Barry Miles, Mick's friend and owner of the Indica bookshop, noticed a distinct change in Jagger's reading habits. Always a voracious reader, Mick had long had a fondness for Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti and the other Beat writers and poets. But by late 1967 his interests had veered in another, more sinister direction.
Jagger began calling Miles with some bizarre requests. "Mick had an account with us," recalled Miles, "and he started ordering lots of occult stuff during this time." There were requisite titles like "The Book of the Damned" and "The Golden Bough," but Jagger also purchased "Manuscripts of Witchcraft," "Fairy Faith in Celtic," "Masks of God," "Mysterium Coniunctionis" and "The Master and Margarita" (a Russian novel that served as the inspiration for the Stones' later hit "Sympathy for the Devil").
Ever the chameleon, Jagger had been searching for a way to outrage and offend his fans' parents, and nothing fit the bill better than Satanism. The black arts offered it all: heresy, violence, spectacle, and -- best of all -- sex.
What better role model for rock's quintessential antihero than the Antichrist? Jagger was encouraged in this by Kenneth Anger, a former Hollywood child actor turned master of the occult. Anger was a disciple of the notorious Edwardian black magician Aleister Crowley and, like Crowley, claimed to be a magus, a kind of satanic wizard of the highest degree.
Whether he actually possessed satanic powers, Anger did his best to keep Jagger and his friends off-balance. He would often appear without warning and then vanish just as suddenly. When Robert Fraser unveiled several all-white sculptures by his clients John Lennon and Yoko Ono, all the guests were told to wear white. Anger materialized in their midst -- clad in black, of course -- was spotted by Lennon, Yoko, Fraser and half the guests, only to disappear. He later claimed to have been out of the country the entire time.
On another occasion Fraser, who stammered slightly, opened an envelope to find a razor and a note from Anger: "The final solution to your stuttering problem."
Foremost among Anger's admirers was Keith Richard's girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg. A willing student, she hung on his every spell and incantation. Over the next several years she would herself become a polished practitioner of the black arts.
Speeding along in her limousine on the road between Marrakech and Fez, Pallenberg came upon an accident victim bleeding to death at the side of the road. She ordered her driver to stop, got out and dipped her silk scarf in the man's blood.
It was a widely held belief that a dying person's blood was imbued with mystical qualities. Anita used this scarf to cast spells on her enemies and, when she briefly came to believe that Mick might be Satan's emissary on earth, over Jagger as well.
A hellish California concert
Tie-dyed and leather fringed, they swarmed over the naked, crescent moonlit hillsides like pilgrims to Mecca -- and in a way they were. Only four months before a half million of their spiritual brethren had assembled peaceably at Woodstock to celebrate the budding promise of rock's first generation to the sounds of such seminal groups as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and the Who. Now they gathered at the remote Altamont Speedway some 40 miles east of San Francisco to pay homage to the greatest rock and roll band of them all.
The resulting spectacle was nothing short of macabre. A naked woman, her hands bloodied like some modern-day Lady MacBeth, wandered about in a drug-induced daze, finally collapsing at the feet of a stunned reporter. She would be only one of hundreds of overdose cases treated by emergency medical personnel on the scene, then sped by ambulance to Livermore Hospital 15 miles away.
A couple tried out various positions of the Kama Sutra with their nervous-looking Doberman chained to the woman's ankle. Orange-robed Hari Krishnas moved among the throng chanting and waving bowls of incense. Meanwhile, only a dozen portable toilets were trucked in to accommodate a crowd more than half the population of San Francisco. Not surprisingly, fistfights broke out among the hundreds who waited in line for hours to use the facilities. Others who were less fastidious merely relieved themselves where they sat.
By midmorning Altamont had claimed its first victim. A stoned 17-year-old from a neighboring town had wandered off alone and plunged into the concrete aqueduct that sliced through a nearby valley, carrying water from the north to the San Joaquin Valley and beyond. His screams for help went unnoticed by the throng, which by now was in the throes of a communal acid trip.
The fuse to this explosive situation was lit by the noisy arrival of the Hell's Angels. Members of the notorious motorcycle gang had policed several concerts in Northern California, and the Grateful Dead enthusiastically recommended them to the Stones.
On the surface the Stones and the Angels were an obvious mismatch -- to everyone but Mick Jagger. The Stones' counterculture following was clearly at odds with the brazen thuggery of the notorious Angels. On the other hand, Jagger was not unaware that the presence of the menacing Hell's Angels only added to his own satanic mystique. During six years on the world stage, he had reveled in his role as the very personification of sex, drugs and rock and roll. It seemed only fitting now that the pop world's bad boy emeritus be surrounded by the baddest boys of all.
Just how bad surprised Lucifer himself. The Hell's Angels, boasting tattoos, plenty of leather, and the occasional tough-as-nails biker chick, made their entrance merely by gunning their engines and steering their Harleys directly into the crowd. People screamed as bodies flew in every direction. When someone was brazen enough to object, the bikers would simply dismount, then wildly swing the lead-tipped pool cues they carried with them until their path was cleared. Behind them followed a yellow school bus loaded down with liquor, drugs and enough weapons to arm a Third World country.
Wrapped in his trademark Lucifer getup -- a black-and-red satin harlequin outfit designed by London couturier Ossie Clark -- Jagger quickly lost control to the Angels.
The fallout lingered for decades. Altamont would leave the Stones and Mick with a bitter and lasting legacy, "Altamont, it could only happen to the Stones, man," said Keith Richards, shaking his head. "Let's face it. It wouldn't happen to the Bee Gees and it wouldn't happen to Crosby, Stills, and Nash." Composer-singer Don McLean immortalized Jagger in his landmark song "American Pie"; "No angel born in Hell/could break that Satan's spell."
Indeed, Altamont was widely (if somewhat disingenuously) regarded as the Dark Side of Woodstock -- a singularly bloody event that marked an end to the so-called peace and love era. It also solidified Jagger's global reputation as a kind of pop Antichrist. As Jagger packaged and repackaged himself over the coming decades, this taint of malevolence would always remain.