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Filming the reactions to the Altamont murder footage


Filming The Rolling Stones in Gimme Shelter: the murder at Altamont
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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We later on made a number of music films, getting into each project in a different way. In 1969 we made a film that came to be called "Gimme Shelter" with the Rolling Stones. We got into making that film when the Stones were making their first tour of America. They were already in Los Angeles before they'd come to New York. And my brother and I got a call from Haskell Wexler, the famous cinematographer and, on his own, a very good filmmaker as well. And apparently he had been talking to the Stones but had not made a deal to make the film and so he was calling us to tell us that we might want to meet them and with the possibility of making a film; that they would be arriving the next day at the Plaza Hotel in New York. So we went to the Plaza Hotel, knocked on their door, started chatting with them. Neither one of us really knew them or their music but from what Haskell had spoken of them they sounded quite interesting and- interesting enough so that on meeting them we found out that the next evening they would be performing in Baltimore, which would give us a chance, if we went to Baltimore, to- to sit in on their performance. And we did. And of course we agreed that this would be terrific subject matter. But we didn't want to just make a concert film and so when we returned and started filming them in Madison Square Garden- two days of that- we were convinced that if we stuck with them there would be more than just a concert film. And so what eventuated over the next few days was that- was a trip with them to Muscle Shoals in Alabama where they recorded some of their music which we filmed as they were recording it, and at Altamont, the famous Rock Concert where some 300,000 young people attended, many of them on drugs, attended by- a concert attended by a number of Hell's Angels- Just about everything turned in a direction completely the opposite from- what we experienced with The Beatles, who were just these innocent guys, up and coming, full of enthusiasm and, and everything positive about their experience. But things turned sour with violence and bad drugs and finally there was a moment where a Hell's Angel, bearing a knife, and a black young man by the name of Hunter- Meredith Hunter- the Hell's Angel wielding this knife, came down on Meredith Hunter, killing him. And it's not something that we could have prevented and said- and so while I was on the stage and not- and not able to see the, the murder which took place just to the left of the stage and out of my view, my brother fortunately was on a truck with another camera person at that time and was able to film that event. So it became a turning point in the film itself.

Albert Maysles (1926-2015) known for his important documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, pioneered the documentary style known as Direct Cinema. He helped create techniques still widely used in modern documentary production, as well as many of the techniques used in reality TV.

Listeners: Tamara Tracz Rebekah Maysles Sara Maysles

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Rebekah Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is an artist living between New York and Philadelphia. She has her own line of clothing, Blackberryrose, and co-runs the store Sodafine in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York, a vintage and handmade store that sells clothing, books and other products made by artists.

Sara Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is currently doing her BA in East Asian Studies at Columbia University, and working as an Archivist of the photographs and photographic material at Maysles Films Inc., Albert‚s film production company. She spent ten months out of two years working with Tibetan refugees at a center in Nepal, and continues to travel back and forth between America and Asia.

Tags: The Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter, USA, Los Angeles, New York, Plaza Hotel, Baltimore, Madison Square Garden, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Altamont, Hell's Angels, The Beatles, David Masyles, Haskell Wexler, Meredith Hunter

Duration: 4 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008