woodstock Festival
was a momentous four day
free concert that stood as a testament
to the growing strength
of the youth culture.
In November, late in their
tour, The Stones announced
their own free concert on the West Coast.
Originally to be held at San
Francisco's Golden Gate Park,
this event would eventually take place
at a remote racetrack called Altamont.
Altamont was intended to
be an expression of optimism,
of the strengths of the counterculture,
an event at which all the tribes
could could come together.
So, on the surface,
when it's first announced,
this is huge news and
and it's celebratory news.
The mythology of free concerts were
at the absolute height in 1969.
The whole phrase free
concert was just redolent
with all these ethics,
and images, and ideas
that were floating around
the counterculture at the time.
It could have been
fantastic, everybody assumed
that they were looking at a mini Woodstock
in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
That's not what it turned out to be.
[somber music]
[Narrator] The event itself
would prove disastrous,
a tipping point where
the countercultures dream
of peaceful solidarity
tragically fell apart.
And the violence and chaos that The Stones
came face to face with during this concert
was a far cry from the
seemingly calm America
they had first encountered
less than 10 years beforehand.
And the band's own
development across this decade
interweaved with the changing currents
of America's youth culture
during the same period.
America, 1962, a nation
energized by a period
of political growth of prosperity.
Consumer culture was thriving.
Advances in technology
were transforming everyday life.
And many felt that this was
the dawn of a new golden age.
The American dream
alive and kicking once more.
Yet an ever present threat of war
cast a shadow over this spirit of optimism.
And beneath the confident surface,
tensions were developing.
America in the early '60s is a
strange place in many ways.
In terms of popular culture,
it's rather bland and anodyne.
At the same time, politically you've got
Camelot and the court of JFK.
And there's a certain optimism there that
we've broken with the
immediate post-war generation,
and this is the start of a more youthful,
more energetic, more
forward looking political life,
soured to an extent by the Cold War,
soured by the Bay of Pigs,
and the situation in Cuba.
Almost half of the population in
the United States is under 25 years old.
And there was this sense of an inherited
world that had a lot of problems.
For the younger generation,
growing up with the Cold War
and the threat of nuclear annihilation,
all the material prosperity in the world
didn't really go to their concerns.
Things like community,
or things like social justice,
or spirituality, none of those things could
be addressed by a roaring economy itself.
[Narrator] And in November 1963,
the equilibrium of the
nation was shattered.
President John F.
Kennedy, for many a symbol
of optimism and rejuvenation,
was assassinated in Dallas.
The event stunned America,
its youth in particular traumatized
by the violence and chaos
it seemed to represent.
But early the following year,
a voice of hope emerged.
And it was emanating from distant shores.
The Beatles arrived
within a couple of months
of Kennedy's assassination, so they walked
into a nation that was grieving,
grieving really badly, and
was in a state of shock.
And they appeared on that Ed Sullivan.
And immediately they put
smiles on people's faces.
It sounds glib and bland,
but that's really what they did.
It was medicine, what the Beatles did.
You can't stress enough
just how important their arrival was.
[Narrator] And the sudden stateside success
of this revolutionary four piece
opened the door for dozens
of other British bands to
have a go at breaking America.
Following in the
footsteps of Liverpudlians,
Gerry and the Pacemakers,
The Searchers and Billy Kramer,
in June 1964 a London group arrived
with a very different image and sound.
Unlike their fellow countrymen,
The Rolling Stones weren't about optimism.
There wasn't a sense of
"the latest band from England."
That was the thing, it
was the British Invasion.
And every week it was The Searchers,
and The Dave Clark Five,
and Herman's Hermits,
and all this business.
The Stones were
something totally different.
It just felt entirely different.
Sitting in my bedroom late last night
I got into bed and turned out the light
No one else was really trying to do what
The Stones were doing,
they were into the blues.
They were into black
music, and they imitated it.
But they imitated it very well,
and they got something of the essence.
They weren't just playing on the surface.
[Narrator] But The
Stones', singer Mick Jagger,
guitarists Keith Richards and Brian Jones,
bassist Bill Wyman, and
drummer Charlie Watts,
found that their appeal was limited.
And their first US tour
proved a disappointment.
When The Rolling Stones first came to
the United States in 1964, they were not
greeted with tremendous acclaim, initially.
Their records hadn't hit the radio yet,
and they came to Los
Angeles where they appeared
on a television show called
The Hollywood Palace.
And the host was Dean
Martin and he said, these guys
are gonna get in a hair
pulling contest with The Beatles.
They were costarring with two elephants,
which kind of tells you what America
thought of The Stones to start with.
And Dean Martin, he laid into The Stones.
Well I'm gonna let you in on something.
You know these signing
groups today are under
the impression they
have long hair. [scoffing]
Not true at all, it's an optical illusion.
They just have low
foreheads and high eyebrows.
[audience laughing]
They had the advanced
publicity, they had the gigs,
but America just did not see in
The Rolling Stones what they wanted to see.
They really wanted a second Beatles.
And that's not what they got.
[Narrator] In contrast, their rise
to the top in the UK had been meteoric.
Having only formed in the
summer of 1962, they quickly
made a name for themselves
in the London blues circuit,
and arrived fresh faced in the British
charts less than a year later.
And where America was
looking for another Beatles,
The Stones earlier in their
homeland had been built upon
marketing them as the polar
opposite of the Liverpudlians.
Their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham,
carefully crafted this image.
They wouldn't smile in photos,
they would respond
indifferently to interviews.
From the very start, The
Stones were presented as rebels.
They didn't so much have
a defiance as an insolence.
It put The Rolling Stones on
one side, with the youngsters.
And it put the establishment
on the other side.
They were really probably the
first anti-establishment band.
There was a punk attitude,
except we didn't call it
punk at the time, we
just called it loutishness,
or yobbishness, that
applied to the Beatles as well,
and John Lennon in particular perhaps.
And whereas Brian
Epstein's instinct was then
to tone that down, put them in suits,
and make them as
respectable as he possibly could
without completely losing their edge,
Oldham's instinct was the exact opposite.
He definitely had a
vision of creating a band,
a gang, that was the
opposite of the Beatles gang.
I think they understood Andrew's vision.
And I think when Andrew
said don't smile, be a bit surly,
you don't have to be, if Charlie doesn't
want to answer he doesn't answer.
If he does answer, he just says yes or no.
And he's sort of monosyllabic and cool.
What would you say?
Not in this first relationship,
It's too late to be made better.
What came out of it was a
high degree of individuality,
coupled with the nous that
Jagger had from the very outset.
The coolness that Keith
had, and the extraordinary
charismatic Brian who was
unlike, at that moment in time,
unlike anybody I think you'd ever seen.
[Narrator] And The Stones'' image
perfectly complemented their music.
After a couple of minor
singles, their 1964 hit
"Not Fade Away" captured the band's
unique blend of blues and rock and roll.
The sound that had made them
a sensation on the club circuit
now saw them ascend to
the top of the British charts.
The Stones really were the first
of the R and B bands to emerge.
I mean R and B originally
came out of the jazz
movement in London, the jazz clubs.
And it was frowned upon a bit,
it was scene as a bit populist.
Whereas the Mersey Beat
bands, obviously the Beatles,
but then you had Billy J Kramer,
you had Freddie and the Dreamers,
were very much melody driven.
But The Stones had this dark American vibe.
They didn't look to Mersey
side, they looked across
to the States to Chicago
and the inner cities.
So, it was really a new
sound, there was nothing really
like what The Stones were doing at all.
I wanna tell you how it's gonna be
You're gonna give your love to me
I'm gonna love you night and day
Well you know my
love will not fade away
The Stones' music was very much a vine.
The hooks were all about
rhythm, whereas I think
the hooks for the Beatles were
yeah yeah yeah and harmonies.
The Stones didn't really go in for that.
"Not Fade Away" really crystallized that.
["Not Fade Away" by The Rolling Stones]
The Stones had that R and B bluesy edge.
And, of course, in Jagger they had this
charismatic frontman, so it was earthier.
Rock and roll had sort of eradicated it's
black origins, and tried to make itself
as white as it could possibly sound.
And, if you like, the early Stones put
the black back into rock and
roll, even though they were
white, middle class, suburban English boys.
After that you had the chain
of events that The Stones
were suddenly good copy
in the national newspapers,
this is the dark version of the Beatles,
they don't wash, all that kind of stuff.
"Not Fade Away" was the song that did that.
They were taking us
on this rhythmic journey,
and no one knew where that was gonna end.
[Narrator] In October 1964,
The Stones headed to the US once again.
Now with hit singles behind them,
and a growing reputation
within the youth market,
this time they were invited on to
Ed Sullivan's television
show, which had helped launch
the Beatles nationwide
at the start of the year.
And the generational divide
that the band had opened up
in their homeland, was immediately
replicated when they arrived on screen.
The Stones' appearance on Ed Sullivan,
in the newspapers everybody
was complaining about
because Mick Jagger walked
on stage in a sweat shirt.
