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

Reviewed by Kevin Wierzbicki

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Cutler's early vocation was that of teacher but his initial experimentation with LSD was the catalyst that sent him off down a path that would eventually lead to gigs as tour manager for the Rolling Stones and then the Grateful Dead. After quitting his position as an educator Cutler became friends with Nick Mason and the other members of Pink Floyd including soon-to-be acid casualty Syd Barrett. A couple of chapters are spent detailing what the scene was like at that time and how Cutler picked up the knowledge he would put to use as tour manager for the Rolling Stones. Cutler worked for the Stones (apparently unpaid although there were plenty of perks) at the most tumultuous time in the band's history---the dreadful year of 1969. Guitarist Brian Jones died in the summer of '69 under somewhat mysterious circumstances (Cutler believes Jones was murdered) and the year would finish on a sorry note due to the band's violence-marred free concert at Altamont where a man was stabbed to death by a member of the Hell's Angels. There's probably no one who knows more about the Altamont tragedy than Cutler since his insider status placed him in the thick of things pre-concert, during the show and as an up-close witness to the beatings. Left in the States to sort things out on the band's behalf after the group fled to England Cutler found himself in a predicament where the band basically disowned him, leaving him destitute and threatened by the Hell's Angels and various other thugs. After taking refuge with the Grateful Dead "family" Cutler eventually became their tour manager; this part of the book is a little anticlimactic after the Stones portion but there's lots of insight as to how the Dead operated at the time and some funny moments about Cutler having it out with a prank-loving Bob Weir. Scattered throughout the book are brief descriptions of Cutler's encounters with other luminaries of the day including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and the Dallas "Butter Queen," a personality you'll have to read about yourself in order to believe it. A dozen pages of photos are also included. Anyone who has questions about Altamont should consider You Can't Always Get What You Want to be essential reading.


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