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Off the Record: An Oral History of Popular Music Paperback – November 1, 1989


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Off the Record: An Oral History of Popular Music + Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones Live At The Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981 DVD/CD
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 508 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (November 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446390909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446390903
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Even readers who do not think of themselves as music lovers will find much to savor in the experiences recorded here of some 220 performers, composers, arrangers, producers and publishers who have played a major role in the music industry over the past 50 years. Smith, CEO of Capitol/EMI records, presents this stunning collection of anecdotes and recollections in an oral history reminiscent of Studs Terkel's Working . The lode he mines is rich. Artie Shaw, for example, comments on performers who allow audiences to retard their growth as musicians: "Look at Mick Jagger. He's still doing 'Jumpin' Jack Flash.' " Occasional contradictions crop up for the reader to muse on: Lamont Dozier of the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team says of the atmosphere at Motown: "We . . . literally punched a clock, nine o'clock in the morning. Berry Gordy ran Motown like a factory," while Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops says of the same organization, " There were no set hours to do anything." A lL arge number of the interviews reflect on the difficulties associated with sudden fame (Fabian: "Nobody ever told me it would end") and the pressure of the continual struggle to stay on top (Del Shannon: "My manager always used to say to me, 'You're only as good as your last hit.' "). The pervasive effects of racism and drugs on the industry show up in any number of the interviews. Also made clear is a picture of a business brimful with creative, energetic people blessed with entrepreneurial spirit. The sheer scope of the book is astounding. Nearly all the heavy hitters are here, from Lionel Hampton and Buddy Rich to Sting and George Michael, from those whose careers have faded to those who are still producing, composing, performing or hustling after five decades. Virtually all types of popular music are represented: jazz, rhythm & blues, folk, country-western, light pop and heavy metal, so the reader can find Pete Seeger just a few pages away from the Beach Boys' Mike Love, or learn of Gene Autry's influence on guitarist Les Paul. Smith's introductory material, coupled with exemplary editing by Fink, columnist for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner , round out this double- platinum winner. Photos not seen by PW .
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Jacobson on March 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read this book at least three times and find it endlessly entertaining. It features artists and other music industry insiders from the 40's to the 80's telling their own stories in their own words. Each person is featured in a self-contained "chapter" that lasts just a couple of pages; the format lends itself to reading whenever you have a few minutes to spare. I recommend this book highly if you are interested in the subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kate Smart on February 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have owned two copies of this book - the first I lent out and did not get back. I loved it so much that I bought a second copy.
This fabulous book begins with Artie Shaw and ends with David Lee Roth and contains some of the most interesting anectodes and musical insight I have ever read. Some of the first-person narratives were hilarious - others were heart wrenching.If you love music, and the history of music, you simply must read this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Charlemange VINE VOICE on March 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I got this book a few years ago at a library sale in Hawaii. I think I paid a quarter for it. It has some really interesting little stories from many artists and people in the business like Frankie Valli, Sting, Shadow Morton, Mickie Most, and others.

The book was published in the 80's, so it's interesting to read these stories from people who have either passed on or become even more popular than ever. I liken it to a hors d'oeuvre tray of who's who in the music business.
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By Carol Haggas on March 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Music geeks will loved getting the back story from and about their favorite stars. Nice book to dip in and out of when you're listening to some favorite songs.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By ensiform on July 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
This 430-page tome is a collection of brief anecdotes culled from interviews with over 200 music personalities, from Artie Shaw to David Lee Roth --- featuring huge luminaries such as Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Ben E. King, Buddy Rich, Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Jones... an impressive assemblage. However, I take issue with the authorial credit: in no sense is this a book "by" Joe Smith; his writing here consists of about eight pages in total. These are stories told to Joe Smith, which is how the credit ought to run. Why is he listed as the author? Basically, this is a vanity project: Smith was the CEO of Warner's, and who's the publisher of this book? Warner Books! What a coincidence! Sure, he made the interviews and edited them down into anecdotes, but... well, then, what did the editor, Mitchell Fink, do? Anyway, Smith's ego aside, this is an interesting enough collection to flip through. Its broad scope is, as noted, impressive, but this also works against the book, in that each interviewee's remarks are brief, three pages at the most. So unfortunately you get very little substance from each subject. As a whole, it's an adequate, skim-the-surface overview of pop music from the jazz era to the late '80s, and it gives a nice idea of how the business has changed over the decades, but --- and I say this in disappointment, not mockingly --- unfortunately the brief interviews fly by rapidly, and are ultimately forgettable.
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