No one did that on The Ed Sullivan Show.
[audience screaming]
I said the joint was rocking
Going round and round
Jagger just walked out on that
stage like he was in a club.
The second you saw
him you knew that this was
crossing the line in an outrageous way.
And they never stopped rocking
Till the moon went down
Jagger was singing in a
kind of black American accent.
It was very sexual.
And by that point the
Beatles had become sort of
a novelty as far as parents were concerned.
You got patted on the
head for liking the Beatles.
You didn't get patted on the head
for liking The Rolling Stones.
The older Americans
reacted with complete dismay,
without understanding why, although
instinctively they are completely correct
because the British were here to replace
old fashioned American show business,
and that's exactly what they
did, so long Toady Fields.
It presaged what came to
be called the generation gap,
where the American adult population became
really threatened and
intimidated by their children.
[Narrator] And these
children were impressed
by what they saw on Ed Sullivan.
This time, with the performance mainlining
the band directly into
homes across the country,
The Stones were instantly elevated
to the very top of the music world.
And as their audience
grew, so too did the unruly,
frenzied atmosphere of their live shows.
More than any of their contemporaries,
The Rolling Stones inspired chaos.
There were a lot of riots,
but the riots were more-so
I think the fans trying
to get close to you.
Mick had it controlled usually,
and the minute you knew
they were coming over
the stage, we'd run back to
the dressing rooms and lock it down.
There was not as much
security but the doors kept it clear,
no kids were pushing through at that time.
But it was scary.
The Stones appealed much more towards
the boys than the Beatles had done.
The Beatles encouraged the screamers.
The Stones invited the boys to participate.
There was something a bit more butch about
The Rolling Stones than there was
about the Beatles, at that time.
Whether it was the beat, the rebel look,
young men turned up at Stones' concerts.
On the continent, for
example Paris and Holland,
there was serious rioting,
male, masculine, macho rioting.
It was just like rock and roll again,
smashing up the stalls,
fighting with the police.
It wasn't just the fact that
it was the boys looking for a punch up,
it was the media, to a
large extent, that built up
the expectations of the gig quite often.
The security people just
didn't know what to expect.
When somebody tells
you that The Rolling Stones
are coming to town,
there's gonna be a riot.
You prepare for that
eventuality just in case.
Security and the audience
was a massive problem,
which I mean ultimately
saw it's nadir in Altamont.
[Narrator] But these outbreaks of disorder
did not dampen the mood
of optimism back in Britain.
By late in 1964, a cultural
and artistic revolution
was underway, with a
change in political leadership
bringing a new sense
of purpose and vitality.
Youth was in the driving
seat, and the nation's capital,
London, was becoming a
hotbed of creativity and innovation.
After the Beatles, it
was all eyes on Britain,
but particularly all eyes on London.
Suddenly, filmmakers, the fashion world
particularly, were gravitating to London,
and seeing London as a city of culture.
It was very very different,
the old idea of Britain as
an old fashioned, almost militaristic,
historical establishment
symbolized by the royal family.
We're having aristocrats now,
and they were from the lower orders.
You had Julie Christie, Jagger,
Ringo Starr, Michael Caine, Terence Stamp.
This was London in
1964, '65, it was the place
where everyone wanted to gravitate.
And it was the place that was pulsing
more than any other city on Earth.
[Narrator] In America however,
things were very different.
Although the coming of the British bands
had energized the nation's youth,
and revolutionized the
entertainment industry,
the shadow of violent
conflict loomed large.
At the time of John F. Kennedy's death
there had been a number of
military advisors in Vietnam
aiding the government
in the south of the country
against a communist
insurgency from the North.
Where Kennedy had been
keen to contain this involvement
his successor, President
Lyndon Johnson, escalated
the conflict and committed
US forces to a ground war.
By 1965 thousands of young
American men were being
called up to military
duty and sent to Vietnam.
And the president immediately emerged as
an enemy of the growing youth culture.
History did not favor a
single system or belief,
unless force is used to make it so.
That's why it's been
necessary for us to defend
this basic principle of our
policy, to defend it in Berlin,
and in Korea, and in Cuba,
and tonight in Vietnam.
[audience applauding]
Vietnam certainly did
more than anything else
to politicize the generation gap.
And the reason he escalated it
when he did was that he made
the terrible mistake of
thinking that Southeast Asia
was a replay of Europe in
1938, and we were reminded
over and over again that we
must never make the mistake
of Munich made by Neville Chamberlain.
The two things actually had
nothing to do with each other.
But unfortunately they became an excuse
to send 500,000 American
soldiers to Vietnam
in a completely hopeless cause.
The draft that supported that war
was incredibly unpopular, again,
90 million Americans under age 25,
many of them know people
that are are getting drafted,
and serving, and dying in some cases.
So the war was extremely controversial.
And there's also an important point
that young people were more alert to.
And that was that the
explanations about the war,
its origins, and its
development we're not truthful.
This is much more than a political issue.
It's an issue of trust.
[Narrator] And as the
war quickly escalated,
protests broke out across the nation.
Young Americans joined with peace activists
to organize large scale
demonstrations, and marches.
While at academic
institutions, students became
a powerful voice in
the fight against the war.
With the young now actively
involved in a conflict with
an older generation they perceived
as violent war mongers,
the music that had reenergized their lives
became bound up in this struggle.
As people began to protest the war,
and civil rights protests
were taking place,
rebellion in the cultural arena
began to take on that tinge.
So, what seemed just
like The Rolling Stones
kind of surliness, suddenly
had a political element.
The generation gap, and
the don't trust anyone over 30,
and all of those kind of
ideas became politicized,
so that it wasn't just the
kind of Marlon Brando
what are you rebelling
against, what do you got?
Well, we got plenty, there's
plenty to rebel against.
[Narrator] And in the summer of 1965,
just as President Johnson
announced he would double
the number young Americans
called up for active duty,
and as race riots erupted in the Watts
neighborhood in Los
Angeles, The Rolling Stones
released "I Can't Get no Satisfaction."
The song perfectly captured
the spirit of their generation.
"Satisfaction" really was
the record that they kind of,
they didn't realize it I think, but it was
the one that they were working up towards.
It was the one that
embodied their attitude.
It embodied the drive.
And you have to listen
to the rhythm of that.
It was like a marching, almost
a marching pounding beat.
I can't get no satisfaction
I can't get no satisfaction
And it was the march of youth,
the march of the younger generation.
And then you add the
lyrical content on top of that.
I can't get no satisfaction, The Stones,
and that record particularly was the one
in summer of '65 that
embodied everything that
the young people were kind of striving for.
"I Can't Get no Satisfaction" became
a kind of generational anthem.
And it's an amazing performance,
I mean it's a definitive guitar line.
But also Jagger's performance,
by the time he gets to that last verse,
I'm riding around the world.
When I'm riding around the world
And I'm doing this and I'm signing that
And I'm trying to make some girl
Who tells me better maybe
come back maybe next week
Can't you see I'm on a losing streak
I can't get no
Jagger is very underrated as a singer.
But when you isolate
his vocals, and you hear
the kind of commitment
that he brings to his delivery.
There's a reason why the second you hear
that song you never forget it.
The sense of young
people feeling that kind of
disgruntlement with mainstream
culture, that was very much
in the air right then,
and they gave it voice.
[Narrator] Over the next year,
The Stones' sound would expand.
And the singles following
"Satisfaction" took aim
at the dark underbelly of British culture.
And at the same time in America,
a new door was beginning,
one that would have an
enormous impact on The Stones,
and all of their contemporaries.
In distant San Francisco
an artistic, spiritual,
and cultural scene had
been growing since the 1950s.
And its introduction of new
music, mind expanding drugs,
and alternative lifestyles
was about to change the world.
San Francisco has been a home for
the tragically disaffected
since the Catholic
missionaries showed up here in the 1700s.
Hospitable to radicals,
rebels, mavericks, it attracted
these original sort of
disaffected free thinkers
of the '50s, of the post war era.
And it was common knowledge to them
that their parents didn't understand them.
And one of them was a writer
by the name of Jack Kerouac
who constructed an
epic book, "On the Road",
of two just such
characters making a journey
across the country, and their
destination is San Francisco.
On the Road settled San Francisco as
the capital of this kind of thinking.
The main thing that touched
off this kind of activity,
I think, is the arrival of the beats,
the arrival of Jack
Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
And then in short order you've
got figures like Ken Kesey.
[Narrator] A decade
younger than the beat writers,
celebrated novelist,
Kesey introduced the bohemian community
in San Francisco to a new drug, LSD.
And this would play a pivotal role in
the cultural scene that soon developed.
Ken Kesey had made his money as the author
of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
He'd been introduced
to hallucinogenic drugs
by a government backed
experimental testing program.
And then he becomes the link really between
The Beat Generation of Allen Ginsberg
and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the emerging
hippie movement of the mid
1960s, so he's a pivotal figure.
