Music

What Happened When The Rolling Stones Hired The Hells Angels To Run Security

Most Americans remember 1969 for many things: Woodstock, the Stonewall riots, and the moon landing, among other notable moments in history. But when the Rolling Stones hired the Hells Angels as security for the Altamont Free Concert in December of that year, brutality and tragedy marked the end to the Summer of Love. Altamont also served as a turning point for the public reception of the notorious biker group. Although many already knew the Angels as tough and always ready for a brawl, the concert cemented their reputation as an outlaw organization. Until that point, the Angels shared a resentment of the police and the establishment with other 1960s counterculture groups; however, Altamont separated the Angels' underworld activity from the peaceful defiance of other protestors.  

The Altamont Free Concert took place on December 6 at a remote race track in Northern California. Planned to be the West Coast's answer to Woodstock, organizers recruited some of the most popular musical acts of the time, including the Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Jefferson Airplane, and Santana. As one of the primary organizers, the Rolling Stones planned to make a come back after a long break and hired the Hells Angels as security for the festival.

While there are many people to blame for the disasters that took place, the Angels having the authority to police the venue undeniably spearheaded the chaos. Meredith Hunter became the tragic face of the Altamont Free Concert, as the teen's untimely end exposed the prejudice and intolerance overshadowing the era of peace and love. Many things went wrong leading up to and during the show, and the presence of the Hells Angels cemented the event's legacy as a tragedy.

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