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I’m With The Band: Musos On the Move

There’s sunshine but a chill breeze this Saturday festival day. At the IGA there’s a man in black with a shock of silver hair ahead of me at the counter. It’s Sam Cutler.
This post introduces Ryan Butler, from Murwillumbah who is studying journalism and creative writing at Griffith University. Ryan has just read Sam Cutler’s book and watched the festival session, I’m With the Band: Musos on the Move.
Sam Cutler worked as a personal tour manager for two of the greatest rock bands ever, The Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead. In his candid new book, You Can’t Always Get What You Want , Sam shares his experiences in his chosen profession, ‘rock physicist’.

What inspired, or possessed a young Englishman to embrace such a lifestyle. “It’s the disease of being on the move.”
“I love meeting new people. It was a life plan, to have a crazy life and then write about it after 60 years,”. He saw it as a way out of “dreary, grey, starving England”. No doubt music, and more specifically, rock and roll, had infected him like many others of that generation and he was seemingly swept upon a wave which never really broke. Musicianship itself was never appealing because that was what everyone else wanted to do. “I was more concerned with who made the decisions about how stuff works…where it went…how high the stage needed to be”. The position itself is described by Sam as like ‘a disinterested friend…who makes helpful suggestions”. Someone that in a band with Keith Richards was invaluable. The life Cutler describes is exciting, pleasurable, and unpredictable, but the presentation is so incredibly modest and realistic, there is never a doubt about its authenticity.

Sam’s life of free love, and drugs, decadence and debauchery on the road with The Rolling Stones culminated in the free concert at Altamont, a disastrous end to the group’s 1969 US tour. Meredith Hunter, a young Afro-American man was stabbed to death in front of the stage by a member of the infamous Hell’s Angel’s bikey gang. So began his work for The Grateful Dead, which after 5 years too ran its course.

Carl Cleves left Belgium, applied to study musicology in Africa, and was never heard from again. No that’s not true. But he never did return to Belgium, opting instead for the pursuit of moments of Tarab – a state of bliss invoked by beautiful music or poetry – amidst new and exciting environments. His career on the road, which spanned nine years straight, began in a small fishing village in Brazil, with a seven-piece band. That path landed him in a Sudanese prison, where he stayed for six weeks performing Beatles and Dylan covers for Jack the General, while the two drank sherry.

Don Walker was keyboardist and piano player for legendary Australian rock band, Cold Chisel. In his recent memoir Shots he recalls early life, the years spent on the road, and the high-times during the 1970s. Much like Cutler’s memoir, Shots also explores the occupational hazard of dealing with people with other agendas. He also reveals the inner workings and relationships within the band, and the events that led to it’s ultimate disband in the 1980s. Interestingly Walker said that writing songs and writing literature were very different processes, music being an ‘incremental process’ which leads to short periods increased intensity and vigour. Shots it turns out was written under “no conscious choice of craft” but instead as “a stream of consciousness”. The book has been heralded for its unique approach.

By Ryan Butler

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