Days of Rage: The Rolling Stones’ Road to Altamount
Directed by Tom O’Dell (2019)
This documentary is about the riot at Altamount Speedway that ended the 1969 Rolling Stones tour.
The filmmakers describe the Rolling Stones as the first anti-establishment rock band. Unlike other sixties groups (eg the Beatles), they focused on on rhythm and blues when most rock and roll was trying to conceal its Black origins. Mick Jagger, who sang in a black American accent, wore a sweatshirt instead of a suit in his 1964 US TV appearance. Incorporating themes highly critical of the Vietnam War and capitalist institutions into their music, the Stones deliberately branded themselves as rebels during one of the most turbulent decades of the 20th century.
During their 1965 US tour, Grateful Dead members (with known intelligence connections)* introduced the Stones (and the Beatles) to LSD. The latter was legal in the US until 1966.
In 1967, British police arrested Mick Jagger and a Keith Richards after finding hash in an ashtray and a handful of prescription amphetamines after a party.** Jagger was sentenced to three months in prison and Richards to a year. Although court appearances kept the Stones from touring for several years, all charges were dismissed on appeal.
1967 was the year of the Summer of Love, centered in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district, where young people openly smoked marijuana, took LSD and handed out flowers to strangers. A growing psychedelic rock scene reflected these attitudes, with San Francisco challenging Los Angeles for the first time as the pop music capital.
A year later, however, pop music’s emphasis on love and peace changed radically with the explosion of the anti-Vietnam War movement on college campuses, the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and the inner city riots.
In the spirit of Woodstock,*** the Stones gave a free concert at Altamont Speedway during their November 1969 US tour. Because the site was chosen only two days before the event (after San Francisco withdrew consent to use Golden Gate Park), there was virtually no plan to provide food, water, toilets, medical services or security for 300,000 attendees.
The Grateful Dead recruited the Oakland Hells Angels to provide front-of-stage security. As John Potash describes in his 2015 book Drugs as Weapons Against Us, “‘someone’ supplied the Angels with amphetamine-laced LSD for the event.”
Potash further states
“Dealers of acid and other drugs hawked their wares to concertgoers, as had been the the case at New York’s Woodstock fest. Filmmakers at the festival captured many incidents of the Hell’s Angels clubbing anyone who tried to get near the state or cameramen trying to take pictures of their bloody bludgeoning.”
The Grateful Dead refused to perform after the violent beatings began.
According to Potash, 18 year-old Meredith Hunter climbed on stage and pointed a gun at Jagger as he was performing. Although two Angels thwarted Hunter (by stabbing and killing him), Drugs as Weapons Against US accuses the Angels of two additional murder attempts against Jagger.
Hunter’s death was one of four at the concert.
*According to John Potash in Drugs as Weapons Against Us, several Grateful Dead members collaborated closely with CIA assets Timothy O’Leary and Ken Kesey to promote LSD use among 1960s rock stars: see https://stuartbramhall.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/how-the-cia-used-lsd-to-destroy-the-new-left/
**Again according to Potash, British police conducted regular stops and searches of Jagger and Richards between 1967 and 1969. On at least one occasion they planted drugs in Jagger’s car. Potash also cites extensive evidence that British intelligence deliberately murdered Rolling Stones founder and leader Brian Jones in 1969 (when he “accidentally” drowned in a swimming pool).
***Woodstock was an infamous free three-day rock concert (in August 1969) in upstate New York. Featuring 32 major rock artists, it attracted 400,000 people. The film can be viewed free on Kanopy.