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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

You Can't Always Get What You Want: My Life with the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and Other Wonderful Reprobates

by Sam Cutler

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Sam Cutler was tour manager for the Rolling Stones at some of their major gigs in the late sixties, including the infamous concert at Altamont where a man was murdered by a Hells Angel in front of the stage while the Stones played on. After the show, Sam was left behind to make peace with the Hells Angels, the various mobsters and organizations who had taken an


Sam Cutler was tour manager for the Rolling Stones at some of their major gigs in the late sixties, including the infamous concert at Altamont where a man was murdered by a Hells Angel in front of the stage while the Stones played on. After the show, Sam was left behind to make peace with the Hells Angels, the various mobsters and organizations who had taken an overt interest in the event, and the people of America. There has never been an official investigation into events at Altamont and those involved have never before spoken on record. Sam Cutler has decided that it is time to put to rest the myths and legends that have grown up around this infamous event in rock history and for the first time reveal the truth. Sam survived Altamont and went on to live the ultimate rock and roll dream. This is also his own account of the high ol’ times he had managing tours for San Francisco band the Grateful Dead — who went on to become the world's most successful live act. Along the way Sam draws intimate portraits of other stars of the psychedelic circus that was the music industry in the sixties and seventies, including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Band, the Allman Brothers, Pink Floyd, and Eric Clapton. This is an exhilarating, all-areas-access rock memoir from someone who has seen — and done — it all.

Editorial Reviews

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.
Portland Mercury
Effortlessly readable, packed with entertaining, sleazy, behind-the-scenes tales.
Daily Vanguard (Online)
A quintessential addition to any die-hard rock and roll fan's bookcase.
Bookviews by Alan Caruba
[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.
Abort Magazine
Thoroughly impossible to put down.
Cutler tells his side of the story, finally putting to rest some of the myths surrounding one of the most infamous moments in pop music history.
Uncut Magazine
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.
From the Publisher

“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.)

Library Journal
Cutler was a tour manager in the late Sixties and early Seventies for two of the era's most iconic bands, the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. In this readable memoir, he recounts his years on the periphery of the London music scene and his eventual association with the Stones. The bulk of the book recounts their infamous and legendary 1969 U.S. tour (well documented in Ethan Russell's recent Let It Bleed) and its culmination in the tragic debacle at the free show at Altamont. Cutler subsequently spent four years as a road manager for the Dead, and he describes their inimitable personalities in the years during which they became a fully realized touring act—memorably evoking a tour by train across Canada where the Dead were joined by Janis Joplin, the Band, and others on a rollicking journey of alcohol-fueled jam sessions. VERDICT While the book contains no real revelations, this insider, backstage account of these two legendary yet very different bands will be of interest to fans of both groups.—Jim Collins, Morristown-Morris Twp. Lib., NJ

Product Details

ECW Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

You Can't Always Get What You Want

My Life With The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead And Other Wonderful Reprobates

By Sam Cutler, Jennifer Hale


Copyright © 2010 The Cutler Family Trust
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-55490-696-3


Busy being born

UNLIKE MICHAEL PHILIP JAGGER, who was born in a hospital, I was born in a stately home. Mick may have owned several stately homes, but darling, he was never born in one!

I was born in 1943 in Hatfield House, on the northern outskirts of London, in the county of Hertfordshire. The house was built in 1608 by Robert Cecil, the first Earl of Salisbury, and has been in continuous aristocratic occupancy by his titled descendants ever since. I hasten to add that I'm not one of them.

My arrival in such aristocratic surroundings was simply the result of Hatfield House being requisitioned by the government during the war and converted into a makeshift maternity hospital. This part of England was of little interest to the German Luftwaffe.

I was delivered into a complete shambles of destroyed buildings, shattered lives, millions of deaths, and general mayhem. It was the "crossfire hurricane" that Mick refers to in his song "Jumpin' Jack Flash." All of the chaos of the war was generously leavened by rampant promiscuity so that almost as fast as people were being killed, others were being born. It was a manic lottery in which the soldier and the newborn child had approximately the same chances of survival.

