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A thrilling account of the Altamont Festival -- and the dark side of the '60s.

If Woodstock tied the ideals of the '60s together, Altamont unraveled them.

In Just a Shot Away, writer and critic Saul Austerlitz tells the story of "Woodstock West," where the Rolling Stones hoped to end their 1969 American tour triumphantly with the help of the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, and 300,000 fans. Instead the concert featured a harrowing series of disasters, starting with the concert's haphazard planning. The bad acid kicked in early. The Hells Angels, hired to handle security, began to prey on the concertgoers. And not long after the Rolling Stones went on, an 18-year-old African-American named Meredith Hunter was stabbed by the Angels in front of the stage.

The show, and the Woodstock high, were over.

Austerlitz shows how Hunter's death came to symbolize the end of an era while the trial of his accused murderer epitomized the racial tensions that still underlie America. He also finds a silver lining in the concert in how Rolling Stone's coverage of it helped create a new form of music journalism, while the making of the movie about Altamont, Gimme Shelter, birthed new forms of documentary.

Using scores of new interviews with Paul Kantner, Jann Wenner, journalist John Burks, filmmaker Joan Churchill, and many members of the Rolling Stones' inner circle, as well as Meredith Hunter's family, Austerlitz shows that you can't understand the '60s or rock and roll if you don't come to grips with Altamont.



About the Author

Saul Austerlitz

Saul Austerlitz is a writer and critic. His work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Boston Globe, Slate, the Village Voice, The National, the San Francisco Chronicle, Spin, Rolling Stone, Paste, and other publications. He is the author of Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes (Continuum, 2007), and Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy (Chicago Review Press, 2010). Money for Nothing is being made into a forthcoming documentary film, for which he has written the script. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Becky.



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