He puts together what came
to be called the acid tests,
which were multicultural
events, experiences,
at which LSD was liberally
and freely circulated,
and at which the Grateful
Dead became the house band.
The Grateful Dead play
there, they become part of
that scene, the house band,
they weren't really concerts.
But the Grateful Dead were there.
Sometimes they didn't even
play, they were too high to play.
And no one would came
there to listen to them anyway.
So it gave them a fantastic opportunity
to develop their music in
the way that they saw fit.
[Narrator] In early 1966,
this musical offshoot
of the LSD parties began
gathering momentum.
Alongside The Grateful Dead, bands such as
The Jefferson Airplane, and Big Brother
and the Holding Company
developed on the local
club circuit, creating psychedelic sounds
that complimented the acid experience.
At the premier clubs the Fillmore West,
and the Avalon Ballroom,
from these experiments
a new musical culture was
born, far from the controlling
hands of the commercial
entertainment industry.
At the Fillmore in Avalon
there were no spotlights.
There was a big light show
that covered the back wall
and the side wall, and
was not an exact science.
It covered parts of the floor
too, and people sitting on it.
It was just this huge pulsing set of colors
coming out of light
projectors, and film loops.
And there was no spotlight,
there was no band on display,
and the stages were very low, like 12,
18 inches off the floor,
and these crowds danced.
They danced to the music, they didn't
sit there and watch like a concert.
[Narrator] And the culture
that started in the clubs,
soon began to spread
out into the neighborhoods
and public spaces of the city.
With its epicenter in the
Haight Ashbury District,
free concerts were soon organized,
with The Grateful Dead
and other bands playing to large crowds,
both on the streets and in local parks.
By the end of 1966, the hippy
movement was in full flight.
What's happening in
San Francisco is driven by
a very democratic impulse,
but it is not commercial.
So you have the free concerts.
I mean the drugs are
also very very important.
LSD is still legal in in '66, don't forget.
And it is a tool of liberation,
and suddenly drugs
are not just about
getting out of your head,
they're about expanding your
head, expanding your mind.
And so that goes along I think
with the democratic impulse,
and the love, and peace, and
those sort of pseudo political
philosophical notions that
underpin the hippie movement.
[Narrator] And while the key
concepts of love and peace
were central to this new
San Francisco counterculture,
at the free concerts another
group of non conformists
were often seen rubbing
shoulders with the hippies.
The Hell's Angels, a
Californian biker club,
were similarly looking
to live by their own code.
An outlaw presence across the state,
viewed by the authorities
as a violent criminal gang,
they had come into contact with Ken Kesey
and the burgeoning counterculture
at an early stage.
Kesey tamed The Hell's Angels.
He had them come over to
La Honda, filled them with LSD,
and hung out with the pranksters.
And they were tamed by him, they loved him,
they loved LSD, they got that whole thing.
Pretty soon The Hell's Angels are fixtures
at the Grateful Dead shows, and people
start getting used to seeing them.
And in fact they can be quite helpful,
sometimes reconnecting
lost children with their parents.
So, it wasn't unusual to see
them at some of these events.
The counterculture and
The Hell's Angels were sort of
decent bedfellows because
sex, drugs, rock and roll.
Living the fast life, living
life on the margins of society.
There's an affiliation between rebellion
and men on motorbikes that goes right back
to Marlon Brando in "The Wild One."
[engines roaring]
[dramatic music]
On their bikes they expressed freedom,
and up and down the
freeway, this is on the road,
except they're on their
iron horses, so to speak.
But I think there must
have been a wariness,
because the angels
lived kind of a different life.
They didn't subscribe to love and peace.
[Narrator] For more than a
year this new counterculture,
coexisting with The Angels,
had been able to grow
organically with little media attention.
But in January 1967 a far
larger free concert was organized.
Known as the Human
Be-In, it featured speeches
from prominent figures Timothy
Leary, and Allen Ginsberg,
alongside musical performances by
the major new voices on the scene.
The Human Be-In was a huge event,
because it was the first one of its kind.
You hadn't seen this kind of a huge crowd
of countercultural people
until the Human Be-In.
So, it's example was extremely important.
It was made for television,
sort of as a signal
to the national media
that something interesting
is going on in San
Francisco's youth culture.
The people who are onstage and speaking,
are also made for television.
You got Timothy Leary, and Allen Ginsberg
in these kind of flowing robes,
Leary spreading his message
about the benefits of psychedelics.
Six words:
Turn on,
tune in,
drop out.
[audience cheering]
I don't think word leaked out
much about what was going on
in San Francisco through
the course of 1966.
But with the Human Be-In in January of '67,
it just exploded the
beginning of that year.
And the mythology was instantaneous.
Harry Reasoner showed
up, the American TV journalist
and cluck, cluck,
clucked about the hippies.
They they think there's some kind of saint.
And in doing that, it
delivered a coded message
to young people everywhere
that it wasn't as repressive,
it wasn't as gray, that there was hope.
And that you could go to San Francisco,
grow your hair, and
things would be different.
[Narrator] While across
America, young people flocked
to the Haight Ashbury
District in search of this Utopia.
In Britain too the influence of
San Francisco was soon felt.
Countercultural ideas and
fashions crossed the Atlantic,
while touring musicians,
including The Stones
and The Beatles were introduced
to hallucinogenics by
their American counterparts.
Talk of the new drug, LSD
in particular, led to fears
that popular culture
was getting out of control.
Where only two years beforehand,
the administration of
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
was celebrating the Beatles and the booming
youth movement, now a backlash began.
Where once leniency had prevailed,
now a number of drug busts were organized.
And in February 1967,
the police arrived in force
at the home of Rolling
Stones' guitarist, Keith Richards.
Pop stars had soft power,
they had cultural power,
and what they were saying
was increasingly disobedient.
But of course the
establishment didn't like that.
And they increasingly took notice
of pop stars, and what they were saying.
And The Stones really were ideal
candidates then for drug busts.
When they started to clamp down hard,
which was February 1967,
The Stones were marked men.
The police were given a tip
off by the news of the world
that a drug party was taking
place at Keith Richards'
home in West Wittering, in Sussex.
And they raided it on a
Sunday night in February.
This was the famous bust
where Marianne Faithfull
was dressed in nothing but a fur rug.
All they found was some
ash from marijuana cigarettes
in an ashtray, a few amphetamines
that were actually, I
believe a prescription.
And the outcome was that Jagger was
sentenced to three
months in prison for the pills.
And the Keith Richards
got 12 months for allowing
his home to be used for
this nefarious drug taking.
Personally I was upset
for them, and very shocked.
We were all instructed to be very
very low key, not to talk to any media.
There was a sort of blanket instruction
from The Stones' office, to
not do anything to exacerbate,
that this was a serious situation.
And so we were all, I
mean definitely, upset,
and distressed, and
worried, and worried for them.
[Narrator] While these
arrests further enhanced
The Stones' rebellious
reputation, they also sidelined
the band for much of the
counterculture's watershed year.
While awaiting trial, they
performed a European tour,
their last series of shows
for more than two years.
And in May, Brian Jones
was also the target of a police
raid and he too would stand
trial for drug possession.
On America's West Coast, however,
the counterculture's
influence spread unobstructed.
And in June 1967, the first
major pop festival took place in
Monterey, a coastal city 100
miles south of San Francisco.
It would prove a vital showcase for
the bands of the Haight Ashbury.
The San Francisco scene
was very excited by this.
We could feel this was the next wave.
And so we wanted for them,
if you hadn't heard of them,
now's your chance to see them, now go down
and spend three days and see them all.
Monterey, incredible important transition,
catalyst for huge change, and
people came in that weekend
on the top, Mamas and Papas
runs six straight top 10 hits,
The Association, Simon and Garfunkel.
By the end of the weekend everybody was
talking about Jimi
Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane,
Otis Redding, Big Brother
and The Holding Company.
And the whole world
had revolved in three days.
Monterey was the first
of the pop music festivals.
And it had a great feeling around it.
There was a lot of optimism in the air,
along with the smell of marijuana.
And for me, watching that festival,
the highlight was Janis Joplin.
Because I'd scene Hendrix,
and I'd seen The Who.
I knew how good they were,
I'd flown out with Hendrix.
But when Janis Joplin came up on stage
and opened her mouth, I
just took two steps back.
I just had never heard a
woman sing like that in my life.
Oh whoa whoa tell my why
Does everything go so wrong
I see people honey all go wrong yeah
Everyone was there,
Derek Taylor, the Beatles
publicist put this whole thing together.
And a lot of people were there.
So a lot of people saw her kill it.
I mean she was great that night.
Rather than being in a relatively small,
semi-provincial American
city, all of a sudden
San Francisco was challenging LA.
LA was the West Coast
center of popular music
with the movies, and all that was all LA.
And San Francisco
had very little part in that.
But now, The Grateful
Dead was San Francisco,
Janis Joplin was San Francisco.
San Francisco, that
summer, became a pop music
capital where it had not been before.
[Narrator] And in attendance of this
historic festival was a Rolling Stone.
Brian Jones, still awaiting sentencing,
had traveled to the event, keen to witness
firsthand the fruits of
this new counterculture.
Brian Jones appearing in the audience at
Monterey Pop, hanging out with Nico was
important to the scene,
they recognized that as
British rock royalty
anointing the festival.
So The Stones were represented there.
It would be the underpinnings of
what would lead them into Altamont because
they felt somewhat separate
from this hip underground
movement and they really
wanted to be part of it.
Jagger especially wanted that for his band.
[Narrator] But it was neither The Stones,
nor the West Coast acts that
would provide the definitive
musical statement of this
new countercultural mindset.
In a remarkable creative surge, with the LP
Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,
and the single All You Need
is Love, it was the Beatles
that captured the spirit
of the summer of love.
1967 really was owned by the Beatles.
There was all this thing happening
over on the West Coast.
But "All You Need is Love",
it was so right for its time.
A summer of love that
was, like all the best flowers,
they just die off after a couple of months.
But "All You Need is Love" was the song,
the single song that symbolized that.
They also had Sergeant Pepper
on the album market which,
even reviewers in the Times
saying this is genuine art.
This isn't pop music, this is art.
In my whole career of following music,
and now it's 50, 60 years,
there was nothing ever
and hasn't been since
something like Sergeant Pepper.
This was big, Sergeant
Pepper blew everybody's mind.
Everybody found something to like.
It was just powerful, powerful music.
[Narrator] In late July,
Jagger and Richards
successfully appealed
against their convictions.
And the pair were free men once again.
Determined to keep up with the Beatles,
The Stones quickly reassembled and issued
their own contributions
to the summer of love.
But the single We Love You,
and the album that followed,
the much maligned
Satanic Majesties Request,
offered a less celebratory
vision of the times,
and failed to chime with
the utopian mood of the era.
The Rolling Stones, and peace and love
might seem unlikely bedfellows.
But Jagger and Richards were there
at the recording of All You Need is Love.
And in fact their single
which follows that,
"We Love You", I think is a masterpiece.
The Rolling Stones are,
and Jagger and Richards
in particular are, right in
the firing line at this point.
So, peace and love with with an edge,
because they are being
targeted and victimized.
We love you
We love you
And we hold
It wasn't anything like
"All You Need is Love".
It was sardonic.
It was ironic, almost,
the way they sang that
It wasn't inclusive, and upbeat,
and playful, and fun, and international.
So The Stones weren't really playing ball.
The Stones are hardened.
They never fully bit on
all the idealism of the '60s.
They were tougher, it was
like a London thing in part.
They were city kids.
So all of this get back to the land,
and wear flowers in your
hair, and all that business,
that didn't really work for them so well.
They didn't think because
you went to the park
with your friends and waved a flag around
that anybody was gonna
give up anything important.
They totally understood that
that was never going to happen.
[Narrator] And The Stones reluctance
to join in with the prevailing optimism,
was borne out by the more disturbing events
that occurred during the summer of love.
In June 1967, 10,000 peace
marchers were violently attacked
by police during a
demonstration in Los Angeles.
While the following month,
race riots erupted in Detroit
leaving dozens killed and hundreds injured.
Even as the summer of
love was proffering this
kind of vision of a a new world,
there were plenty of problems.
Everything didn't disappear
because you took a pill one day.
"We can transform things by smoking pot."
It was just not realistic.
And soon everyone learned
how unrealistic it was.
The growth of the
counterculture occurs at exactly
the same time as the black
ghetto is rising up in force,
in Detroit, and in many other places.
So, you have these two simultaneous,
not exactly related
movements, but both of them
give you a feeling that
everything is changing.
And a lot of things are under siege
in a way they never were before.
But certainly the riots
in the black ghettos are
the most destabilizing
force in the country,
and the one that terrifies
white people the most,
even more than long haired
rock and rollers, clearly.
[Narrator] The stage was
set for harder times to follow.
And at the very start of
1968 the counterculture's
faith in the authorities
crumbled even further.
Victory in Vietnam was
always presented as a certainty,
the inevitable end to a just crusade.
But the news reports
that broadcast during the Tet Offensive
offered all of America a
very different vision of the war.
William Westmoreland, who's
the Commanding Army General
for the United States in Vietnam
has come home to America
in the fall of 1967 and said
that the war is being won,
and that we have nothing to worry about,
and that we're about to turn
the corner, and of course,
famously there is light
at the end of the tunnel.
And then at the end of
January of 1968 you have
every major city in South Vietnam,
and every major military outpost
attacked simultaneously
in honor of the Tet Holiday.
And you have Vietnamese, including some who
had worked before the American Embassy,
inside the American Embassy attacking it.
And those images of people
inside the Embassy Compound,
as well as the general
mayhem around the country,
have a very dramatic and immediate effect.
It was very clear that the
light at the end of the tunnel
just really didn't exist,
that was a fantasy
that was being sold to the American people
to justify their sons
going over to fight this war.
Once that became part of
people's awareness of what
was going on in Vietnam,
yeah, the tide began to turn.
But yeah there was resistance to that.
My country, right or wrong.
That was something you
heard all the time back then.
Even if Vietnam was
not justifiable you had to
get behind it, and young
people who were kind of
expected to go fight
that war we're thinking,
well I don't think so, I
don't see it that way.
The battle was on.
[Narrator] And this battle was not
restricted to America's home turf.
The youth and peace movements
were active internationally.
And in Europe large demonstrations were
organized to oppose the Vietnam War.
And although Britain had
seen peaceful marches
for nuclear disarmament
since the start of the decade,
in March 1968 outside
the US Embassy in London,
the protests descended into violence.
After the flowers had wilted
there was a reality check.
And the reality check,
Vietnam was becoming an issue
that spread amongst young
people right around the world.
It was the Cold War really
getting out of control, Vietnam.
Young lives are being lost
and people are asking questions
as to why Britain wasn't
sending the forces over,
but there was some
tacit support of the USA.
[Narrator] And amongst the protesters,
observing as the police and
the demonstrators clashed,
was Mick Jagger himself.
Since his trial the frontman's role
in the counterculture had been transformed,
and he now positioned
himself on the front lines.
Jagger's very interesting
in terms of his role
in the counterculture
because there is this instinctive
desire just to be yobbish
and put your two fingers up.
But he's also got this LSE education.
He is attracted by some
of the intellectual ideas
that are underpinning these notions
of different ways of organizing society.
And he starts appearing on British TV
debating with Malcolm
Muggeridge, and Mary Whitehouse,
and these figures who represented
a really reactionary attitude at the time.
The opportunity to go on
TV and debate why he felt
society was being
organized on the wrong lines
was very attractive to
him, and then it becomes
part of his songwriting as well.
[upbeat music]
[Narrator] And this would
come at a perfect time.
The confrontational mood in
Europe was further escalated
in May when student riots erupted in Paris.
The resistance soon spread to
the French workers themselves.
And the streets became a battleground,
with protesters calling for a revolution.
Into this turbulence
came The Rolling Stones
new single, "Jumping Jack Flash".
You had Grosvenor Square, but you also
had activism in Berlin, in Paris.
And youth was becoming
an international force,
in a way like that, and
The Stones, when they
got there kinda mojo back,
back to the tough R and B,
They were a great symbol for that.
So when you had the Beatles in '67,
embodying everything
that was happening then,
The Stones were poised,
really, to embody the
darker energies that were
kind of unfolding during '68.
I was born in a cross fire hurricane
And I howled at the
morning driving rain
But it's all...
I remember the first time I
heard Jumping Jack Flash.
I was thinking like wow,
The Stones are back.
But it's all right
Driven by a riff, and driven by
a kind of rebellious
message, it was exactly
what that moment seemed to call for.
That started them off and kicked
everything off with the
"Jumping Jack Flash".
I mean, born in a cross fire hurricane,
and all of the language
that was in that thing,
it was like identifying
for all those people
felt like life was crazy,
you had all the Vietnam,
all these other things going on so yes,
born in a crossfire re-kicked
everything, it rekindled it.
[somber music]
[Narrator] But where The Stones were being
revitalized, the American
political landscape
was reeling from further tragedies.
In April, civil rights
leader Martin Luther King
had been assassinated sparking off riots
in more than 110 cities, the
greatest wave of social unrest
the country had experienced
since the Civil War.
Despite the turbulence, there was one
political figure who offered hope.
Robert Kennedy, the
younger brother of slain
president John, was a leading candidate for
the Democratic Party to
succeed Lyndon Johnson.
An advocate of human
rights, and social justice,
and an opponent of the Vietnam War,
he suggested that change could occur
from within the political system.
Yet on June 5, 1968, shortly after winning
the Californian primary,
he too was assassinated.
He did represent hope, and
even the people who hadn't
necessarily invested in it,
they knew him to be that.
And the robbery was felt very strongly
throughout the youth culture.
Those two assassinations
did more to destroy
optimism than anything else in my lifetime.
