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Library Of Congress unearths previously unseen footage of Rolling Stones’ Altamont Free Concert

By | Published on Monday 10 January 2022

Rolling Stones - Altamont

The US Library Of Congress has published newly discovered footage of the Rolling Stones’ famous – and somewhat infamous – Altamont Free Concert in 1969.

Although silent, the 26 minute film shows various performances from the day, including Carlos Santana, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, The Flying Burrito Brothers and the Stones themselves, along with audience footage.

Attended by around 300,000 people, the event is best known for what went wrong, with tensions and violence growing throughout the day. The show culminated in the death of audience member Meredith Hunter, who was stabbed by a member of the Hell’s Angels, who had been hired to provide security for the event.

Footage from the show has previously only been seen in 1970 documentary ‘Gimme Shelter’, and this newly discovered film presents images not previously available anywhere.

The Library Of Congress’s Neely Tucker explains in a blog post that the film had been sitting undeveloped in its archives for nearly 20 years – after the Library acquired 200,000 reels of film from the the archives of Rick Prelinger in 2002. Work to properly catalogue that material has been ongoing ever since.

“Not long ago, a technician working on the Prelinger Collection came across two reels of silent 8mm reversal positive – a common home movie format”, explains Tucker. “The handwritten note on the film leader read ‘Stones In The Park’, so that was the title he gave it for our inventory”.

“When I saw that, I immediately thought that it could be a home movie of the 5 Jul 1969, Rolling Stones Hyde Park concert held in London a couple of days after the death of guitarist Brian Jones”, he goes on. “But it could also be a copy of a documentary of the same name, which would make the discovery considerably less interesting”.

“Regardless, I sent the reels up for 2K digitisation by our film preservation laboratory”, he adds. “A couple of days later, I heard from some very excited colleagues that the scan wasn’t the Hyde Park show. It was from the Altamont Speedway concert in California and it definitely wasn’t footage from the 1970 documentary. Many people know the ‘Gimme Shelter’ documentary pretty well, but there’s a lot more in this home movie”.

Watch the footage here: