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Book Nook: Altamont, by Joel Selvin


In August of 1969 the legendary Woodstock Music Festival took place. It has been known as having been a wonderful event, something to celebrate. Four months later, in December 1969, The Rolling Stones gave a free concert in northern California at the site of what was then the Altamont Speedway. The concert at Altamont will always be remembered as a horrific event in which people died and thousands of spectators experienced really bad acid trips.

The journalist Joel Selvin wrote about it in "Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day." In this interview Selvin talked about how every possible thing that could have gone wrong with the concert that day did go wrong. It was a nightmarish scene. The Rolling Stones were on stage as a concert goer was being murdered by the Hells Angels motorcycle gang. The murder victim was actually thrown on to the stage as the Stones were performing. They kept on playing, despite the carnage unfolding right in front of them. Today this sort of deadly fiasco seems almost unimaginable. Or at least it did until we began having mass shootings at music concerts in places like Paris and Las Vegas.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of this horror show in California it seems prudent to realize that violence can happen very quickly and one must be vigilant at all times. One fascinating fact about Altamont; the popular San Francisco group The Grateful Dead were very much involved in the planning for Altamont. It was the Dead who suggested that the Hells Angels should be there. When the Dead arrived by helicopter at the concert they saw what was happening and decided they would not be performing after all. They got back in their helicopter and got the heck out of there.

The Book Nook on WYSO is presented by the Greene County Public Library with additional support from Washington-Centerville Public Library,  Clark County Public LibraryDayton Metro LibraryWright Memorial Public Library, and Microsun Lamps.

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Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them. Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.