Rock & Roll Summer Reading

Rock & Roll Summer Reading

Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'n' Roll Survivor

by Al Kooper
Watson-Guptill Publications, 352 pp., $19.95 (paper)

Twice republished – the original hit in 1977 as Backstage Passes: Rock & Roll Life in the Sixties and again in 1998 with its current title – Al Kooper's tell-all memoir is a fitting display of humor and knowledge from a fair-to-middlin' guitar player famous for stumbling his way through Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited sessions on a Hammond B-3 organ. Yes, that's him an eighth note behind on the chord changes of "Like a Rolling Stone," and later laying down the French horn intro to the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Over a 45-year period, the gangly, shaggy-haired kid from New York somehow found himself in the thick of rock & roll's headlines, forming (and getting summarily booted out of) Blood, Sweat & Tears, introducing Joni Mitchell to Judy Collins, and producing the first three Skynyrd albums. He even had a stint in Austin. All the while, Kooper stays consistently hilarious and perfectly self-deprecating about the strokes of luck he was repeatedly handed, all the women and drugs (insomnia kept the coke at bay), and the turbulent lifestyle tied to those with a full-on devotion to rock & roll. Beware of wayward puns.

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