Outside of the city limits, Livermore’s a fairly well-known spot.
Only a few think about this as a . Smatterings of folks know about the . Many people know about the .
And crime history buffs think of this as the place where 26 schoolchildren were buried alive in a gravel pit after three rich 20-somethings looking for notoriety hijacked a filled with kids ages 5-14.
But in the larger scheme of things, Livermore may best be known as the place where music lost its innocence at the Altamont Speedway on Dec. 6, 1969.
Close to 300,000 people attended the free concert boasting acts like Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Rolling Stones. Billed as Woodstock West, it was supposed to be yet another example of the freedom of music.
It quickly disintegrated into a violent and unruly affair in which a Hells Angel stabbed 18-year-old Meredith Hunter to death. The biker, part of the ill-planned security at the concert, was cleared of homicide after film footage revealed the victim had a gun.
Oscar-winner Cameron Crowe (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Singles, Almost Famous) was just a teenager when he started working for Rolling Stone magazine, cutting his teeth on writing about the music scene.
Crowe talked to TV critics gathered in L.A. on Saturday about his music documentary Pearl Jam Twenty, which airs Oct. 21 on PBS.
Afterwards, I talked to him about the concert because he has counted the 1970 documentary film Gimme Shelter, centering on The Rolling Stones, as one of the top music films of all times. He says it captured that moment in time when all the good feelings from the Summer of Love and Woodstock came crashing down.
“The camera was in the right place to capture it all,” Cameron says. “And later, the filmmakers were able to film Mick Jagger as he watched what happened, because he wasn’t aware of what was going on while he was on stage.”
The documentary shows an increasingly frightened Jagger watching the violence erupting in front of him as bikers beat people. We see Jagger pleading for everyone to “cool it.” But he got no satisfaction.
As Jagger watches the film footage of the Altamont concert for the first time, the Gimme Shelter crew is filming his reaction. He turns paler by the moment and has to leave the room.
“It was so powerful that when you see that, you can feel it all,” Crowe says.
“It revealed the dark side of the joyful experience that was the music, and the Beatles and that we can all be together, joined in love and music. That was the cutting knife edge of the dark side and even to this day, when you watch (Gimme Shelter) it continues to be so powerful.”