And of course, really, it
was three assassinations
in the minds of us who
came of age in the '60s,
because it was John
Kennedy, and then it was King,
and then it was Bobby Kennedy,
so those were the three most
horrifying events of my youth.
The main thing I think when
you think back on that period
was just how saturated
with violence the culture was.
The idea of putting any kind
of hope in any of these figures
was beginning to look faintly ridiculous.
Because so many of them were being killed,
violently, in front of our eyes.
[Narrator] And for the
counterculture the idea
of peace and love lost its allure,
and revolution became their rallying cry.
Many of those involved
in the youth movement
solely for the sex,
drugs, and rock and roll
now became politically active.
And this reached its boiling
point at a mass demonstration
at the Democratic National
Convention in August, 1968.
Well, the Democratic
National Convention in Chicago
shaped up to be a coronation
of Hubert Humphrey,
Johnson's vice president and hand picked
successor nobody cared one whit about.
And the sort of National
Council of unaffiliated hippies
who called themselves the yippies,
determined to create a diversion, a strike,
a demonstration outside
the convention headquarters.
And they called on youth all over
the country to descend on Chicago.
The fact is Chicago was run by a Mayor,
tough guy named Richard Daley.
And he just didn't see
any reason these kids
should be allowed to do
anything, so it was a battle
in the streets outside the
Democratic convention.
There were thousands
of kids getting clobbered,
and tear gassed, and hauled
off to jail by the Chicago
Police who were acting,
for all intents and purposes,
like the Nazi Police Festival in the '30s.
The police riots at the
Democratic National Convention
in Chicago in 1968 were
absolutely a dividing line.
It would totally radicalized youth culture.
One of the chants of the protesters at
the Chicago Convention was
the whole world is watching.
And that there was that
sense of once you've seen this
you can't look away you can't
unsee it, you can't pretend.
You had to line up on one side or another.
[Narrator] Just as these images of vicious
police brutality were
being broadcast worldwide,
The Rolling Stones released
the single "Street Fighting Man"
inspired by the Grosvenor
Square riots earlier that year.
Declared a subversive
record, it was instantly banned
by radio stations in Chicago and reinforced
the group's anti establishment credentials.
Street Fighting Man captured the feeling
of the time both in America and here.
But Jagger was always good at sensing that.
And he always had that ability.
It was one of his
strengths as a song writer.
Everywhere I hear the sound
of marching charging feet boy
'Cause summer's
here and the time is right
For fighting in the street boy
Blood was running in the streets.
The temperatures were
rising, rising really fast.
It had changed so much in that year from
"All You Need is Love" in 1967,
"Street Fighting Man" in 1968.
Timing is everything and
to have that song come out
at that moment made
them right at the center of
the zeitgeist in a way that they probably
hadn't been for several years before.
And it's true that the
absolute peak of the Beatles
was with "Sergeant Pepper's"
in 1967, although we have
to remember that "Hey Jude"
was also in 1968 and Dylan's
most powerful political stuff
was, by 1968, behind him.
So yeah, I would say
that The Rolling Stones,
at that moment, were
probably the most powerful
political force in the rock and roll scene.
[Narrator] And The Stones
resurgence was confirmed
at the close of the year with
the album "Beggars Banquet".
Promoted with a drunken press party,
it was a time for
celebration, with not only
Jagger and Richards, but also Brian Jones,
having narrowly avoided
prison time during a difficult year.
Yet the wider counterculture
was not feeling so celebratory,
with the presidential election
of Republican candidate
Richard Nixon in November,
pouring salt on the wounds
that had been inflicted during 1968.
The Stones' new LP, and
its standout opening track,
"Sympathy for The Devil", demonstrated
their continued relevance
and resistance to the existing order.
Anyone who had doubts about what The Stones
were up to after "Satanic
Majesties Request"
had those doubts erased by Beggars Banquet.
If you watch the footage of the movie
they made with Jean-Luc Godard,
they're recording "Sympathy For the Devil".
And in the course of making the movie,
you see Jagger having
to change the lyrics from
I shouted out who killed Kennedy to
I shouted out who killed the Kennedys?
I watched with glee while
your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
for the gods they made
I shouted out who killed the Kennedys
When after all it was you and me
When you have to make a revision like that,
you know that you're operating right on
the cutting edge of what's going on.
As the track that
announced Beggars Banquet,
it couldn't possibly have
been a stronger statement.
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name oh yeah
Jagger married a hedonism to
an enjoyment of that
sort of Lord of Misrule role.
That's what comes across
in songs like "Sympathy For the Devil".
He falls in love, I think,
with this role of the Lord
of Misrule bringing chaos
and turbulence in its wake.
And it's very attractive but equally
rather dangerous at the same time.
[contemplative music]
[Narrator] While The Stones were
busy reestablishing themselves
in this anarchic role, another scene
had developed in Britain
over the past two years.
Inspired by the San
Francisco psychedelic acts,
the bands of the underground
had also experimented
with light shows, and elongated soul forms
at the circuit's main club, UFO.
In 1968 the scene's
leading lights, The Pink Floyd
headlined the first major free concert
in London's Hyde Park,
organized by Blackhill Enterprises.
And following the
success of the first show,
in June 1969 they staged
an even larger event,
featuring the supergroup Blind Faith.
Pink Floyd show was seminal because it was
a whole lot of people at it,
but it was kind of small key,
We didn't promote it viciously, as it were.
But the Blind Faith show
was seminal insofar as
they were kind of amalgam
of Cream and Traffic,
that were two huge bands,
so they played in Hyde Park.
There was 150,000 people at that.
Nobody got arrested, there are no fights,
it was a beautiful day, it was very kind of
Fae and woodland in a kind of English way.
[Narrator] And and Sam Cutler
was then contacted by The Rolling Stones.
Riding high after their
commercial success the previous year,
they felt that a large
free concert with added
underground kudos would offer a suitably
high profile return to the live arena.
In May, they had also fired
the unreliable Brian Jones,
and had a new guitarist in
tow, Mick Taylor, for whom
this concert would provide
the perfect introduction.
A date was set for July,
anticipation running high for the event.
And then, two days before the show,
they received news that
Jones had been found dead.
A few days before the show, Brian died.
So the question, of course,
immediately becomes
in situations like that,
well what do you do?
Well, there is of course
in the music business,
like all theatrical enterprises,
there's a the show must go on thing.
Mick and Keith basically, felt that
it should be held as a memorial to Brian.
[calm music]
Blackhill Enterprises
started off with very much
the hippie bands playing;
Pink Floyd, Tyrannosaurus Rex,
and then Blind Faith a bit later.
The Stones is a different thing again
because they hadn't
played for a couple of years,
not since the busts, so much had happened.
And they came out they
released the butterflies
which promptly died, not great omen.
I'm free to sing my song any old time
So love me hold me
Love me hold me
Cause I'm free to sing my song
I thought it was one of
the most awful concerts
I've seen The Rolling Stones perform.
They were under rehearsed.
Mick Taylor just didn't know whether
he was coming or going
all the way through it.
Jagger dancing on the
dead butterflies was probably
the most awfully comedic
thing I've ever seen.
And they were just so terribly sad.
Shame they felt they had to do it.
[Narrator] Outside of
the performance itself,
the concert was a major
event bringing together
an audience of over a quarter of a million,
who were oblivious to The
Stones' failings on stage.
In its communal atmosphere,
it echoed the peaceful unity
of the San Francisco
events it was emulating.
And in an homage to the renowned
Golden Gate Park shows,
security was overseen
by a very British version
of The Hell's Angels.
Everyone was impeccably
behaved, nobody went to hospital,
no one was stabbed, no
one was shot, any of that.
And there were these guys
that rode BSA 125 motorcycles,
which would like one
step up from the scooter,
who called themselves Hell's
Angels, and of course had
nothing whatsoever to do
with the American Hell's Angels.
The Hell's Angels in England,
they weren't California Hell's Angels.
They had their colors drawn
on their leathers in chalk.
And they were backstage
at the Hyde Park concert
serving tea, so if that's
what the Rolling Stones
thought The Hell's Angels were,
they were in for quite a severe surprise.
[Narrator] And soon The Stones would come
face to face with the real Hell's Angels.
Following the Hyde Park concert,
the band were making plans for a new tour,
something they desperately
needed to organize.
Despite their resurgence in the mainstream,
the band members themselves were broke.
Back in 1965, manager
Andrew Oldham had brought
New York accountant, Allen
Klein into The Stones' team.
And overtime this tough negotiator
had proven his worth to the band.
Soon muscling Oldham out of the picture,
by 1968 he was the band's sole manager.
And his company Abkco, had control over
their financial affairs and
their collective bank accounts.
And getting Klein to release their funds
was proving increasingly difficult.
They were fed up with
Allen Klein because they
could never get any money out of Allen.
So here they were this world famous band,
virtually starving, and they
had to do a tour of America.
Basically they knew that if they did it
with Allen Klein, Allen Klein would end up
with the lion's share of the receipts.
And they do this huge
tour and have no money.
