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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

4.7 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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Review

“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



"[Cutler] writes with great insight and with humor about the antics of the legendary musicians he looked after and having to deal with riot police, groupies, drug dealers, mobsters and promoters, as well as friendships with rock legends like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and former Pink Floyd frontman, Syd Barrett."  —Bookviews by Alan Caruba (blog)


"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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: ECW Press (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155022932X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550229325
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #825,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Frances Lynn on August 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
"You Can't Always Get What You Want" is a gripping rock 'n' roll saga which should appeal to anyone who is intrigued by authentic 'I was there' memoirs. Sam Cutler's book is not your usual press clippings cut and paste job from a rock journalist, aged groupie or a sycophantic fan. It's the Real Thing, lucidly and well written from a Napoleon styled tour manager's point of view.

Cutler's tome doesn't solely focus on his role of tour manager, but starts prior to his career in rock 'n' roll, when he was illegitimately born in a stately home in Hertfordshire during World War 11. He was consequently placed in an orphanage and was adopted when he was three, but didn't discover his true parentage until he was fifteen. His natural mother was Irish from a gypsy family who had been abandoned by his father, a Jewish mathematician who then died on active service in the Royal Air Force.

'In the blood of my veins, I was Irish, Gypsy, and Jew!' Cutler exclaims, thankful he wasn't English but was a mixture of 'three persecuted races', and not of pure English stock like the Cutlers, his adoptive protestant parents who renamed him Sam (his birth name was Brendan Lyons).

`All I could think was how grateful I was that I wasn't English and named Cyril, ' Cutler quips which illustrates what a droll writer he is.

His adoptive Communistic parents always had music in the house and Sam was raised on 'union songs and paeans to Stalin and the Red Army.`

'One would reasonably think that after countless acid trips and the experiences of the drug-fuelled sixties, the words of obscure political songs would fade from my mind, but to this day they remain eerie reminders of that distant country which is my past,' Cutler reminisces.
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Format: Paperback
Sam Cutler was tour manager for the Rolling Stones for the 1968 tour that ended with the free show at Altamont where a man was stabbed to death right in front of the stage. This clearly has been the albatross that has hung around his neck throughout his life. As he says in the first chapter this book was written to set the record straight about what happened at Altamont. The first 185 pages of this 325 page book lead to Altamont, but there is more to this book.

Throughout the book you hear tales of Cutler's friendship not just with the Stones and The Dead, but with Jimi Hendrix, Syd Barrett and Janis Joplin. You hear tales of his job sometimes as just a glorified baby sitter to a bunch of high rock-stars as he helps them through the land-mines of groupies, drug dealers and mobsters.

The book reads as if you are talking to Sam Cutler as the events happened. Although with so many tales of his own drug use, I kind of wonder how he could remember any of it. You will read wonderful stories about his wrestling match with promoter Bill Graham or the acid laced birthday cake for Janis Joplin that was shared with the off duty police that were working security.

Before reading this book I didn't know if it would have much appeal to me. I like the Stones okay, but my musical taste seems to skip the period of time he is talking about. I was happy to find a book that discussed this era in such a conversational manner written by someone who while he regrets some of the things that happened (see Altamont) you can still tell was having the time of his life. I really learned a lot about this middle period in rock history and am glad I read it.
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Could not put this down. Could not do another thing until I finished it. Thank you Sam Cutler for a rollicking, rousing, racy and romantic, repartee of your adventures with the Stones and the Dead. You have done a handsome and gracious job of reporting the truths about the music, the times, the people and the total trip that it truly was. Thank you for writing - for all the world to read at last - the story of what really happened at Altamont. Thank you for revealing the politics, the power plays, the Fed/Mafia sabotage. No-one else would do it, or could do it; you have the guts and the data. You're the man, Sam. So glad to know you a little better and very much looking forward to another tome from you.
Highly recommended reading to whomever would like to know the truth of the times and the politics that "killed rock and roll" that gruesome December night in 1969.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
You Can’t Always Get What You Want is one of the best rock 'n' roll memoirs I’ve read. Sam Cutler was the tour manager at the epicenter of The Rolling Stones circus during their apex – the Let It Bleed days. And also during their nadir – the Altamont concert – which abruptly altered the course of his life. Feeling derailed, abandoned, and endangered in the aftermath, he found shelter from the storm within the psychedelic warmth of the Grateful Dead family. Basically broke, as was the band at the time, Sam was hired to be the Dead’s tour manager and he helped guide the band to financial success – the Workingman's Dead years. Sam's storytelling skills and wit bring these strange days of a fast-moving train of events into 3D perspective. Not only are the renowned musicians whom he befriends vividly portrayed but so are the eccentric ancillary characters who populate the pages. For example, there is a mysterious security consultant who (dubbing himself “the man from Chrysler”) installs himself into the Stone's 1969 US tour with dubious intentions; a one-armed drug dealer shows up during concerts, on occasion in New York with a tank of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), and everyone calls him Goldfinger (except to his face); and those are only two of many oddities. Considering the trials and tribulations Sam experienced, I am amazed how forgiving and loyal and zen he is (i.e., well, maybe not for Bill Graham) when speaking about those who did him wrong. I suppose it’s because: to have experienced such a wild ride at a unique moment in time is a gift, a gift one should not trash or regret. Sam's poem at the beginning sums it all up best, together with the closing paragraph in the book. The final line is a killer remark. Brilliant.
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