Having the Hell’s Angels handle your security is like having Michael Jackson watch your kids – you just know it’ll end badly. In support of their prophetically named 1969 album Let It Bleed, the Rolling Stones snorted and screwed their way across Woodstock era-America before deciding to play a free concert in California. Little did they know the show would climax with the death of a young fan.
Without a venue, the band settled on Altamont, an abandoned speedway, and 400,000 fans showed in just two days. The Angels, allegedly hired for $500 worth of beer, punched Jefferson Airplane lead singer Marty Balin in the face, lobbed beer cans at people’s heads (concussion time!), and used lead-filled pool cues to shove and prod the crowd. But this abuse wasn’t the worst of it.
By happenstance, the tumultuous scene was captured by filmmakers the Maysles Brothers, who were shooting a concert documentary (Gimme Shelter). In the chilling footage (initially savaged by critics as a glorified snuff film), Jagger implores the Angels to treat the audience with more respect, then distractedly mumbles through “Under My Thumb” as the Angels murder Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old man who had brandished a gun. Goodbye peace and love.