Sunday, December 5, 2010


December 6, 1969 will be a date that live on in Rock and Roll infamy. It is the day that the Rolling Stones put on a free concert outside San Fransico at the Altamont Speedway. What was supposed to be the "Woodstock of the West," turned into a full out nightmare between concert goers and festival bodyguards - The Hell's Angels. After a day of heavy drug use from fans and many conflicts between the Angles and spectators through the day, The Stones took the stage and what would happen would change the music world and concert world forever. A fan, by the name of Meredith Hunter had a gun and charged the stage, while the Hell's Angles subdued him, they also stabbed him to death. Hunter's death became a turning point for not just the industry but for the Stones in America. The blame game was played that the Stones incited the riot, it was the Hell's Angels that acted on it because Hunter was black, even rumors that local government gave bad acid to spectators so they would act crazy surfaced. What ever happened, the whole story is documented to every last detail from one of the organizers, the Rolling Stones former tour manager, Sam Cutler. Culter's autobiography "You Can't Always Get What You Want," is about Cutler growing up in England after the war, discovering rock and roll, befriending people like Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett and Jimi Hendrix and becoming the tour manager for The Rolling Stones on their first major tour of the US and dealing with the problems before, during and after Altamont and eventually linking up and working with The Greatful Dead. Nearly 40 years after Altamont, the tragedy of that free concert echo's through festivals today and forever. In our exclusive interview with Sam Cutler, we discuss the happenings in his book.

Why after all these years did you decide to write the book and tell your story?
It seemed like the right time to 're-visit' the sixties and tell the truth.

Do you feel your book help bring closure to an important era in your life?

Closure ??? I don't think there will EVER be closure as such, it's just something that had to be addressed so that "the historical record" is corrected.

What was it like recounting all of these story’s for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want?”

I enjoy being a writer so it was fun

At any point when you first started off working with the Stones did you realize “I can’t believe this is my gig!?”

It was always a "dream come true" even when it got to be a nightmare

When you were starting off in London, you became friends with various people, one of them was Syd Barrett. What was it like knowing Syd and the guys in Floyd?

Syd was a dreamy kind of guy who wafer around in his own space so it was difficult to know him in a conventional sense - mind you in the 60's in London no-one knew anyone in a conventional sense !!!

Once you linked up with the Stones, you arrived in US and things got interesting. What was America like in the late 60’s for a group of British musicians and crew coming here to work and perform?

ALL the British bands wanted to "conquer" America with their music so it was exhilarating to be there

Many people had their hands in what the Stones were doing, did anyone, aside from yourself, question why so many people wanted involvement in handling The Rolling Stones?

Not that I know of!

All of your work in America calumniated with Altamont. Did you ever expect one day would change your life completely?

Altamont didn't change my life completely - though it did have a certain kind of an effect. It got me into working with the Grateful Dead and for that it was a real blessing. It also gave me nightmares for a while !!!!

You give such an open and flawless eyewitness account of the event of that tragic day. Was it painful to revisit it?

It wasn't 'pleasant' to remember the events of that day but it was necessary.

Could the finger ever be pointed at anyone for that day or was it just too big of a project and situation to pass blame?

The blame game is a dumb game

How often do you think of Meredith Hunter?

Every time I drink a cup of Hemlock !!!!!! Truth? Very rarely - he was a dumb victim of black speed and guns culture in the late 60's

After Altamont The Stones left you in the US and pretty much left you with nothing and yet you do not blame them nor ridicule them in the book. Why?

Why???? The Rolling Stones are the Rolling Stones, that's who they ARE! Why should I criticize them? What possible benefit would come from THAT ?

Once stranded in the US after Atlamont, you linked up with Grateful Dead. It seems as if in some ways you had to look over the Dead as a parental figure rather than a manger, whereas for The Stones it was just keep them happy and let them do their thing and they will be fine. How different was it between the two acts?

The GD were cooperative, the Rolling Stones were competitive - the difference between sharks and dolphins

BURNING QUESTION: Which was the better live act – Dead or Stones?

Neither one of them were "acts" - an act is a seal balancing a balloon on its nose !!!!!

You met some great people along the way that helped changed music forever that are no longer with us. From Syd Barret, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones and others, how did their deaths impact your life? Was it ever a point after they passed when you felt that you had to kick drugs yourself?

Their deaths made me feel VERY sad, BUT I have always looked forward and NOT back so I don’t dwell on such things

When you were working alongside these great bands and befriending them, did you ever realize their importance then or would it be years later you would understand their significance?

No - I just did the work that was in front of my nose without a thought for its long-term significance

When you look back on your life, do you ever stop and think what an incredible experience you had doing what you loved?

When I look back on my life it amazes me that's why I write about it, in order to better understand it and to come to terms with it.