The “Gimme Shelter” Outtakes You Probably Haven’t Seen

By on March 22, 2015

We’ve uncovered a couple of outtakes which never appeared in the final cut of Gimme Shelter (it did eventually turn up on the Get Yer Ya Yas Out DVD box set, and has been posted online before, but it keeps disappearing!). This footage was late documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, who died on March 5, age 88.

The 1970 documentary Gimme Shelter, co-directed by Albert and David Maysles, with additional material by Charlotte Zwerin, began when the Maysles put together a crew to do a test shoot at the Rolling Stones’ opening night at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The Maysles brothers had been introduced to the Stones by noted cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who knew the Stones were looking for someone to film their concert tour of the United States (they had already gained moderate notoriety with previous documentaries that included the excellent Bible-selling story Salesman) .

Ultimately they followed the Stones from New York to California and the tour’s tragic final concert at the Bay Area’s Altamont Speedway, where Hell’s Angels “secured” the stage, and where four people died.

A lot of the Altamont Free Concert, shot on December 6, 1969, is preserved in the live performances by the Rolling Stones, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Jefferson Airplane at the Altamont Free Concert (Ike & Tina Turner, Santana and a few others performed too). Alas, the Grateful Dead didn’t didn’t play at Altamont.

As Night Flight fan Henry Whitworth reminded us: “It was already off the rails by the time they were to come on so they bailed out and didn’t play. They also canceled their next show at the Fillmore afterwards. Bad vibes, to say the least.”

In this first bit of footage, shot by the Maysles brothers, members of the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead wait for a helicopter on a pier in San Francisco to take them to the Altamont Speedway.



Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts of the Stones with the Maysles brothers.


Journalist Michael Azerrad has written an insightful piece on the Gimme Shelter outtakes on his blog. Here’s an excerpt:

There’s a postscript, a scene at a helipad on a pier on San Francisco Bay. The Grateful Dead are there, cavorting in zonked-out hippie fashion, waiting for an overdue helicopter. Jagger comes sweeping in, surveys the unruly scene. and says with amused disbelief to no one in particular, “What is going on?” He gets the lay of the land from a chuckling and ultra-mellow Jerry Garcia, attired in an outtasite lavender wool poncho, and chats warmly with Ian Stewart. The vibe is sweet and playful.

The chopper won’t arrive until 2:00. “Right, film people, let’s do something!” Jagger proclaims. “We’ve got ten minutes.” He pulls some hippie chick aside and imperiously directs the cameraman (probably Albert Maysles) to go “Tighter tighter tighter tighter tighter tighter” on her face, adorned with a groovy beaded headband and massive square shades. He plants a kiss on her forehead and steps away. Then he orders Charlie, poor, long-suffering Charlie, “Do the same thing as I did. Kiss the young lady, please.”

Watts demurs. “Love is much more of a deeper thing than that,” he replies, with mock hauteur, although he clearly kind of means it too.

“It’s not flippant, to be thrown away on celluloid. No.”

Jagger laughs at his disobedient drummer. “OK,” he says sheepishly, straight to camera, “we cut.”

And then they headed off to Altamont.


We’ve also found another outtake, assembled by a Rolling Stones fansite with an outtake of Hendrix and Brian Jones’s “My Little One,” added on top of the footage, shot backstage at Madison Square Gardens on Jimi’s 27th birthday on November 27th, the month before Altamont. In these roughshod edits, Jimi Hendrix can be seen playing guitar with Mick Taylor of the Stones, and then sitting with Keith Richards. We found it very interesting that Maysles chose not to include this footage of Hendrix in Gimme Shelter, as it’s not often mentioned that he was even there!



About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
  • Dougdenslowe

    It’s mind boggling that no additional footage has surfaced since the release of Gimme Shelter.The 3 minutes that is shown above is but a small fraction of the tons of film shot by the film crew during the Stones tour.At Altamont there were many people shooting film for hours on end,why hasn’t any come to Blu Ray or whatever device for extra cash? Is it tied up for legal reasons or do the producers feel it’s not of any value?I hope some comes to light before the audience that attended is dead of old age.