Friday, August 10, 2012

Al Kooper ... on Al Kooper

After talking at length about the recording sessions that Al Kooper produced for Rick Nelson in the late '70's, I wanted to spend some time talking about Al Kooper, too! 

What follows is the bulk of that conversation where ... as you'll see ... we venture all over the musical map! You're not going to meet a more knowledgeable and entertaining guy ... so this was a really fun conversation to have!

KENT KOTAL / Forgotten Hits: Good Morning.
AL KOOPER: Good Morning. Actually, I'm having a really tough morning ... 

kk: Why's that?
AK: Duck Dunn died. Plus he died the way that I don't want to die ... in a hotel room in Tokyo ... that's where I don't want to die ... in a hotel room.

kk: I saw that ... that guy's been on EVERYTHING!  
AK: He played on the last album I did. I wrote a tribute song to Stax called "Staxability" and Duck and Cropper played on it. 

kk: Oh wow ... did you know those guys before that or no?
AK: Oh yeah, sure ... I've known them for years ... when I lived in Nashville, I really became very good friends with Cropper ... and we played together a lot. We played "Green Onions" at the Ryman once.  

kk: I talk with Felix Cavaliere from The Rascals through Forgotten Hits from time to time and he and Cropper did an album together a couple of years ago that we helped to promote.  
AK: Yeah, yeah ... I think actually they did two albums together.  

kk: Oh, I didn't know they did two ... then I have the first one that they did ... Felix actually sent me a copy of the album ... and it's good stuff ... but nobody played it. Radio just doesn't play anything new by these classic artists. You know I told you I went to that concert Friday Night to see The Doobie Brothers and they did three new songs from an album they put out about a year and a half ago and nobody knew any of this music because radio today simply won't play it. Nobody has ever heard these songs on the radio nor will you EVER hear these songs on the radio because of this tunnel-vision mentality when it comes to programming today.  
AK: There is no radio ... there is no radio today. 

kk: It's insane!  
AK: Well that's one of the reasons I write my column. 

kk: I just discovered your "New Music For Old People" blog a few weeks ago ... a GREAT way to introduce old fuddy-duddys like us to some great new music that's still being made out there ... because radio certainly isn't going to play it! And you hit on two really good ones this past week for me ... I was actually going to feature that a cappella version of "Good Vibrations" by Wilson Phillips a couple of weeks ago in tandem with The Beach Boys' "Stack Of Tracks" version ... but they do some AMAZING things with their voices on this track and all the background sounds and vocals.  
AK: Oh yeah!

kk: I mean they obviously have singing talent ... but this whole arrangement is just incredible.  
AK: I wonder who the brains behind that was. 

kk: You know, I can probably answer that because it's written on the inside liner notes on the cd ... and she thanked whoever it was for coming up with the concept of doing the whole song a cappella. Hang on here a second ... it was put together by Carnie Wilson's husband, Rob Bonfiglio, who also produced the whole album. The a cappella thing was all his idea. 
AK: Oh, I don't get liner notes ...

kk: Well you know it's funny, because I said "I'm not going to buy this cd ... these songs do not need to be redone ... there's nothing wrong with the original versions and the way they were done the first time ... nobody's going to improve on them anyway" ... but then I listened to a couple of things and I finally caved because I'm such a fan of The Beach Boys and The Mamas and the Papas ... and I have to admit that it's actually pretty good. In fact, after about three plays, I couldn't take it out of the cd player ... I mean, it's that good. It's very well done. 
(EDITOR'S NOTE:  The album ... called "Dedicated" features Wilson Phillips redoing several of the songs originally recorded by their parents, The Beach Boys and The Mamas and the Papas)
AK: Well, I don't know about the rest of it because I'm not all that interested in the rest of the songs ... but what's interesting about that is that it's totally a cappella ... and that's like the most difficult song you can pick to do a cappella ... and they just did a magnificent job.  

kk:  Especially with all that stuff going on in the background! The way they used their voices to create the background ... pretty incredible. And then you also had "Good Thing" up there this week by Paul Revere and the Raiders ... and that's just a GREAT song. I've talked to Paul Revere a number of times and in his mind, the five greatest notes in rock and roll are the opening notes to "Good Thing".  
AK: LOL ... 