So they managed, I don't know quite how,
to seduce Allen Klein's
nephew Ronnie Schneider
away from his uncle's company, Abkco,
to come and work for The
Stones and do that tour.
In August, I left my uncle.
A few weeks after that
I got a phone call from
Mick Jagger saying we
want you to do this tour.
And I told them that I had left Abkco.
And they said well we know.
And I said you have to get
my uncle's permission so that
I can go, I don't want to
have a family problem here.
So they said they would get his permission.
And what they actually did
was, that was the first time
I heard from Sam Cutler, what they did was
they flew him over to the UK and fired him.
[Narrator] In firing
Klein, the band's assets
were immediately frozen,
and the run of American shows
became even more crucial
for their financial survival.
And at the end of the
summer, while preparations
for the tour were underway,
a major figure from
the West Coast scene arrived in London.
And from here the seeds of
the free concert were sown.
What happened was that the manager,
well one of the managers
of The Grateful Dead
was a guy called Rock Scully, lovely man.
He came to London, and a
dear friend of his was the head
of Epic Records, of guy called
Chesley Millikin in London.
And Chesley Millikin,
in turn was good friends
with Keith and Mick, so
he introduced Rock Scully
from The Grateful Dead to Keith and Mick.
And Rock basically was a great proselytizer
for the benefits of free
concerts, how wonderful it was,
what was going on in San Francisco.
Rock is summoned over
to Keith Richards house.
And Rock says you guys are coming over
to the United States,
you need to play the free
concert in the Golden Gate Park.
I know exactly how to
do that, I can fix you up.
But then they also talk
about how The Stones should
play the Taj Mahal, and all
kinds of crazy ideas come up.
And Rock leaves there
without really thinking that
he had just offered to set up a concert for
The Rolling Stones in San
Francisco, But Keith remembered.
[Narrator] And the prospect of headlining
another free concert in the heartland of
the counterculture soon
became even more appealing.
In the middle of August, the
three day Woodstock Festival
became a landmark event,
bringing together 32 musical acts,
and an audience of nearly half a million.
Despite the previous year's struggles,
and the election of Richard Nixon,
this peaceful harmonious event proved that
the counterculture was united and thriving.
The counterculture was in
very healthy condition in 1969.
And Woodstock was the high tide, in a way.
I think in 1969 we genuinely
thought we were winning.
We thought we were growing,
and we were an unstoppable force.
I was a teenager at the
time, and that's certainly how
I felt, however naive that may sound today.
But I think the view that
I held was one that was
widely held, that we were
going to change the world.
We genuinely believed that.
And in 1969 we didn't
think anything could stop us.
[Narrator] In late October, 1969
The Stones' team arrived in Los Angeles
looking to secure at least 15
venues for the upcoming tour,
but with no plans
whatsoever for a free concert.
On November seventh, at
Colorado State University
the band took to an American stage
for the first time in three years.
But as with the Hyde Park show,
as a live group they were still rusty.
It showed up in their first show,
how woefully ill-prepared
they were for the tour.
And just before that show, I
was asked to introduce them.
I didn't even think about
what I was gonna say.
But a minute before the
show, I rushed on stage
and went "the greatest rock and roll band
in the world, The Rolling Stones!"
Everyone cheered, the
band came out and played.
At the end of the show Mick came off stage,
and as he walked off stage and passed me,
he went "I wanna talk to
you," not looking very happy.
So we went into the
dressing room all on our own,
and he looked at he said
"man, don't call us the greatest"
"rock and roll band in the
world, it's embarrassing."
To which I replied "well
either you are or you ain't."
They immediately went back into rehearsal.
They got the sound stage for
"They Shoot Horses Don't They",
that film on Warner Brothers lot in Burbank
in California, and they rehearsed solidly.
[Narrator] And from the next show onwards,
The Stones proved that they were
the greatest rock and
roll band in the world.
As they moved west
from Los Angeles to Texas,
Alabama to New York's
Madison Square Garden,
they improved with every show.
Alongside the writer Stanley Booth,
who was one of The Stones' inner circle,
New York Times journalist
Michael Lydon was able
to witness firsthand the
band's remarkable ascension.
I was embedded in the tour,
I never paid for a hotel room,
I never paid for an airplane ticket,
I was just part of the entourage.
And, as you can imagine
this was a plum assignment.
This was extremely groovy.
I remember thinking, Stanley
and I would look at each other
while The Stones were on stage,
and we were behind the amps.
And we go like, funny
luck between each other,
realizing where we are right now is where
every hippie anywhere
in the world wants to be,
right in the band with The Rolling Stones.
And it was great fun.
They were red hot, and they
were crossing the the country.
And they had been getting
better, and better, and better.
In 1969 The Stones were incredible.
I mean they were just masterful.
I remember when the lights
were down, and all you can see
were the red lights on their amplifiers.
and Madison Square Garden in the dark.
And I remember thinking
God, in just a few seconds
The Rolling Stones are
gonna be performing right here.
I remember how thrilling that felt.
And they were great.
Yeah yeah yeah
The honky tonk woman
Gimme gimme gimme the honky tonk blues
I saw The Stones on that
tour at the Los Angeles Forum.
I had tickets for the second show,
which was supposed to
start at 11, it started at two.
The Stones got onstage at
four, and they then proceeded
to put on what was the
greatest rock and roll show
I had ever seen at that point in my life.
And to this day, 50 years
later, remains one of the greatest
rock and roll shows I've ever
seen, they were unbelievable.
[Narrator] But while they were putting on
one explosive show after
another, behind the scenes
plans were developing for
a West Coast free concert.
We played in Oakland,
and all the Grateful Dead
people showed up at
that show, and that kind of
ball that had been started
in London about "wouldn't it"
"be great if you guys played a free concert
"with the Grateful Dead,"
slowly kind of accelerated.
And it became, it became
the case that somebody from
The Rolling Stones had
to go out to California
and meet with the people
from the Grateful Dead
and get serious about
whether this was possible.
So, I was chosen to go there.
Rock Scully's original
plan was to get a permit
for a concert by the Jefferson Airplane,
and the Grateful Dead
and then 24 hours before
the show announce
we've got a special guest.
And they talked about
having The Hell's Angels
create a escort guard and bring The Stones
from the airport into the
concert, that was the idea.
It could have been fantastic,
The Rolling Stones, right?
But, the people in charge
of The Rolling Stones
business strategies began to think
this is getting to be too
valuable an opportunity.
Rather quickly The Rolling
Stones' management,
in the form of Ronnie
Schneider and a strange guy
named John James who
attached himself to The Stones,
they took control of the
situation, "we'll handle this."
And contacted the mayor of San Francisco,
and that was not a good
idea, that ended any prospect
of getting that concert in San Francisco.
[Narrator] Applying directly for permits
for a concert in Golden
Gate Park, the Stones' team
set alarm bells ringing
in the mayor's office.
The Grateful Dead had an envisioned a less
high profile event, with deals
made behind the scenes.
But the idea of 300,000
Stones fans descending
on a city ill-equipped for such
a large festival immediately
shut the idea down.
Now a new location was needed,
with little time to arrange it.
And while alternatives
were being considered,
the involvement of the
Hell's Angels became official.
Rock told me we'd need the
Angels to guard the generators.
There's no electricity there,
so what you did was you had to
hire in big generators to
produce enough electricity
to do the sound, and
lights, and all that stuff.
And I went to meet The Hell's Angels.
And The Hell's Angels went to some lengths
to explain that they weren't cops.
Basically, they were happy
to sit by the generators
and stop people messing
with the generators for sure.
Because they love music too.
The idea initially was that they would park
their bikes in front of the stage.
The beauty of that would
be that no one would
rush the stage, or that was the theory.
[upbeat music]
[Narrator] While these plans developed,
renowned documentary
filmmakers The Maysles Brothers
were brought on board the tour to capture
the Madison Square Garden shows,
and the subsequent free concert.
And during their New York
leg, The Stones themselves
made a return to the show in which they had
so famously shocked America back in 1964.
They had gone full circle.
Yet as a voice of their generation,
they were more relevant than ever.
They appeared on Ed
Sullivan's Show five years after
the first appearance, what a difference.
They're playing "Gimme
Shelter", this song that
really symbolizes so
much of what was going on
at that time, the tumult in the culture.
They got such great
reach, they're a pop band,
they're a rock band, they're on Ed Sullivan
doing "Gimme Shelter" which is
a very subversive, angry, dark song.
Oh, a storm is threatening
my very life today
If I don't get some shelter
yeah I'm gonna fade away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
Rape, murder, it's just a shot way.
What is round the corner?
We're coming to the end of the decade.
Things are looking pretty bleak socially.
Musically, they were probably
reaching a new kind of peak.
Have The Stones done a better
song than "Gimme Shelter"?
I'm not sure, it's an amazing piece.
This isn't pop as we know it.
That's The Stones really on top.
[Narrator] On November
28, riding high on the critical
acclaim for their
performances, and aware that
in the music world, they were
the biggest news in America,
they held a press conference to publicly
announce the upcoming free concert.
