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NOT ENOUGH OF THE MAGNIFICENT STONES
on 29 March 2013
There are two stories struggling to get out of this film. The Stones 1969 U.S.A. Tour, which is what most interested me, and the madness and violence that accompanied it. The film is good as a documentary, but flawed as a record of the Stones live performances at the very peak of their live career.
The film includes footage of the unfortunate Meredith Hunter being stabbed. It provided the filmakers with a very dramatic ending to the film, and enabled them to assemble and edit their available footage towards this incident and provide its climactic ending. The consequence was that Gimme Shelter, like Altamont itself, overshadows the Rolling Stones. It also led to much rumination and comment about "The death of the sixties", who was to blame for the violence, the organisation of Altamont' who supplied bad acid etc, etc, on and on....
The film begins well, but as it progresses towards the Altamont stabbing footage, the film content deteriorates. It includes a lot of film material that might never have otherwise been used by the film makers had the stabbing never been caught on camera; Lawyers in offices playing up to the camera, footage of traffic jams, the audience making arses of themselves after taking drugs, poor footage of other live acts, windswept hillsides, stray dogs, motorbikes and Hells Angels, helicopters and bonfires. This may have made the existing film an interesting anthrpological documentary, or a cautionary tale about an ugly incident, but it was done at the expense of many filmed performances of the Rolling Stones that might otherwise have been included in the original film. The extant Stones' footage is superb, but is a very incomplete record of the performances, some of the best live work they ever did.
This reissued DVD includes additional concert footage which was a nice surprise, but made me wonder how well the concerts were filmed. It looks like a one or two camera shoot. It Looks as though they either lost footage or didn't film significant parts of the performances. Its a pity that nobody has ever established what live Stones footage might still be in existence. The unreleased fragments shown on 'Crossfire Hurricane' appear to indicate there is little else.
Altamont wasn't unique. there have been many other concerts and festivals which were sullied by violence, but without cameras bearing witness. The difference with Gimme Shelter is, that this film captured the terrible death of a young man. Gimme Shelter's Altamont footage has enabled its significance to be subsequently distorted immediately after, and ever since. I wish, for many reasons, that Altamont had never occurred.