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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

RARE Altamont: A New View - The Rolling Stones, CSNY & Hell’s Angels

"If Woodstock was the dream, Altamont was the nightmare".
~~photographer Eamonn McCabe
 
Neil Young w/ Crosby, Stills & Nash
Altamont - 1969

A never-before-seen home movie from the notorious Altamont Free Concert in 1969, in which the Hell’s Angels, who had been hired to provide security, stabbed a fan to death during a confrontation over a gun. It was a major cultural turning point of the era, and the heart of the Maysles Brothers 1970 documentary “Gimme Shelter.”

Thanks to U.S. Library of Congress, this home footage from the event that had never seen the light of day and it’s now available for viewing on the National Screening Room. (There is no audio, so don’t try to fix your sound.)

Mick Jagger (in red) and Keith Richards (in shades, natch), just off stage at the Altamont concert, hours before their segment turned deadly. Dec. 6, 1969. Home video footage. National Audio-Visual Conservation Center.

From  U.S. Library of Congress: (thanks Richard T.!)

And as is so often the case, the tale of how this remarkable video emerged from a mass of unprocessed films is a pretty good story on its own.

It starts in 1996 when archivist/historian/collector/polymath Rick Prelinger — one of the most influential thinkers in our field—acquired a cache of reels from Palmer Films, a San Francisco company that was going out of business. He added them to his burgeoning collection of ephemeral films.

In 2002, the Library acquired the roughly 200,000 reels in the Prelinger Collection. A press release predicted it would “take several years before the Library will be in a position to provide access to these films.” As it turns out, that was optimistic — we are still making steady progress on the collection 19 years later.

Then, not long ago, 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.

When I saw that, I immediately thought that it could be a home movie of the July 5, 1969, Rolling Stones Hyde Park concert held in London a couple of days after the death of guitarist Brian Jones. But it could also be a copy of a documentary of the same name, which would make the discovery considerably less interesting.

Regardless, I sent the reels up for 2K digitization by our film preservation laboratory. 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.

Carlos Santana performs at Altamont, Dec. 6, 1969. Home video footage. National Audio-Visual Conservation Center.

Although the footage is silent, we were all thrilled to see close-up footage of concert performers who were cut from the film, such as Carlos Santana and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. (CNSY wasn’t pleased with their performance and refused to let the Maysles include them.) It was especially great to see Gram Parsons fronting the Flying Burrito Brothers, since you only see the back of his head in “Gimme Shelter.” Even better, there are good shots of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards off-stage watching him perform!

The second reel is from the Stones’ evening performance, which, while it captures some of chaos so memorably seen in “Gimme Shelter,” doesn’t add anything to our understanding of the death of Meredith Hunter at the hands of a member of the Hell’s Angels.

So what’s the legal status of this home movie? After checking in with Rick to see if he had any inkling of the film’s existence—he didn’t—and not discovering any pertinent documentation, we believe that it is an orphan work, in this case abandoned at Palmer Labs by whoever shot it. They just never picked it up.

 CSNY onstage around ~11:00 .

A nervous looking Neil Young before going onstage w/ Crosby, Stills & Nash
Altamont - 1969
 
On a happier note, here's some memories of CSN & Neil Young at Woodstock

Labels: , ,


6 Comments:

At 1/11/2022 04:15:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

This is fascinating. Thanks.

 
At 1/11/2022 11:04:00 PM, Blogger Peacelover Doc said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1/11/2022 11:05:00 PM, Blogger Peacelover Doc said...

Rest in peace Michael Lang

 
At 1/12/2022 03:47:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

Fascinating film of an event that sealed the fate of a generation. The library of congress did a spectacular job with the restoration. Too bad there’s no sound, but visually it still sheds light on the events of that particular day. Obviously there were folks there that actually had a good time, and also those who came with a different objective. The night scenes were able to provide some evidence that despite all the problems, Mick Jagger did his best to stop the madness and stayed positive throughout the ordeal. Sadly, he was over his head in that particular situation.

Very sad news about Michael Lang, because 77 is fairly young these days. He was a visionary of his time, and provided the world with one big opportunity to see what us humans are really capable of when things get tough. Woodstock will always be his legacy but he did so much more than just that. I wish him a safe journey to the other side.

Peace 🙏

 
At 1/14/2022 04:01:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Sad to hear of his passing. Always admired his work at Woodstock and others who helped it be an amazing event! I wasn't there, but sure wish I could of been. Never will be repeated. I'm so thankful that I am a part of that generation! Rest easy Michael...

 
At 1/15/2022 01:07:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Was there. Ugh.Like the 90s woodstock.And since CSNY were my neighbors in the Canyon I could have stayed home and heard sessions on my porch. With tunes followed up with Leon Russel on the other side of my house.

 

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