20 music documentaries you must watch if you liked A Star is Born

14 of 21

Gimme Shelter

The Rolling Stones are one of the biggest bands in the history of rock music. Even after 50 years, they’re still touring the world, so it’s no wonder they’ve been the subject of many books and films over the decades. One of those films was the 1970 documentary Gimme Shelter, named after the song from their 1969 album Let It Bleed.

The film was part of the “counterculture era” of documentary films, where filmmakers utilized a “reactive” style that involved filming the events as they unfolded, rather than looking back and researching an event with voiceovers, interviews, and other techniques. It was directed by the Maysles brothers, who first filmed the band’s concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and then got permission to follow them on tour.

Gimme Shelter mostly chronicles the Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour across America, which ended with a disastrous free concert in California. Much of it shows a behind-the-scenes look at how that concert came to be. The concert at the Altamont Speedway was meant to be a “Woodstock of the West” but ended up a total disaster instead. After people complained about ticket prices on the Rolling Stones’ tour, they decided to make the last show completely free, and they probably regretted that.

The concert included performances from the band as well as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Santana, The Jefferson Airplane, and others. The Grateful Dead never made it on stage because the crowd was getting too violent. As the film chronicled, the planning stages were increasingly difficult, and the venue was moved last minute, so they lacked a lot of necessary features for the huge show, including bathrooms.

Hell’s Angels members were hired for security, and approximately 300,000 people attended the concert. Several people died, including the stabbing of an 18-year-old African American man named Meredith Hunter, which was caught on camera and included in the documentary. Others died from drugs and a hit-and-run car accident. Many people were injured, cars were stolen, and the property damage was extensive. It’s just another example of the less glamorous, darker sides of rock and roll.