I was not to learn until I was fifteen that the woman who gave birth to me was Irish, from a gypsy family out of Cork. She had worked as a government typist. My father had been a Jewish mathematician on active service in the Royal Air Force. Both were to disappear in the industrialized slaughter of the war. Talk about three strikes and you're out! In the blood of my veins I was Irish, Gypsy, and Jewish!

These three persecuted races commingled in me and were the perfect combination for a career in the entertainment industry, though of course I was unaware of this at the time of my birth. My heritage and the peculiar mixture of my bloodlines has always been a source of great comfort and pride to me, as from the very earliest age I was always convinced that whatever else I was, I was definitely not English.

A family friend helpfully described my early years to me when I was a confused teenager. My birth mother had tried to cope, he told me. She was a young and devoutly Catholic Irish girl with an illegitimate baby, and far from her family — who would have viewed the child she had borne with distaste and probably abandoned their daughter. Almost certainly her family back home in Ireland was not told of her pregnancy or my birth.

My mother had tried to raise her child in secret, alone in wartime London, but had been unable to manage the joint pressures of a war and trying to survive with very little money and a small baby. The friend of the family hinted darkly that she had selflessly given me up for adoption to help secure a better future for me, and that the man who had been her lover and my father had abandoned her and then died on active service.

I have always respected my birth mother's choice and, while it hurts to this day, I have never made any attempt to trace her or get in touch. I hope she found a better life than many Irish people who lived in London. I know her full name but I don't know whether she's alive or dead. If she were still living she would have to be at least in her eighties by now. Effectively, she died for me when I was a baby. Bless 'er.

In due course, I was packed off to Swansea in Wales, to a Catholic children's home, and from that orphanage I was adopted just before the age of three. When I eventually found out that my birth name was Brendan Lyons and that I was Irish, all I could think was how grateful I was that I wasn't English and named Cyril.

My first memory is of being carried down the steps of a bomb-damaged Marylebone railway station by a nun, and being given to my new parents, Ernie and Dora Cutler. I sat in the back of their borrowed car and they told me that they had decided to call me Sam.

My adoptive mother says I bawled my eyes out throughout the journey, and when they finally got me home and my new father triumphantly placed me on the kitchen table for a group of friends to admire, he announced in a loud voice, to raucous congratulations, "Here's one we saved from the Catholics."

I was raised by my new extended family in the parliamentary constituency of Woodford, represented for many years by Winston Churchill, close to the epicenter of the vicious German bombing campaign that had destroyed London's East End. Dora and Ernie had seen firsthand what the nightmare of war had done to a once thriving community, and were unalterably opposed to war in all its forms. Dora, at the first available opportunity, called Mr. Churchill a "drunken old warmonger" to his face, and was banned from his constituency office.

My family despised Churchill and made their home available to serve as the campaign headquarters for the Communist Party candidate opposing Churchill in the elections. The communists, needless to say, lost. This did not endear my parents to the landlord, whose politics closely resembled those of Attila the Hun.

From my earliest days I remember adults as people who were invariably reading, even when they were eating a meal. In my parents' house we had the collected works of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Stalin and Mao, every left-wing book club edition that was ever printed, and goodness knows what else. But we didn't have Trotsky, or the Bible.

People were constantly coming and going and there would have been Reds under the beds but for the fact that was where even more books were stored. We were host to an endless supply of transient members of the Party, who slept wherever they could find any space and debated the great questions of the day with skill and alacrity.

In addition to books and people, we had music. Music for the people, by the people, and performed by the people. My earliest memories are of wonderful parties where the assembled adults would drink homemade beer and enthusiastically sing folk songs, sea shanties, and political ditties. Where other children learned nursery rhymes, I was raised on union songs and paeans to Stalin and the Red Army. To these were added songs from the Community Songbook. My mother played the piano and all the adults gathered around and sang lustily late into the night. One would reasonably think that after countless acid trips and the experiences of the drug-fueled 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.

My family always celebrated the memory of those people who had offered their young lives in the service of the Spanish Republic, fighting in support of the legitimate government of Spain, only to be defeated by the combined might of the German and Italian armies, who had intervened on the side of the fascists. Remembrance of the Spanish Civil War was treated as a sacred responsibility, and I can recall people raising their glasses to the republic and shouting "Viva!"