[Reporter] I read in one of the papers that
you'll be giving a free
concert in San Francisco.
We are doing a free
concert in San Francisco
on December sixth, and the location is not
Golden Gate Park,
unfortunately, but it's somewhere
adjacent to it, just a bit larger.
[Narrator] Not just a Stones
show, the lineup included
the biggest names from
the West Coast scene.
From The Grateful Dead,
and the Jefferson Airplane,
to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
Yet a location was still not confirmed,
with Dick Saint John's Sears Point Raceway
the most likely alternative
to Golden Gate Park.
They said Ron would you
come out and negotiate
a deal with Sears Point Raceway?
So I flew out to San Francisco,
I sat down with Dick Saint
John, and he basically said
"well your free concert we need $100,000"
"to clean everything up, we need $100,000"
"to cover a 10 million
dollar insurance policy."
They gave me another why they needed money.
And then also we need any rights to a film.
So I said first of all,
it's a free concert.
We're not paying you
$300,000, so that deal blew up.
[Narrator] It was two
days before the event,
and The Stones' team was now desperate.
And at that point, a new
location was offered to them.
The Altamont Speedway,
60 miles east of San Francisco
was a remote racetrack located amidst
the rolling hills of Alameda County.
Owned by ex-racing
driver, Dick Carter it was
an unlikely candidate
for a major rock festival.
Dick Carter, his biggest
audience ever before
was he had 6,000 people
show up for a demolition derby.
It's Thursday afternoon,
and The Stones' people
don't know exactly what to
do, but they got a look at it.
So they get a traffic
helicopter from one of the local
radio stations and they take Rock Scully,
and Michael Lange, the
producer of Woodstock
who showed up for some reason, what not.
And they fly over to Altamont.
Rock looks out and he
sees oil stained asphalt,
broken glass everywhere,
just this horrible panorama.
And he's looking out
there going what the heck?
And he hears Michael
Lange go this is perfect.
We can do this here.
[Narrator] And like that
Altamont had a green light.
With only a day to prepare the venue,
the road crew rushed
to set up this new site.
The Stones' team had
already begun building the stage
and organizing the
lighting rig at Sears Point.
And this was simply dismantled
and re-erected at Altamont.
There was no time to properly evaluate
or rethink the original plans,
although upon his arrival
tour manager Sam Cutler
immediately had concerns.
The major, major problem was that the stage
that had been perfect for Sears Point,
because it was gonna
be on the side of the hill,
was now at the bottom of a hill.
And the stage was knee high, so it was
effortlessly easy for people to get on it.
The show was on a Saturday,
I saw the place midday
on Friday for the first
time and was horrified.
And there was already
100,000 odd people on site.
And this stage was isolated
in the middle of them.
So we tried to make
barricades of trucks and stuff
around it and get set up for a show.
And I knew on the Friday this was gonna be
a massive, massive public order problem.
[Narrator] The show went ahead,
with no food or water stands,
no amenities of any kind,
and only basic medical services on site.
The 300,000 concert goers
who flocked to the venue
had no idea what was awaiting them.
It was the very end of the
'60s, the last mass congregation
of the counterculture
before a new decade began.
This should have been a celebration.
The sun came up, it was a great day.
And then at some point
they officially let people in,
and this mob of young
people came rushing down
the hill with the blankets, and trying
to grab themselves a
tiny little space to sit.
And the mood was definitely
cheerful, and fun, and like
yes this is gonna be like
Woodstock, this is groovy.
I couldn't make it to
Woodstock but I'm here.
[Narrator] But it did not take long
for the atmosphere to change.
The problem was there was a lot of LSD,
bad acid, bad drugs, lots of cheap booze.
So, by the time the show
opened midday on the Saturday,
you had three, 400,000
people completely out of it.
And the fights began, and it
just degenerated from there.
[Narrator] With The Hell's Angels,
a visible presence around the stage
and throughout the festival grounds,
at midday the first act appeared, Santana.
Halfway through the performance
San Francisco peace activist
and promoter, Bert Kanegson
was the first of many victims
to face the wrath of the
concerts brutal security force.
This overweight Latino,
stark naked, whipped out of
his brains on LSD that was probably laced
with methedrine, and
guzzling Red Mountain wine.
He wanders down the hill into the front
of the stage where The Hell's Angels are.
And this is just like bad news right away.
And Bert sees this
happening, and he jumps down.
And he starts in on
this all men are brothers,
and begging the Angels
not to beat this guy.
They turn on Bert, and
they rain pool cues down.
They bust him up so good,
he has 60 stitches in his head.
[Narrator] It was just the beginning.
The Angels' presence on the stage
and at the front of the audience increased.
And as The Jefferson Airplane took
their places for the second performance,
it was hard to distinguish
the band from the bikers.
More of the crowd were
singled out for beatings.
And when the Airplane's
lead singer Marty Balin
tried to intervene, he too was attacked.
These guys were the
real thing, they weren't
the little biking club that
they had at Hyde Park.
They've got psychopaths,
and murderers, ex cons,
and God knows what in
there, they're bad news.
[Grace] It's all right,
it's kind of weird up here.
Hey man, I'd like to mention
that The Hell's Angels
just smashed Marty Balin in the face,
and knocked him out for a bit.
I'd like to thank you for that.
[Grace] There's other ways.
[Hell's Angel] Hey wait, is this on?
If you're talking to me,
I'm gonna talk to you.
I'm not talking to you man, I'm talking to
the people that hit my
lead singer in the head.
You're talking to my people.
So let me tell you what's happening.
You are what's happening.
Hey, oh!
[Grace] No.
[Hell's Angel] Buster hold it, hold it.
This was scary, this was scary.
Sort of rationally scary, we
weren't inventing anything.
We'd seen real ugliness and
hurtfulness and
savagery right in front of our eyes.
The Hell's Angels were horrible.
And it seemed almost more so
because over the past decade
there had been a kind of a
myth about how cool they were.
Really important to understand,
the San Francisco
chapter of The Hell's Angels
was located in the Haight Ashbury.
They were well known
backstage at Grateful Dead
and Jefferson Airplane concerts.
They rode bikes with the road crews.
They were an entirely
different group of Hell's Angels
than say the home office over in Oakland.
The problems with The Hell's Angels at the
eventual site of the concert at Altamont
were all in front of the stage.
And they were almost entirely caused
by members of the San Jose Chapter.
And the San Jose Chapter
was entirely different.
That's an hour away from San
Francisco, they're not hippies.
They're not used to going to the Filmore,
they're not backstage
presences, they are old fashioned
California thugs, and those were the guys
in front of the stage with the pool cues.
[Narrator] Although they were there
to capture a positive
end to the Stones tour,
The Maysles Brothers
and their cameramen were
now documenting the escalating chaos.
And it was The Stones' tour manager,
Sam Cutler, who attempted to restore order.
In many ways I felt essentially helpless.
In the face of people who
were determined to fight
one another, what can a
skinny little Englishman do?
And as the day progressed, and the violence
got worse, I was faced with this dreadful
realization that my band was gonna come.
The Rolling Stones were gonna come,
and we're gonna have to appear here.
[Narrator] And in the early afternoon
as The Flying Burrito Brothers
began the third set of the festival,
The Stones arrived on the
speedway track by helicopter.
And almost immediately
they were met with violence.
Mick arrived, and the rest of
The Stones, minus Bill Wyman
and the first thing that happened was
he stepped out of the helicopter,
and some deranged kid on acid punched him.
[calm music]
[Camera Man] They hit
Mick, somebody hit him.
So that was frightening.
And Mick arrived and
got reports from people
about how dreadful the whole thing was.
We were all put in a little trailer.
So, at the beginning
I'm sure we got stories
that some violence, but we didn't see
any of it and know what was going on.
But you can sense it, there was...
I don't know about situations other places,
but you can feel it in the air.
[Narrator] And this ominous mood was enough
to convince local
headliners, The Grateful Dead
to abandon the concert altogether.
Arriving soon after The Stones,
only to discover that
members of their road crew
had already been assaulted
by Angels, they decided to bail.
The band who had pioneered the very idea of
the free concert, wanted
no part of this event.
The bottom line was The Grateful Dead ran.
They backed out of it, they
saw there was too much violence.
If they would have performed I think
it might have been a
whole different ballgame
as opposed to saying oh The Stones...
If The Grateful Dead had
performed there two or three
hour set I'm sure it would
have mellowed everybody,
It might put everybody to sleep eventually.
They were doing all the drugs and all that.
But the end result was they ran.
So now you had that lag time
before The Stones came out.
And all the bad drugs, the violence,
and all that stuff going
on there but The Stones
still came out and
performed, they didn't run.
[Narrator] Following The Dead's departure
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young played
as brief as set as they
could manage, the beatings
by the Angels continuing
throughout their performance.
After only half an
hour, they quickly exited
the stage and immediately fled Altamont.
Now there was only The Stones left to play.
