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You Can't Always Get What You Want: My Life with the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and Other Wonderful Reprobates Paperback – February 23, 2010
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll play strong supporting roles for headliners the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead in this straight-dope, tell-all account of Cutler's years managing road shows for "the yin and yang of bands." A dissatisfied schoolteacher in 1960s London, Cutler turned his involvement with the music scene into a career as "a sort of production honcho, doing all the dirty work on site" that others wouldn't. His work with the Stones began with their 1969 appearance at Hyde Park, and continued through an entire U.S. tour, ending with the Altamont disaster in California. After that, Cutler took up with the Grateful Dead, managing finances and tours (including Europe '72). Cutler's memoir is populated by a fascinating range of rock stars, gangsters, and international drug lords, but his insider position doesn't always penetrate the chaos; one important exception is his account of Altamont, the massive, free, outdoor Stones concert overtaken by violence (among other record-setting details, Cutler reports that "police had done nothing in the face of serious violent crime... other than bravely towing away hundreds of cars"). Of certain interest to anyone who recalls the music scene of the early 1970s, this fast-moving narrative of rock-n-roll excess should also absorb music fans of any age.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A riveting rock read.” Sun-Herald
"A fascinating historical snapshot not only on the life and heady times of the Stones, the Dead and Altamont, but of the Sixties themselves. As such, it is not to be missed." blogcritics.org
"[Cutler's] memoir of his time with first the Stones and then the Grateful Dad brings to life hippie-era delights (lots of acid) and an encroaching darkness . . . he unleashes one killer road tale after another." Rolling Stone
"Thoroughly impossible to put down." ABORT MAGAZINE
"Effortlessly readable, packed with entertaining, sleazy, behind-the-scenes tales." Portland Mercury
"A quintessential addition to any die-hard rock and roll fan's bookcase." Daily Vanguard Online
"Entertaining, eye-opening memoir . . . the book hits a particularly colourful stride with the Stones’ arrival in LA to finish Let It Bleed and rehearse for the dates ahead." Uncut Magazine (U.K.)
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So Sam in his time, like Ben Hur...rode two chariots, just not quite at once. And he brought the Dead what they didn't have...management spine. Curiously, a Brit soaked in a caste and class structure gets scraped off on the Dead, all sharing in common a near-insolvency, but the Dead being "Family" oriented, drinking the Kool Aid, and Cutler coming from a place where they still believe in royalty. Due to his questing spirit in his teens Cutler had learned the idea you could change your cosmic perspective with 1 tab of Blue Cheer. But was it anarchy, or democracy, with the Dead's curious, rudderless, consensus decision-making and not-making, that emboldened Cutler to take charge?
As he develops his story you learn The Dead were almost financially flat-lining before Cutler, and with the Parkers he jumped to the Code Blue and got the balance sheet out of the red and into the black with endless (200 gigs a year) touring, Cutler's account also masterfully unrolls a new tapestry in Stones and Dead reminiscences, stitching in details not known before, how the Altamont fiasco came to be...and it wasn't a dead albatross to be hung around his neck, tragic as it was.
Cutler gives a humorous account of his knock-down, drag-out, roll-around on stage pre-concent with Mr. Antisocial Personality Disorder himself, Bill "I walked out of Treblinka at 5, still alive, and you're not gonna F me around" Graham, but the truth is? They both seem to have been cut from the same cloth. What Graham did for the Airplane/Starship when he took over their management (bankrupt, which is why they had to change their name), Cutler did for the Dead. He ruefully points out that following the Cutler/Parker regimen, the band turned the corner -- were buying houses and cars, while he could afford neither on his salary of $200 a week -- roadie's pay at the time. Sam was gone by 1974, long before the Dead were making the Forbes top 40 year after year, and paying their roadies 100 grand a year.
