Who Knew We Needed This Unseen Altamont Footage So Badly?


Grace Slick in a blue velvet suit. Gram Parsons bashing a tambourine. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young appearing like they like each other. Altamont will be forever known as the death of the Sixties, but the Library of Congress just made it a little sunnier with previously unreleased footage.

The 30-minute clip — released via the Congress’ blog — contains no sound, with a fuzzy home video quality that looks as if your drunk aunt filmed your backyard family barbecue. And yet it shows that contrary to how it was remembered, Altamont was more than a Rolling Stones concert gone terribly wrong, where the Hells Angels famously knifed 18-year-old fan Meredith Hunter.

Here we see footage not included in Gimme Shelter, like the Flying Burrito Brothers’ performance at nine minutes in. Gram Parsons commands the stage, while Keith Richards and Mick Jagger marvel from afar. (That same night, Richards played “Wild Horses” for Parsons, which he ended up covering on Burrito Deluxe a year later.) Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young take the stage around 11 minutes, ironically kicking off with “Woodstock.” (Following the festival, the supergroup would head to UCLA for their second concert of the day).

In the blog post, Neely Tucker explains that the Library of Congress found the footage in 200,000 reels of film it acquired 20 years ago from archivist Rick Prelinger. A technician discovered two reels labeled “Stones in the Park,” which Neely assumed was the well-documented 1969 Hyde Park show. But he was pleasantly surprised to find he was incorrect.

“Many people know the Gimme Shelter documentary pretty well, but there’s a lot more in this home movie,” he wrote. “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, & Young. 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.

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