There have been scores of books written about the Rolling Stones over the years, and nearly as many of them about the disastrous 1969 free concert at Altamont Raceway near San Francisco. But very few of them have come from the same bird's-eye view as Sam Cutler's You Can't Always Get What You Want.
Cutler was the de facto tour manager for the Stones during their 1969 American tour — he even came up with the "greatest rock and roll band in the world" announcement which preceded the Stones taking the stage each and every night.
As such, Cutler is one of the select few people alive uniquely qualified to report first-hand on all of the music and the madness surrounding the events of that historic tour, including those which occurred at the infamous free concert at Altamont. Not surprisingly, the Altamont story takes up a very significant chunk of this book, and we'll get to that in a minute...
Bookending the Altamont story though, are Cutler's recollections of the early days of the sixties rock scene in London, and the period immediately following his tenure by fire with the Stones, after which he ended up going to work for the Grateful Dead. Although these details pale by comparison to the Altamont story, there is some juicy stuff to be found here as well.
For example, Cutler recalls the way Mickey Hart's father — who was a purported Christian minister no less — essentially robbed the Dead blind during his stint as the band's manager. The book is also laced with accounts of swinging sixties London and all of its key players including Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and of course the Stones themselves. Cutler also goes on record here as the latest of many voices to raise rumors of murder and conspiracy in the suspicious death of Brian Jones.
But it is the events of Altamont that form the undisputed centerpiece of this book. Cutler's version involves all of the usually cited players in the disaster — including the Grateful Dead, the Hells Angels, San Francisco uber-lawyer Mel Belli, and of course the Stones themselves. But it also offers up a few interestingly conspiratorial new twists.