Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day

Dey St: HarperCollins. Aug. 2016. 368p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062444257. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062444271. MUSIC
The Altamont festival of December 1969, a concert near San Francisco that featured the Rolling Stones and others, is often seen as a prime example of the darker side of the Sixties. Its chaotic and shambolic planning, vast quantities of dangerous drugs, and ultimately the stabbing death of a concertgoer, seared Altamont into one of rock's bleaker moments. Journalist and author Selvin's (Summer of Love) narrative history of the festival, from its conception to its aftermath, draws on interviews he conducted, published journalism, and remembrances. He portrays participants from the Stones to the Grateful Dead and members of their organizations, while depicting a changing music scene, and counterculture infighting, coexisting with the era's naïveté and innocence—all percolating elements that culminated on the fateful day; his observation that Altamont was an illustration of these dynamics and "dramatized" them rather than caused them, is prescient.
VERDICT A fascinating account of the festival and its repercussions, this is also a cultural historical portrait of the West Coast rock scene, a history of the bands involved, and of the counterculture itself. Will be of interest to rock and pop culture fans.
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