My adoptive family were "bloody heathens," as the landlord once memorably put it. I might add that we did not consider this a problem. Christianity in our house was considered a risible deception foisted on the gullible and defenseless. Christmas was celebrated in my childhood as an ancient and largely irrelevant pagan festival, but the adults boisterously celebrated the New Year. We were allowed to stay up until midnight before being rushed off to bed. Music played a central role in these celebrations and a highlight was my mother singing "The Socialist Sunday School," the words of which I can still recall.

The Socialist Sunday Schools were established to counter the Sunday Schools run by the churches. Classes were opened with the declaration: "We desire to be just and loving to all our fellow men and women, to work together as brothers and sisters, to be kind to every living creature and so help to form a New Society, with Justice as its foundation and Love as its Law."

At the end of the meeting there would be a further declaration: "We have met in love. Now let us part in love. May nothing of ours that's unworthy spoil the sweetness nor stain the purity of this good day, and may the time until we meet again be nobly spent in setting up the gates and building the walls of the city of the heart." I can't help but regret that I didn't open and close Grateful Dead meetings with those lines. It might have made a difference!

Dora raised me according to the precepts of the Socialist Sunday School, and I must admit that I have not lived up to their teachings, though I have tried. Nonetheless, they were to play a major role in my approach to life. The socialist precepts bear some repeating in this contemporary world of unalloyed greed, the pursuit of profit before all else, and the destruction of our beautiful planet:

Love your schoolfellow, who will be your fellow workman in life.

Love learning, which is the food of the mind; be grateful to your teachers and parents.

Make every day holy by good and useful deeds and kindly actions.

Honor the good; be courteous to all; bow down to none.

Do not hate or speak evil of anyone. Do not be revengeful, but stand up for your rights and resist oppression.

Do not be cowardly. Be a friend to the weak and love justice.

Remember that all of the good things of the earth are produced by labor; whoever enjoys them without working for them is stealing the bread of the workers.

Observe and think in order to discover the truth. Do not believe what is contrary to reason, and never deceive yourself or others.

Do not think that those who love their own country must hate and despise other nations, or wish for war, which is a remnant of barbarism.

Work for the day when all men and women will be free citizens of one fatherland, and live together as brothers and sisters in peace.

My adoptive father, Ernest George Cutler, suffered from osteomyelitis, a terrible bone-wasting disease, which in the days before antibiotics caused great suffering and resulted in a very unpleasant and painful death. His legs and his chest were covered in ugly scars where the surgeons had operated in a vain attempt to keep the disease's ghastly ravages at bay. I can remember my father showing me his wounded body as he gently explained to me that his injuries were the reason he couldn't let me get into bed with him and have a cuddle. He died in 1951, when I was eight.

Immediately following World War II, antibiotics were available to those rich enough to pay for them. Working-class people never had the luxury of such advanced medicines, and so my father died, the treatment he needed available only to the privileged few. It was a cruel injustice that struck at my mother's heart, for she had loved and supported this man through all of his agonies and tribulations. Such iniquities helped to make a revolutionary of my mother, but I was too young to understand.

For many years after his death I kept an old tobacco tin in my father's memory. He smoked Balkan Sobranie in a large wooden pipe and would have great difficulty in unscrewing the lid of the tin because of his illness. His tin was one of my prized childhood possessions and for years I protected it fiercely and held it sacred to his memory.

My maternal grandmother was the only person in our large household who had any practical experience of how to raise children, having raised three daughters and a son. Everyone called her Tillie, short for Matilda. She smoked Capstan Full Strength, the strongest cigarettes then available, and had one permanently between her lips, its long ash drooping from the end. Her upper lip was stained a light brown and in the front of her silver-gray hair there was a similar stain, caused by the incessant cigarette smoke that curled over her brow. I have never known a person who smoked more cigarettes than my grandmother.

When I was very small she would give me a bath and even then she'd have a cigarette between her lips. She lived to be ninety-six.