And in the absence of The Grateful Dead,
their headline set wasn't
due to start for hours.
The crowd just sits there,
they've been there all day.
There's no water, or bathrooms, no food.
They're jammed in hip to
hip, shoulder to shoulder.
And they're there for more than
two hours with nothing going on.
Just as the sun starts to go down
Sonny Barger, and the
Oakland chapter shows up.
They'd had a meeting that afternoon.
And they literally did just
drive right through the crowd
down to the front of the stage, get off,
park their bikes, get
off and sat on the stage.
It was an amazing display.
[Narrator] And once darkness had fallen,
The Stones finally took to the stage,
outnumbered by the hordes
of Angels all around them.
As they kicked off their set they managed
to rise above the unsettling atmosphere.
The Stones played out of their skin,
and quite probably out of fear.
Because by this time, The Hell's Angels
are all over the stage,
and if they stopped playing
they might not even have got out alive.
And under duress, and with
that kind of adrenaline flowing
they put on one hell of a performance.
Pleased to meet you, I
hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
is the nature of my game
It was just phenomenal,
just Charlie and Wyman
had the bottom locked down,
the guitars were going off
like sparks, and Jagger
was singing like he meant it,
like none of that sort of loopy caricature
the he tends to go, he
was real about this thing.
[Narrator] But this impressive performance
could not suppress the brutality
that would soon disrupt their set.
And although later some of the band claimed
they were unable to see
the full extent of the violence,
the cameras filming the
events on and around the stage
captured a concert descending into chaos.
Things just went from bad to worse.
And really there's no controlling it.
There's fights everywhere,
people rushing the stage,
being thrown off the stage,
fights in front of the stage.
We were more than
aware of what was going on.
All the light was back light,
50,000 watts of backlight,
bright is your living room.
So all this stuff about The
Rolling Stones didn't know
it was happening, and didn't
see what was happening
is complete and utter bullshit.
And you can see in the movie where Jagger's
dancing around and his eyes
happen out in the audience.
Ae sees somebody take
up a blow from a pool cue,
and he just goes bomb and stops dancing.
Jagger has so much command as a performer.
And to see him struggling, it's terrifying.
Let's get it together, I can't do any more
than just ask you, just beg
you just to keep it together.
You can do it, it's within
your power, everyone.
Everyone, Hell's Angels, everybody.
At that point certainly, bands
like the Jefferson Airplane
and The Rolling Stones they
were avatars, they were gods.
And to see them desperate to try to stop
this violence happening
right in front of them,
and failing, it's unforgettable.
You could see it itched in people's faces
at the front of the stage,
just looking at Jagger
and saying please stop, help us out.
This is, we're watching
everything dying here.
And in between the songs
you had these deathly silences.
And then sort of then [imitates cracking]
sort of the sound of cracked heads and
people shouting "no" and
wanting everything to stop.
The brotherhood of man thing,
which was the hippie dream,
it was all coming really
unstuck there, very very badly.
I was right behind the
amps, so I could see,
I could only see what I could see.
But at some point Keith,
just like Marty Balin,
Keith stops and says
hey, you can't do this here.
And the music stopped.
[Keith] Look cat, that guy
there if he doesn't stop it.
Listen, either those cats
cool it man or we don't play.
But then there was some
kind of, another one of
these attacks and you
could tell it was just awful.
And people were,
they look liked if you were fish in a bowl
and you dropped a
pebble in, and all the fish
would scurry as fast as they could.
That was like there was a center place,
where something really ugly was happening.
And people would just try to get away
as fast as they possibly could.
I left, I just walked, left the stage
and sort of walked away up the little hill.
Then I realized I'm not coming
to any more of these things
I'm not gonna sort of
believe the Woodstock,
Monterey Pop, human being myth anymore.
The Hell's Angels were a huge mistake.
We're just not all brothers and sisters.
There's just elements of ugliness,
and viciousness, and hurtfulness,
that are too powerful for that.
[Narrator] And the viciousness unleashed
at the concert culminated in murder.
18 year old student Meredith Hunter,
caught up in a brawl with
the Angels in front of the stage
made the mistake of pulling
a gun on his assailants.
He would not live to see
the end of The Stones' set.
Finally they're doing "Under my Thumb",
and a guy pulled out a
gun, got two shots off,
maybe 60 feet in front of the stage,
and was stabbed to death
by one of the Hell's Angels.
The band stopped.
All of a sudden I got told "Ron, Ron
we need the ambulance,
a guy's been stabbed."
So that's what I was
told, so I started running
to go to the side of the
stage to get the ambulance.
And as I'm running along there, I get to it
and there's no driver, typical situation.
I'm screaming for the driver,
and I'm running along there.
Where's the driver to the
ambulance, to get him for them.
And a cop says hey, wait wait.
Are you about that guy that got stabbed?
I said yes, he said you
don't have to run, he's dead.
And that was like a gut, that
was just so bad at the time.
[Narrator] And although the
footage was never released
in The Maysles Brothers
film, "Gimme Shelter",
in the years following the event,
eyewitness accounts
reported that Hunter's body
was brought to the stage
by members of the audience
in an attempt to end the Angels' violence.
I talked to the guys that carried his body
to the stage, and I talked
to the guy who carried
his body from the stage backstage.
And they put it on
the stage, right in front
of Keith Richards and the Hell's Angels
swarmed over and just pushed it back off.
There's a photograph of that.
There's a photograph of
Mick Jagger looking away
with his hand over his
face like this, and a bunch of
Hell's Angels bent over
mysteriously in the corner.
Yeah they just dropped a dead body
on your stage, and they're pushing it off.
What are you gonna do about that fellas?
They're gonna stay on
stage for another hour...
I whispered to Mick,
"the guy's been killed man,
you gotta get off stage right now", right?.
"He had a gun, you gotta get off stage,"
to which Mick replied,
and kudos to the man,
and I've always admired him for it.
"We can't get off stage, we can't leave,"
"we have to finish the show."
[Narrator] When The Stones
eventually boarded a helicopter
and left Altamont, they were shell shocked.
Due to fly out for a number of
European shows the next day
their schedule didn't allow
them time to fully grasp
the magnitude of the event
they had just experienced.
In the days that followed,
where some news reports
glossed over the violence of the festival,
slowly the facts began to emerge.
And alongside the arrests
of cult leader Charles Manson
and his murderous followers
only days beforehand,
soon Altamont was being identified as an
event of real historical significance.
Well Altamont is always
the thing that's cited
as being the end of the
flower power era, the hippie era.
And I think, it's certainly a signpost.
I think it was downhill
all the way after that.
Murder does tend to
concentrate the mind a little.
I don't think The Stones
realized the significance,
or the impact of Altamont until long after.
I think most of us didn't.
This is the famous Zhou Enlai
thing when, asked in about 1950
about the impact of the French
Revolution on the subsequent
course of history, and he
said it was too early to say.
So, ultimately the sort
of rock and roll equivalent
of that in a way, no one
knew in December '69
or even by summer 1970 that it was gonna
go down in rock history
as this seminal moment,
this turning point, this tipping point.
The hard truths that those events represent
about how hard change
is to achieve, and what
violence in American culture represents,
and how it can manifest
itself even in contexts where
you would think would be
the last place it would occur,
those were important lessons.
And those were lessons that signaled,
guess what we're not
going back to The Garden.
That became pretty apparent.
I don't think anybody was walking around
with flowers in their hair after all that.
A new equilibrium was found, and actually
very quickly people almost thought,
did that late '60s what happen
then, what really happened?
The negative out punched
the good there, unfortunately.
And people wanted to
distance themselves from that.
So the '70s there was
kind of a marked break.
The flower stuff seemed
just an absolute joke.
I saw Monetary Pop in 1975,
and the audience laughed,
they laughed at the look,
the sound, everything.
I was horrified by that, it's the '60s.
To me, I hung onto
the good part of the '60s.
It had really been put to bed, that period.
People didn't want to know, you know.
It kind of quickly became
the forgotten zone.
And Altamont, and the Manson murders
were instrumental,
really, in closing that door.
[Narrator] And although The Stones moved
ever onwards with their career,
the event also closed
the door for them too.
The bad boys of the British Invasion would
never again be at the
center of the culture,
politics and social
commentary notably absent from
their subsequent work,
they're remarkable reign
as the voice of a generation was over.
There's The Rolling Stones before Altamont,
and there's The Rolling
Stones after Altamont.
Their just two separate things.
All that stuff about the
dark guys, and the bad boys,
and the sympathy for
the Devil had played out
to this absolute, real example of evil.
And having faced that
that could never go back
to their little pretend kingdom.
And you can see that in
the "Sticky Fingers" album.
The three songs recorded before Altamont,
"Brown Sugar", "Wild
Horses", and "You Got to Move"
are completely different type of music
than the rest of that album.
Whatever happened at
Altamont to the Rolling Stones
it changed them forever, and
their music was never the same,
their shows were never the same,
their personal relations
were never the same,
nothing about their lives
went on the way it was before.
[contemplative music]