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Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'N' Roll Survivor Paperback – February 1, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Hal Leonard Corporation; Updated Ed edition (February 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879309229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879309220
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Al Kooper has been rightly called the "Forrest Gump" of rock and roll. Throughout the 60's and 70's he seemed to turn up as a producer or band member with the right group of musicians until he either checked out of a band (the first electric Bob Dylan tour in 1965) or was thrown out (Blood, Sweat and Tears). Over the course of 40 years he's amassed an amazing amount of experiences that he's collected in Backstage Passes and Back Stabbing Bastards. This is the third edition of his music biography first published in 1979, then updated in the mid-90's, and now reissued covering 1998 to the present. "BP&BB" reads very much like a long-form interview you'd see in Rolling Stone (when it was good) or MOJO (always good). While he's never quite gone beyond cult figure status on his own, behind the scenes he's worked with some legends, most notably Bob Dylan and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Dylan pops up at various times throughout the book and Al's stories about him are alternately revealing but mostly hilarious. It was Dylan who gave Kooper his "calling card" to rock stardom when he overruled producer Tom Wilson and turned up the organist on "Like a Rolling Stone". The organist was Kooper, who'd BS'd his way onto the session and only jumped on the organ (an instrument he couldn't turn on let alone play) when Mike Bloomfield showed up and shattered Kooper's guitar hero dreams just by tuning up. That session would be both a blessing and a curse for Kooper, who got a ton of session work from producers looking for "that Dylan sound" but left Al wanting something more substantive musically. Enter Dylan, who dragged him onstage at the legendary Newport Folk Festival when he went electric. Al sets the record straight on that show and has a much different version of the event than the history books because he was RIGHT THERE.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I first discovered Al Kooper in 1966 at a local record store in rural northern Maine. I think it was the Jaquar (or was it a Jazzmaster) Steve Katz was holding on the album cover which drew me to it. Whatever...but, it was the crazy schizo guitar of Danny Kalb and keyboards of Al Kooper which really impacted on me. Later, I recognized this guy "Al Kooper's" name on Dylan albums, his face on the debut album of the first Jazz rock band (with horns, no less)and then his work with guitar virtuoso Mike Bloomfield. Decades later I actually met Mr. Kooper briefly (not that he would remember me)at the Redding Roadhouse in Connecticut and was releived that he was a gracious nice guy, more tolerant than most with fans. Enough about my experiences.

Al Kooper is a musician's musician. His experience spans the history of good popular music from the late '50s to the present. It is intriging to figuratively be a "fly on the wall" as Al relates his experiences with the Blues Project, Dylan, BS&T, Bloomfield, Skynrd, Jimmy Vivino, the Beatles, Stones...shall I go on? His wit, objectivity about himself and down to earth perspective on events which (although many of us see in mythic proportions - Dylan's Highway '61, for instance)he actually lived, make this book a uniqely honest portrayal of the period. If you are a guitar player who grew up during the mid-late '60s in America, you probably were either a Bloomfield or Kalb fan. Well, Al played with both of them. If you are a Hammond B3 player who grew up during the same period, well, you must be aware of Al's work. For you other people who may not know about Mr. Kooper's contributions,you you are in for a surprise, a big one!! Mr. Kooper, as a working musician, provides inside details of events only someone with his experience could. This book is highly recommended for anyone who has even a passing interest in rock, blues, culture or just likes a good read. "Dr." Kooper is one of the good guys and really delivers with this one!!
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As a 50 year-old musician who was born and raised in Greenwich Village (Al's old stomping ground at one point in his life), I've read alot of biographies and autobiographies by musicians over the years, and I can honestly say that Al Kooper's book is without a doubt the best I have ever read. Period.

Al's writing style is remarkably conversational in tone, like you're kicking back with an old friend who is regaling you with stories and anecdotes from an extrordinary career in the music biz.

To his credit, Al doesn't just give you the the stuff that makes him look good, he gives you the bad and the ugly too. You get the whole enchilada: the sex, the drugs, AND the Rock n' Roll.

In sum, you get a fascinating glimpse into the life of a sucessful musician, composer, arranger, and producer who had the uncanny good fortune of being in the right place at the right time, and made the most of each opportunity. I cannot recommend this book too highly -- buy it, read it, digg it.
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Kooper writes honestly -- almost painfully, sometimes -- about his 40+ years as a professional musician. He's best known for his almost accidental organ part on Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" created under pressure late one night in 1964. It's part accident / part intuitive stroke of genius / part BS-er. Which is how Kooper sort of describes his entire career.

The book is gritty and moves quickly. There are parts that will make you cringe (Oh no! I can't believe he's going to do that) like you are watching an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

He's clear that he's seen bad times. He's amazingly honest about a lot of it. You get a taste of the boredom and frustration of being a bit of a rock star. But don't feel too bad for him. He's had lots of exhilarating good times as well. And, at this point in his life, he seems like the last guy who would want anyone to feel sorry for him.
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