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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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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.)
Top customer reviews
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.
While the bulk of "You Can't Always Get What You Want ... " focuses on Cutler's years with the Stones and the Dead, he starts off by detailing his chaotic, dysfunctional and depressing upbringing in post-war England. We follow Cutler as he weaves himself into the fabric of the British rock scene where he makes a name for himself as a competent manager. It is during this time that Cutler also delves into the world of casual drug use that manifests into becoming a major aspect of his life. The opportunity to manage the Rolling Stones on their 1969 tour of America is where Cutler's story begins to kick into full gear and it becomes hard to put his book down. What becomes apparent is that Cutler has no interest in protecting the image of the Rolling Stones as he immediately characterizes the band as being morally corrupt (later in the book, he paints the Grateful Dead as being totally inept from a business standpoint). To highlight this opinion, Cutler thoughtfully injects a brief chapter solely about Mick Taylor, describing the young and talented guitarist as naïve to the decadent, persuasive and destructive power of the Rolling Stones' lifestyle ... something that eventually will break Taylor.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of Cutler's memoir is his recollection of the utter chaos that led up to and eventually defined the ill-fated Altamont free concert at the end of the Stone's American tour. We get a sneak peek into the general indifference of the Stones themselves and a much clearer look at the seedier side of the rock and roll business machine operated by a hodge-podge of dark, shadowy characters. From the disturbingly peculiar high-profile lawyer Melvin Belli to the mysterious and shady John Jaymes, whose unverified claim as a representative of the Chrysler Corporation somehow gave him the access and power to manipulate the (dis)organization of the free concert. Cutler gives us the full "Altamont experience" as he takes us back to the frenetic, drug-and-alcohol drenched event that marked the end of the peace-loving hippy movement with plenty of detail. While Cutler reveals a deeper analysis of a concert that will haunt him for years to come, much of what he reveals is verified by the movie that documents the entire Stones' tour, "Gimme Shelter". Understandably, Cutler displays a degree of bitterness when he is left behind by the Stones in order to handle the fallout of Altamont, which included dealing with a highly agitated Hells Angels motorcycle club ... and no pay.
The transition from the craziness of the Rolling Stones to the laziness of the Grateful Dead is a 180-degree turn. While he portrays the Dead as a band of gypsies that just want to play music, Cutler sees that the band is fiscally unsound and on a course to barely survive financially. As with the handling of Rolling Stones affairs, Cutler's tone is often a bit self-aggrandizing when it comes to "straightening out" the Dead and their issues ... almost to a point in which his anoints himself as being the only rational and competent personal able to fix things. In reality, Cutler's account with the Dead is more a case of being the only stoned and/or drunk adult that could function well-enough while inebriated to make a sound decision or two. Regardless, while he clearly states his unwavering respect for both bands, it is obvious that he cared deeply for the Dead and its members. What makes his journey with the Grateful Dead so enjoyable is that it is so much more relaxing than the hyper-nature of the Rolling Stones. Throughout this segment of the book, Cutler recounts many relaxing and intimate moments with people that would just "hang around" the Dead ... like Janis Joplin.
I believe Sam Cutler has penned an interesting and revealing portrait of two bands he worked so closely with and admired. While Cutler may have a penchant for remembering himself as being the only intelligent, sane and stable individual capable of "handling" bands like the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead; he has quite an experience to tell and his account of the Altamont concert is worthy in and of itself.
Most recent customer reviews
Should be interesting.