Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Gimme Shelter

Oh my god, I'm finally interested in the Rolling Stones. And it's all because I watched a documentary filmed before I was born.

All my life, the Rolling Stones have been in my consciousness, but only slightly, occasionally in the background. I liked some of their songs, I'd seen Mick do his unique style of dancing (which would've looked geeky as hell on anyone else, but Mick made it seem sexy), and I'd heard about them touring -- again. And again. I always admired that they kept performing, even though they've entered a time in their lives when the only thing most of their contemporaries rock are chairs.

But now I've realized they really are a great rock 'n' roll band, and all because I watched "Gimme Shelter" on BBC Four last night. The film follows the band on its 1969 tour, which culminated in the ill-planned and ultimately fatal free concert at Altamont.

It should've been a beautiful coming together of stoned hippies, rock music, and the resulting feeling of brotherhood with everyone else there that a good concert can bring. It turned into a rather grim look at how poor planning and using the ultra-macho, definitely not love-in types the Hells Angels (who were paid in beer) as security became known as the death knell of the spirit of the '60s. An "Angel" stabbed a member of the audience to death, and Angels beat many others, often using sawed-off pool cues to do so. They also had an altercation with a member of Jefferson Airplane and knocked him unconscious on stage. The news of this is what caused the Grateful Dead to drop out of the show.

There were three other accidental deaths at the show (not related to the Hells Angels) and four women gave birth (which shows the spirit of the '60s right there -- even if you were about to pop, you still went to an outdoor concert for 300,000 in December and whatever happens, happens).

For many other bands, all of this might have been grim enough to overshadow the excitement of the music and concert footage. But with the Stones, it was fascinating, and the music and Mick Jagger's stage presence left me really wanting to know more about the Stones and to listen to their music more. It was amazing to see this guy who was so skinny and not really the most attractive guy seem really sexy, and exhibit such appealing charisma that I'm pretty sure he was getting the babes even before he became a rock star.

It was also amazing to watch my husband react to the music from the concert footage shot before Altamont -- my wannabe badass, in reality very responsible and scholarly, husband kept going "Yeah!" and raising his arms in the air like we were at the concert. I think the Stones' music speaks to men in a special, gut-level way -- like war movies or Victoria's Secret models do. It just rivets them and gets them all fired up.

I'd love to read more about the Stones, Jagger or Altamont. If anyone knows of any good books on those topics, please share the titles!

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