Marty Balin, RIP
We lost a legend this week. You wouldn’t know it based on the amount of video footage, because there isn’t much. But when it comes to bands who got us through the 60s, is there any more influential in California than the Jefferson Airplane?
But unfortunately Marty was probably the most famous for getting beat up by the Hell’s Angels at Altamont:
Saturday, December 6, 1969 – A free concert at Altamont Speedway between Tracy and Livermore in Alameda County, California. Attendance was estimated at around 300,000 people, surrounding a stage that was just 39 inches off the ground in a venue that was thrown together with spit and bailing wire at the last minute with “security” provided by a few California chapters of the Hell’s Angels – paid with $500 worth of beer and armed with weighted pool cues used as king sized billy clubs, among other things. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, Marty Balin ended up getting decked and The Grateful Dead pulled out of the concert – among many other things, like 4 births and 4 deaths. Some say this concert, originally envisioned as “Woodstock West”, was “The day the ’60’s lost its love and innocence”.
Far as Marty Balin getting decked, here’s Marty’s account from an April, 1993 interview for Relix Magazine: “We went on the stage in late afternoon and were doing the first number. I had my eyes closed and I looked up and saw these guys beating this guy with their pool cues. The whole crowd kind of steeped back and that really cheesed me off. Nobody was listening to me sing so I thought, well, this guy needs some help. So I jumped off to help him out. I was helping him out and the Hell’s Angels were going, “Hey, Marty, you better get out of here, you’re gonna get hurt. What are you doing?” So I said, ” Hey, I’m trying to sing a song, you know?” Anyway, I got back up and started singing again and the naked guy went back behind the stage. Then they were fighting behind me and I was really pissed so I went back and started punching out this one guy. He had this wolf’s head on his head and we were pretty evenly matched. I was getting in some good ones. And that’s the last thing I remember before I got knocked out. I woke up with all these boot marks all over my body. I just walked out there. I remember Jorma saying, “Hey, you’re a crazy son of a bitch.”
And here’s Grace Slick’s account of Marty’s deckage from a May 23, 2014 interview for Rolling Stone: “The whole day was ugly. I didn’t have my contact lenses on. Or maybe I didn’t have them at the time. I couldn’t see anything. I saw bodies moving vaguely over on my left, which is where Marty [Balin] was, and I went back to the drums and said to Spencer [Dryden], “What the hell is going on?” And he said, “The Angels are kind of beating up Marty.” What happened is they were messing with one of our crew. Marty objected and one of the Angels said something back to Marty, and Marty said, “Fuck you,” and the guy knocked Marty down while we were singing and said, “You never say fuck you to an Angel” — and Marty said it again! Our crew had to pull Angels off Marty. And I thought, “Well, this is not a very good start to the day.”