Joel Selvin

The Altamont Free Concert, held 50 miles outside of San Francisco in 1969, featured the Rolling Stones, Santana and Jefferson Airplane and was billed as a “West Coast Woodstock.” But when the event turned violent and resulted in the death of four people, it “bookmarked the end of the 1960s,” according to rock critic Joel Selvin. He joins us in-studio to talk about his new book “Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day.”

Joel Selvin on ‘Rock’s Darkest Day’ 26 August,2016Michael Krasny

Joel Selvin, music critic; author, "Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day"

  • Noelle

    Peter Coyote wrote an eloquent account of his friend “Sweet William”‘s experience at Altamont in the 12th chapter of his 1st memoir “Sleeping Where I Fall”

  • Robert Thomas

    This is an obvious whitewash of the responsibility of the Grateful Dead, perpetrated by Mr Selvin.

    In a fascinating audio interview with Jerry Garcia recorded at 710 Ashbury in 1967 by an unidentified journalist, Garcia explains his admiration for the Hell’s Angels in their roles not only as kindly custodians for lost children but as “brutal” enforcers, guarding power cables from generator trucks that had been vandalized during the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park in January of that year. He also describes how the Dead were even at the time of the interview offering “security” service for the band after a theft of equipment from a storage building.

    “I’m not a member of the Hell’s Angels, though I see a lot of ’em, they come around pretty frequently … I like ’em. They’re honest and they’re out front and they don’t – they don’t lie to ya and they’re you know, they’re okay. They’re good people. They’re brutal, but only… their brutality is only really only honesty. It’s not… You have to know a few of them. They, uh… They’re kind of like the cops, in a way. They have a very heavy standard, you know, of what they do and what’s right … No, but I’m not talkin’… Their brutality… That’s their scene, that’s not my scene.”

    Garcia’s foolish and naïve attitude toward the Angels was the seed of the promoter’s attitude toward the group. Garcia had a sparkling intellect but his conception of the Angels was flatly foolish.

    “Jerry Garcia [at] 710 [Ashbury,] Interview Spring [’67]”
    YouTube, 82 minutes

    Apropos, starting @ 47:38

    • Another Mike

      But Krasny and Selvin already distinguished between the SF Hell’s Angels (at the GG Park) and the Oakland group (at Altamont).

      • Robert Thomas

        It’s a false distinction. Note Garcia’s use of the word “brutal” in my excerpt and in the rest of the interview.

  • Another Mike

    Dumb question, but were there already windmills in the Altamont Pass?

    • Mjhmjh

      No. The Altamont Pass wind farm was one of the first in the US, but even so, it wasn’t built until much later than 1969.

  • BDN

    Please put the volume control back on your MEDIA PLAYER for Gawd sakes, why would you remove it, thank you!

  • Mjhmjh

    In his comments and his language Selvin’s anti Stones bias is very much in evidence

  • John G.

    Please tell the intern to upload the last two days of episodes to iTunes. I want to hear this one!

  • ripple947

    Selvin is incorrect to think that the songs of Workingman’s Dead were a response to Altamont. That was true for New Speedway Boogie, obviously, and arguably Mason’s Children (which did not make the album and was played live only that winter), but the other songs on the album except for Uncle John’s Band were already being performed live.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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