A former tour director for the Grateful Dead (and the Rolling Stones), Sam Cutler has shared his thoughts on Amir Bar-Lev’s full four-hour documentary Long strange journey.
Cutler, who led the Dead tour from 1970 to 1974, is one of the stars of the film for his no-bullshit honesty and incredible perspective on how the Dead fit into the culture at the time compared to another group he has worked with successfully – The Rolling Stones. In a high profile Facebook post, Cutler gave his opinion upon seeing the finished product and there were both positive and negative reviews.
Cutler admits he loved the movie and that “I loved that so many people in the movie would express their love, live in love, love each other, and most of all, love Jerry.” He praised Bar-Lev for his work (“Sure chose one hell of a hill to climb”) while noting that it was an “impossible task” to capture all that the Grateful Dead were.
“I was struck by what people decided to say in the movie – what they called ‘appropriate for posterity’,” Cutler noted in one of the most critical moments. “How some of the ‘fiercest’ members of the family burst into laughter at the thought of the Latter-day Deadheads being told (or asked) to behave and not come to shows if they didn’t. had no tickets; while on the other hand, those same modern day “libertarians” (so hip and free) might gladly suggest that there were too many baddies and hairy Hells Angels behind the scenes for their liking.
He admits the movie left him with “an emotional mess” as he reconsidered his time with the group. “It was at times incredibly painful to see the mistakes we made, the errors in judgment, the poor planning, the rampant nihilism, which led like a tragic opera rework towards Jerry’s demise,” he said. he writes. Cutler also clarifies some misinterpretations by others in the film, particularly a brief period when Cutler and his team decided the recording would not be allowed (“It lasted at most two shows”) and praised the contributions. members of the group, calling them the “true psychedelic explorers of their time”.
LONG STRANGE JOURNEY – my opinion on the film
Where the hell START? Well, let’s start with love. I loved the movie. I loved that so many people in the movie express love, live in love, love each other, and ESPECIALLY, love Jerry. For a few years I became another person in this psychedelic army of people all over the planet who loved this sweet, loving man and his group. I was incredibly lucky to have been its Tour Director, Co-Director (along with Jon McIntyre and David Parker) and Agent, through my Out of Town Tours company from 1970-74.
Amir Bar Lev, the mountaineer’s mountaineer, chose one hell of a hill to climb when he decided to make this film! Soloing Unassisted on El Capitan’s Face in Yosemite has nothing to do with the dangers associated with attempting to “capture” who what where, how, and when on the Grateful Dead. This is an ‘impossible task’ on a rational level, but luckily rationality has never been a particularly needed attribute around the group and family – in fact, it sometimes seemed like the wackiest things were the best. . It never seemed like too much of a problem, and (of course) people loved the craziness, but only up to a point! When it got too much, the good old Grateful Dead simply “retired” or “practiced invisibility.”
Jerry might not have been the whole ship, but he was sure it was the ship. AND the anchor! I was struck by what people decided to say in the film – what they described as “suitable for posterity”. How (for example) some of the “fiercest” members of the family burst out laughing at the thought that the living dead of the last days could be told (or asked) to behave and not to come to the shows if they didn’t have tickets; while on the other hand, those same modern “libertarians” (so hip and free) could readily suggest that there were too many hairy Hells Angels villains behind the scenes for their liking. Jerry, bless him, kept everything in balance. For example, he adamantly refused to sign a letter to fans when their behavior became an issue, and he pointedly welcomed the Hells Angels to concerts as he greeted anyone who loved music.
The film left me with an emotional mess. In the midst of it all, I burst into tears and had to be comforted by my son Bodhi. It was incredibly painful at times to see the mistakes we made, the errors in judgment, the poor planning, the rampant nihilism, which led like a tragic opera rework towards Jerry’s demise. BUT, conversely, it was thrilling to see how all those all too human mistakes that we made were happily greeted by the family and the group and laughed at, and so inexplicably and madly ‘survived “. Embracing “chess” was surely one of the hallmarks of the magnificence of the Grateful Dead. There was room for everyone.
One little thing stands out as a perfect example of the Grateful Dead approach and how posterity somehow “misinterpreted” what happened. The record company hated cones because they believed it would hurt the group’s record sales. The group was in a dilemma. It was decided that the recording could not be authorized. The crew and I have had the unenviable task of implementing this “edict”. It lasted a maximum of two shows, then we discussed the situation in the dressing room before a show. We had all been on a trip and we were high. We explained to Jerry ‘we are not cops, we don’t want to be cops’ and the policy of stopping the recording was dropped as it was unanimously agreed that asking SOMEONE to ‘watch’ them. cones was a bridge too far. That was it. Not serious. We have tried it. (banning candles) It didn’t work, so we immediately gave it up and continued. This was later interpreted by some people on Wall Street as a supreme example of the “business acumen” of the Grateful Dead which directly led through the distribution of the taper recordings to the group’s enormous commercial success. As if we had everything planned! You have to laugh!
Where did I cry in the movie? Where did I laugh? When Barbara said Jerry told her “I just wish I could live on ice money.” I thought it was so poignant that I cried like a baby. Poor Jerry, the thing he had spent his life creating and nurturing finally consumed him, and it seemed like no one could save him, though they all tried. The ONLY thing they could have done, they didn’t !!!! Namely, they could have “abandoned ship”. Called the whole thing off and simply STOPPED. Jerry could have been diving for the rest of his life. BUT, no one could bring himself to do it, and Jerry, poor Jerry, disappeared into the heroine’s stupid den. PigPen was dead, Keith was dead, Brent had preceded him – tragic and horrific precursors of what was to come. Vince followed after.
The film captured it all. It was heartbreaking, and yet in the end it was MORE than just THAT. It was an epic journey that these guys wrote down in the pages of their lives, an adventure of Homeric proportions and Shakespearean intensity, which has been second to none. Phil said some lovely moving things, as did Micky, Billy and Bobby – these guys were the true psychedelic explorers of their time and showed us how to LIVE. Phil said, “The Grateful Dead were the best thing that ever happened to me” and that goes for me too, and everyone else who was “on the bus”. As soon as I have ‘recovered’, I want to watch the movie again .. and again. It has so much depth and is so subtle.
Amir Bar Lev is to be congratulated on a magnificent achievement. The Grateful Dead never quite managed to capture the “sound of heavy air” in the recording studio, but Amir filmed it. In the end, the movie left me speechless and just THANKS to all the guys in the band and all of the family for the four years that I have been involved. They were the best years of my life.