Altamont: Blame The Cops

The story of the free concert at Altamont is one of finger pointing. Who ultimately is responsible for the stabbing death of a fan? According to the Rolling Stones tour manager at the time, it was the cops.

When The Rolling Stones gave a free concert in the Altamont Speedway near San Francisco Dec. 6, 1969, it ended in violence and murder. Some rock historians say it even ended the era of Peace and Love.

Photo: AP Photo / Las Vegas Review-Journal
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards strut their stuff at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

No doubt, the young Meredith Hunter got into a fracas with a Hells Angels member named Alan Passaro. And no doubt, as the documentary “Gimme Shelter” shows, Passaro pounced on Hunter and stabbed him several times. There are reports that Hunter had pulled out a gun, perhaps in self-defense, leading Passaro to act.

But in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” a new book by Sam Cutler, former tour manager and roadie, the cops played a part.

“The feds were there, there was all kind of people, all kinds of heavy law enforcement people and they chose absolutely not to do anything during the event,” Cutler writes, according to Reuters.

He claims the authorities hoped for a disaster that would lead to public backlash against hippie types and their radical tendencies.

About a half-dozen uniformed cops were on duty but were more interested in towing away cars, Cutler reportedly says. The Hells Angels were given security duties and, according to legend, paid $500 worth of beer for their services.

“The Rolling Stones came to play music for people, to bring people a good time, and it all went pear-shaped,” Cutler writes. “I don’t think it was the fault of the Rolling Stones.”

Passaro went to trial and was acquitted, claiming self-defense. He was later found drowned under suspicious circumstances with a large amount of cash in his pockets, Cutler reportedly says.