Maybe Sam made one mistake...he seems to have lived in those Aviator sunglasses you on the back of the book...and was inscrutable, and unyielding, doing his deals and rolling the combination on his hard-shell briefcase to lock in a load of dough, and undoubtedly a sizeable stash of drugs. That's a snapshot of who he was. He's brave enough to show us who he is now, in a couple of contemporary photos, having dropped the shades, gray-haired, even shirtless, tats and moles (man, you're living in Australia! get those checked out at the Derm doctor!). So Sam changed, evolved. But he wasn't there for the Uncle Scrooge rollin in his bankvault stage of the Dead's rise, and of course the Stones had scraped him off in America to deal with the aftermath of Altamont and their train left the station, two lights on behind.
Sam writes well, and as far as we can see, he meant and means well. When Meredith Hunter got shot at Altamont, it was Sam who showed the courage to leave the stage and go up to the downed man, to see what was going on, and whether he could help, wading through the Hell's Angels and the indiscriminately worse biker wannabes who perpetrated and perpetuated chaos at Altamont, and killed the hippie movement by killing in concert.
Sam actually lived with heart, just on a different wavelength from the Dead and Assoc. and in fairness to Sam, they didn't practice what they preached, starting with Ken Kesey and the Pranksters, Owsley and the Dancing Babes, and Dancing Bears...they didn't just let him be, truckin' his way. They scraped him off too in a power play. Perhaps if he'd had the humility to accept the humiliation? But that's not what General Patton does.
There is, of course, a tremendous focus on Altamont, and the whole book is in a sense structured around laying out Cutler' s view of that day. To a certain extent it feels like he is trying to set the record straight or at least get his word in. That's fair enough, and certainly he brings some interesting aspects of it to light.
Sam Cutler tells the story of his years working first for the Rolling Stones and then for the Grateful Dead. Along the way, he also met other music stars, so the reader is treated to bits about Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and others. I thought the first 60% of the book, which was about the Stones was more interesting than the last part, which was about the Grateful Dead. Of course, Dead heads may feel differently. Cutler is a good writer, so even the beginning about his childhood was fascinating. He was born during WWII, orphaned, then adopted by quite an interesting couple.
The greatest value of this book is the in-depth analysis of what really went wrong at Altamont. I learned many things I did not know, including that much of the responsibility for the outcome should be laid on the Grateful Dead, not the Stones. It was the Dead's idea to use the Hell's Angels for security. The Dead were supposed to play at the concert, but turned tail and ran because of the bad scene, which surely didn't help the mood of the crowd. Also, there were bad drugs being passed around that many suspect were intentionally planted. The people who were creating the violence weren't the actual Angels; they were Angel wannabes, kind of like pledges, trying to impress the full Angels to get into the club. Finally, the man who was killed was not the innocent victim often portrayed by the press. He was a drug-dealing, gang member who was waving a gun around. The Angel who killed him was pretty much acting in self defense. All very interesting--but not to say that the Stones didn't make any mistake, as well.
One thing that I found kind of shocking was the way the Dead and the people around them would frequently slip LSD to unknowing victims. Cutler describes doing this himself at times, including giving doctored cans of cola to a police officer. There is a scene where Janis Joplin is given a birthday cake that unbeknownst to her has acid in the frosting. She was livid when she realized what they'd done to her. If Joplin, with all her drug usage, knew this was a bad idea, why didn't Cutler and his associates know it, too.?
One or two things bugged me about the book. First, the Stones evidently owe him a few hundred dollars, which he isn't asking them about, but he whined about it several times throughout the book. Similarly, he complains that Jerry Garcia didn't come see him in the hospital. The book ends sort of abruptly with a bad parting of the ways with the Dead. There seems to be more to that story than Cutler is saying. I mean, one minute he is saying he loved Garcia like a brother, and the next they are parting ways with hard feelings. It also would have been nice if Cutler had concluded the book by telling us what he's been doing with himself in the decades since parting ways with Garcia.
This book appears to be truthful, and he doesn't grind many axes. I do think he may be over stating his own importance a teeny bit. I mean, I've read four other books about the Stones, and if he was mentioned in any of them (including Keith's book) I don't remember him. But, this is his story, from his perspective, and it is an interesting story, indeed.
Most recent customer reviews
Should be interesting.