Previously unreleased footage from the 1969 Altamont Speedway Free Festival has been released by the Library of Congress.
The concert holds a notorious place in history. More than 300,000 people turned out to see a lineup that initially included Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Grateful Dead and headliners, the Rolling Stones.
Logistical problems started even before the fest began, with basic necessities like toilets and medical tents overlooked. The Stones enlisted members of the Hells Angels biker gang to aid with security, which proved to be a disastrous choice. Violence erupted during the Rolling Stones’ set, with audience members rushing the stage. One concert goer, an 18-year-old named Meredith Hunter, went to pull out a gun, and was stabbed to death by one of the Hells Angels.
Altamont was famously captured in the documentary Gimme Shelter — directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin — but the newly uncovered footage comes courtesy of a home movie shot during the festival.
The 26-minute silent video, which can be watched below, shows the Stones and other various artists performing and interacting with the crowd. The footage was part of a 200,000-reel collection acquired by the Library of Congress from archivist Rick Prelinger in 2002
“A technician working on the Prelinger Collection came across two reels of silent 8mm reversal positive—a common home movie format. The handwritten note on the film leader read ‘Stones in the Park,’ so that was the title he gave it for our inventory,” noted Mike Mashon, head of the Library’s Moving Image Section. Initially, Mashon believed the footage may be from the Stones’ 1969 performance in Hyde Park, however further examination revealed its true origin.
“I sent the reels up for 2K digitization by our film preservation laboratory,” he explained. “A couple of days later, I heard from some very excited colleagues that the scan wasn’t the Hyde Park show. It was from the Altamont Speedway concert in California and it definitely wasn’t footage from the 1970 documentary. Many people know the Gimme Shelter documentary pretty well, but there’s a lot more in this home movie.”
According to Mashon, the footage “captures some of chaos” that erupted during the Stones’ set, but “doesn’t add anything to our understanding of the death of Meredith Hunter at the hands of a member of the Hell’s Angels.”
Still, the video has plenty to offer. In addition to the Rolling Stones’ set, the footage includes performances by Carlos Santana and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (neither of which were included in Gimme Shelter), as well as Gram Parsons fronting the Flying Burrito Brothers.
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