Rolling stones guitarist Keith Richards has spoken of the moment the band witnessed a man being killed in the crowd in front of them, and how they kept on playing to “distract people”.
Speaking to Absolute Radio DJ Andy Bush about the famously disastrous free concert at Altamont, California in 1969, Richards told how “there was the terrible murder going on in front of us, which we could all see.”
Footage from the gig, at which 18-year-old Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels, is featured in Brett Morgen’s 2012 documentary Crossfire Hurricane.
And Richards, now 69, explained that the band had already tried to get the crowd to calm down before the fatal incident. He said: “I don’t know if it was scary, it was just like wow you have got to do something about this before it turns into a full scale riot. We handled it the best way we could. Basically I just stopped playing and it happened to work.”
He adds that “as events turned out security wasn’t what it should be”.
The stabbing was caught on camera, showing that Hunter pulled out a revolver before he was tackled. Richards said: “We didn’t know the cat was dead or anything, but we saw what was going on.”
This time, the band decided against stopping playing. “It was a matter of quick do something, and distract people from the Hells Angels,” he said.
In the same year as the Altamont gig, The Rolling Stones played Hyde Park for the first time.
On their return tonight, after 44 years, Richards said “there is a kind of a full circle being drawn”. He will no doubt be hoping that crowd trouble is kept to a minimum.