Just A Shot Away

Just A Shot Away

Peace, Love, and Tragedy With the Rolling Stones at Altamont

Book - 2018
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"The most blisteringly impassioned music book of the season." -- New York Times Book Review

A thrilling account of the Altamont Festival--and the dark side of the '60s.

If Woodstock tied the ideals of the '60s together, Altamont unraveled them.

In Just a Shot Away, writer and critic Saul Austerlitz tells the story of "Woodstock West," where the Rolling Stones hoped to end their 1969 American tour triumphantly with the help of the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, and 300,000 fans. Instead the concert featured a harrowing series of disasters, starting with the concert's haphazard planning. The bad acid kicked in early. The Hells Angels, hired to handle security, began to prey on the concertgoers. And not long after the Rolling Stones went on,an 18-year-old African-American named Meredith Hunter was stabbed by the Angels in front of the stage.

The show, and the Woodstock high, were over.

Austerlitz shows how Hunter's death came to symbolize the end of an era while the trial of his accused murderer epitomized the racial tensions that still underlie America. He also finds a silver lining in the concert in how Rolling Stone 's coverage of it helped create a new form of music journalism, while the making of the movie about Altamont, Gimme Shelter, birthed new forms of documentary.

Using scores of new interviews with Paul Kantner, Jann Wenner, journalist John Burks, filmmaker Joan Churchill, and many members of the Rolling Stones' inner circle, as well as Meredith Hunter's family, Austerlitz shows that you can't understand the '60s or rock and roll if you don't come to grips with Altamont.

Publisher: New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2018
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781250083197
Branch Call Number: 781.66078 Au75J 2018
Characteristics: xix, 316 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Nov 17, 2019

"War, children, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away."
Pretty much every rock fan knows about Altamont, the 1969 free concert in which Hell's Angles were hired as security and an 18-year old black man named Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death. The essential documentary "Gimme Shelter" ensured that it would become part of rock mythology, and it is frequently cited, along with the Manson murders the same year, as the end of the dream of the 60s. Despite how familiar the material is, Saul Austerlitz's book is valuable both because it reminds us that is wasn't just the Rolling Stones as the concert (Jefferson Airplane, Flying Burrito Brothers, the Dead, who didn't perform), and it spends more time than most accounts on the short life and tragic death of Hunter. If you haven't seen "Gimme Shelter," I'd watch that before reading the book.


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