My mother Dora worked for a trade union that represented employees of the British government. It was known as the Civil Service Clerical Association (CSCA). The CSCA was the first union in the western world to get equal pay for men and women, a fact of which my mother was extremely proud. She was the secretary to the editor of Red Tape, the union magazine. She was also the organizer of the union's annual conference, held in Prestatyn in northern Wales. Once a year she would disappear for two weeks for this get-together. Dora was devoted to the union movement and as radical a woman as one could ever hope to meet, but she had difficulties in expressing her affection for me. I can't ever remember my mother cuddling me, though I was sure she loved me in her own way. After Ernie, my adoptive father, died, Dora was forced to allow others to care for me, as she had to grieve for her lost husband while continuing to work. Ken and Joan Hoy, comrades of Ernie's in the Communist Party, became my surrogate parents. They lived four doors down in the same street, King's Avenue in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, east of London.

Ken had been a "tail-end Charlie" in the war, the man who sat in the very tail of the bombers and manned its most exposed anti-aircraft gun. They had the highest attrition rate of all Royal Air Force air crew. He never spoke about his experiences. I later read that the ground crew was sometimes forced to hose the remains of the tail-end Charlies from aircraft when they returned from missions, as the bodies had been rendered into virtual mincemeat by enemy fire. Ken knew he was very lucky to have survived. After the war he trained to be a teacher, and while he and Joan looked after me, he also used me as a model for the essays he had to write at his teachers' training college.

Ken was a knowledgeable amateur ornithologist. He and I would take day-long walks through the forest, wearing old World War II Air Force binoculars, which he'd kindly let me borrow. He would help me identify birds, badger tracks, and the plants that grew in hedgerows that could tell you how long ago the hedges had been planted. He was a source of fascinating information for a young boy. Ken was a gentle man, kindness personified, whose love of nature communicated itself to me and helped give my uneven life some stability.

Ken's wife Joan was a fashion designer who taught pattern design to people who wanted to enter the rag trade. I thought her very glamorous and she was generally considered to be an exceptionally bright and beautiful woman. Ken was her third husband, so Joan had broken a few hearts. She was as radical as my mother, if not more so, and I can remember her holding her own in heated arguments with other comrades and tossing her hair in annoyance if anyone so much as dared to patronize her because she was a woman.

Joan was a lady who fought for what she believed in. She took me on street demonstrations, where she was always in the vanguard of the protesters, shouting her slogans and encouraging me not to be afraid. I can remember being in London's Whitehall near the Cenotaph with her in the middle of a huge demonstration at the height of the Suez Canal crisis. The London Dockers, under their Communist leader Jack Dash, were fighting pitched battles with the mounted police and we were in danger of being trampled by the charging horses. Joan put her arms around me as she dragged me from the center of the stampeding crowd frantically trying to escape the melee. I was very scared, but Joan gaily laughed and told me to look at the Dockers — they were united and strong. She gently explained that each man was afraid; of course they were afraid! But with a comrade beside him, each man would subsume his fear in the interests of the greater good, and think not of himself but of others. "Remember, Sam," she would say, "remember this: unity is strength!"

I was twelve years old.

Joan was the first woman I loved, and in my adolescent fantasies I felt that she loved me. I lived for those happy moments when she would spontaneously crush me to her bosom in a wonderful friendly hug with gales of laughter. I worshiped her.

Joan and Ken were the most magnificent couple and I adored them both. Through their loving kindness I made the difficult transition from being a boy to being a man long before I reached my full physical maturity.

I was a lonely child and with the benefit of hindsight realize now that I had been profoundly disturbed and traumatized by my experiences prior to my adoption. While I could remember nothing of what had happened to me, I carried the scars of my previous life deep in the recesses of my heart. As an only child, surrounded mostly by adults, I longed for a brother, someone to play with. I never experienced the conventional play-centered life of most children. In many respects I was old even before I was a teenager, but I didn't really want to have much to do with adults.


Excerpted from You Can't Always Get What You Want by Sam Cutler, Jennifer Hale. Copyright © 2010 The Cutler Family Trust. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Sam Cutler is the former tour manager for the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead.

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