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Al Kooper

Wednesday, October 6, at the Beachland Ballroom.


Panic can make for great moments. Just as Chuck Berry first sported his famous duck-walk in hope of concealing his dreadfully wrinkled suit at one of many shows that day, rock icon Al Kooper spun gold from a recording session freakout. Prepared to play guitar behind Bob Dylan, Kooper heard session partner Mike Bloomfield warming up. Bloomer's monster skills gave Kooper a case of wet-ass. Making it over to the vacant organ chair, Kooper ended up laying out some of the most distinctive licks in rock history. His work on "Like a Rolling Stone" stands alongside moments like the fuzz-guitar intro to the Stones' "Satisfaction" as one of the clarion calls of the '60s rock revolution.

It wasn't the first or last time Kooper made his mark on pop music. A member of the Royal Teens of "(Who Wears) Short Shorts" fame in the late '50s, Kooper co-wrote Gary Lewis and the Playboys' 1965 chart-topper "This Diamond Ring." That year he joined what would be one of the burgeoning rock underground's more influential outfits, the Blues Project. Kooper's "Flute Thing" from this period provided one of many samples of his output later to show up in the hip-hop universe, in this case courtesy of the Beastie Boys. When the Project hit critical personnel mass, Kooper pulled the big horn band format from soul music and transplanted it into pop ground, debuting Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1968. His departure after the excellent initial release, Child Is Father to the Man, doomed that band to technically astute pop schlockdom and set Kooper on a career track as a producer, celebrity session man, and creator of idiosyncratic solo works, excerpts of which can be found on the 2001 anthology Rare & Well Done.

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