Yesterday I gave my step dad his christmas present. It was the Rolling Stones documentary 'Gimme Shelter' that covered the Stones US tour of 1969 and ultimately the Altamont free gig in San Francisco. I watched it on TV a few weeks back, but it was a friday night and I was a little drunk and it was just on in the background.
After getting home from christmas dinner at my aunties house we put it on. I've always loved watching the Stones live. Jagger just has this unbelievably ethereal quality to him. He's hypnotizing. Possibly the best rock documentary made, Gimme Shelter shows the build up to the Stones putting on the Altamont gig and how they had to organize it themselves. This is quite strange to watch today, in a time where Knebworth size gigs are ten a penny and organized by numerous sponsors who will flash their logo in every possible place. In '69 the Stones had to hire the Hells Angels to do the security for the gig, and 4 people were killed, one on film, in front of the stage.
There's something about watching real footage that just gets me. I remember being at the Tate Liverpool a few years back to see a Chapman Brothers exhibition, but on the way up I went into a video room that was showing compiled footage of the cold war and the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union. It had harrowing footage of executions and battles. I've never felt the same emotions that I felt watching that. I felt sick, depressed, gutted, disgusted, but yet I couldn't leave. I felt, for some reason, like I had to finish watching it. Like I owed it to those people.
The concept of the Stones documentary seems so alien to me. The chance to hitch across the US to see the Stones, with no money but some friends and a pocket full of drugs. That's a pilgrimage that doesn't happen any more. Seeing the Stones members watching the footage of the gigs back, soon after it had happened, and seeing their reactions, is a key point to the documentary. They were responsible for the security of the audience, they arranged this huge gig that just failed to achieve what they wanted. They didn't try to justify themselves. To explain anything. But to push the boundaries of what has already been done and what can be achieved can be a fine line between success and disaster.