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It's Only Rock & Roll

"Moshing" wasn't a word in 1969, let alone an outdated exercise, yet the Rolling Stones hosted a more violent show at Altamont Speedway 30 years ago than the the infamous Limp Bizkit performance at Woodstock '99. The presence of the Hell's Angels with lead-weighted pool cues acting as out-of-control security for the Stones, combined with the unchecked id of an overconfident rock-and-roll culture, upped the aggression ante. However, time may prove that the lashing out at crass and cartoonish commercialism during the most recent Woodstock was possibly much worse (and on a much grander scale) with so many more people's taking part in the chaos. Perhaps the events last year are too fresh to have become legendary yet. Or maybe the real reason Altamont has become a symbol (whereas the Woodstock debacle is treated with little more than a shrug and a sigh) is a testament to the power of film and the influence of the filmmaker as witnessed in Gimme Shelter, the documentary of the Stones' 1969 tour.

Infamous for the filmed stabbing death of a pistol-wielding concertgoer, Gimme Shelter is also a document of other pivotal moments, including 11th-hour negotiations to set up the show, an extremely sexual performance by Tina Turner, a too-brief clip of Graham Parsons with the Flying Burrito Brothers, and unglamorous close-ups of manic acid casualties that give the "stoned and beautiful" myth a slap of reality. There's also an unintentionally humorous cameo by members of the Grateful Dead where, informed of the mayhem and the cold-cocking of Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin by a Hell's Angel, Jerry Garcia responds "Oh, bummer."


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