kk: So it was good to see that one up there, too. You've had some really good stuff up there. And it's interesting, too, because a lot of that music I've never heard before ...I mean you must spend a LOT of time just listening to new music ... and I just don't have that luxury.  
AK: Well, yeah, I do ... I do. 

kk: And really, unless something like this comes along to kind of expose you to some of this new stuff, where are you ever going to hear it? I think it's a GREAT concept ... and I had no idea that you'd been doing this for over a year already. 
AK: Yeah ... and there's actually an url that I can send you that has a link to every column that I've ever done on it. And just so you know, whenever you don't have something to do ... and you wanna hear new music ... you can just click on this and listen ... and that's good to do! 
kk: Exactly! 
EDITOR'S NOTE: Here is the link to Al's weekly column ... "New Music For Old People".  The concept is that if you grew up liking the sound of the music of the '60's, you may be surprised to hear that there is some great new music being made very much in the same vein today ... because, quite honestly, radio isn't going to introduce you to it.  New music typically goes up on Thursday Night or Friday Morning ... and you're going to discover some things here that you never even knew existed ... and what's nice is that Al mixes in some of those classic tracks, too.
And please let him know that Forgotten Hits sent you!  Al is running a similar link on his site so that his regular readers can check out this special FH interview.  Drop him a line at and ask him to add you to his subscribers' list ... and let him know how much you enjoyed our piece.

kk: Tell us a little bit about this new project. 
AK:  Well, it all started with iTunes and their listing of all the new releases every Tuesday.  I mean when I discovered it ... which was the end of 2003 ... I said, "This is unbelievable" ... I have to put time in to go thru everything. But I discovered a lot of music that I really loved ... and at first I thought, why am I hearing this now? Why am I hearing all these great bands now ... what does the time have to do with it? And then I realized that it was that all of these artists had an arena to perform in now ... which was iTunes. And you couldn't hear them before because if they weren't played on the radio ... and they AREN'T ... then you can't hear it. And now there's a place for them to play ... and I thought "This is GENIUS!"
kk: Well, how do you do that exactly? Is this kind of a random search that you do, trying to find new music?
AK: No, no ... and you know, it's funny you say this because two weeks ago they took it off ... how I did it. They had a list ... it was called "Just added" ... and what it really was was a list of all the new releases for that week and they were alphabetical ... and it was every genre, all mixed in ... and now it's gone ... and I don't know what the fuck I'm gonna do! (lol) The last time that happened, I wrote an angry letter to Bob Lefsetz and he didn't publish it ... he sent it right to Steve Jobs. I didn't know he was going to do that ... you know, I wouldn't have been so angry if I knew it was going right to Steve Jobs ... and Steve Jobs wrote me back and said, "Don't be such a hot head ... it's probably a mistake or something." and he wrote me another one that said "It was an error ... and it'll be back up next week." And I kept those emails from Steve Jobs. And then I wrote a note to his replacement and it actually came back to me saying it was undeliverable. I mean, I'm not the only guy to use that list ... I'm sure a lot of journalists use it ... and I don't understand why they took it down.
kk: And honestly, where else are you going to hear new music today? You're just not going to hear it.
AK: Yeah, but here they had it cataloged for you ... as "new releases".

kk: It almost sounds like an "audio Ice Magazine" ... that's what this is. You know I miss "Ice Magazine" more than ANY other publication ...
AK: Oh yeah, Ice Magazine was GREAT! I mean, I was addicted to that!

kk: I know ... and I was, too ... I mean I'd make up my list MONTHS in advance and then carry it around with me so that I always knew which new releases I was going to pick up on Tuesday and when they were going to be available .. .because I didn't want to miss anything.
AK: Yeah, that guy was a nice guy, too ... I can't remember his name. ... the editor of Ice, I mean.
kk: Yeah, it was invaluable to me.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The editor of Ice Magazine was a guy named Pete Howard ... and it was an INCREDIBLE publication that dealt on ALL of the new releases coming out on all the labels ... often we got in-depth previews and reviews ... and, for the longest time (they published from 1987 - 2006 ... God, has it REALLY been gone that long already?!?!?), they refused to accept any advertisements to keep any implication of any bias off the table. A GREAT, invaluable publication. Pete ... if you happen to see this, we miss ya!!!)

More Al Kooper tomorrow EXCLUSIVELY in Forgotten Hits!