Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gimme Shelter (1970)

"The music that thrilled the world....and the killing that stunned it."

Gimme Shelter is a 1970 'rockumentary' film about the Rolling Stones with a primary focus on their infamous Altamont Speedway Concert which led to the murder of at least one fan. It is directed by Albert and David Maysles.

The Altamont Speedway Concert was a free concert organised by the Rolling Stones and Jefferson Airplane in December, 1969. About 300,000 fans attended the concert. It was a concert along the lines of the famous Woodstock music festival held four months earlier. Notable bands included Santana, Crosby Stills and Nash, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones. A California biker gang called Hell's Angels was hired to provide security. They were armed with knives and paid with beer. As the concert progressed the crowd became extremely unruly and the Hell's Angels employed violence to control the crowd. All this tension culminated in the stabbing of Meredith Hunter, a young man in the crowd, by a member of the Hell' Angels.

The 'rockumentary' begins with some footage of the Rolling Stones' Madison Garden concert and shows footage of them recording and a photo shoot of Charlie Watts with a donkey. But the action quickly shifts to the Altamont Speedway Concert, depicting the initial enthusiasm of the fans and the mounting tensions as the crowd and the Angels become more and more unruly. The various bands try unsuccessfully to calm the crowd down with the Mick Jagger saying. "Who's fighting and what for?"

The documentary also depicts the emotions of the band members as they watch a recording of the concert. Fans at the concert were shocked when the Rolling Stones continued playing amidst all the violence. The same shock and remorse is reflected on the front man Mick Jagger's ashen face as he watches the chilling death of Meredith Hunter on film. The Stones went on to record many great hits and are still the greatest rock n' roll band in the world today but they were never the same after the Altamont Concert.

The Altamont Concert has often been cited as the perfect metaphor for the death of the free love 60's. This chilling documentary is a must watch for any fan of the rock n' roll.