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Kapusta Kristmas 

Thanks to the internet, now you can hear some treasures from the Kooper archives.

Soul man Barry White had no patience for poorly written ad copy.
  • Soul man Barry White had no patience for poorly written ad copy.
For several years, back in the '80s and '90s, rock-and-roll keyboard legend Al Kooper had a very cool Yuletide custom. Kooper was (and is) an avid collector of prank calls, celebrity bloopers, weird songs, hilarious answering-machine messages, and studio banter, and each December, he would press up some of the best on vinyl and send the albums to the lucky people on his X-mas list.

These were called Al Kooper's Kapusta Kristmas albums, and they now cost a fortune on eBay. Back in the day, because of their limited circulation and high appeal, most people heard them on second-, third, and fourth-generation cassettes, and most people just called them "Al Kooper tapes." The Kooper tapes not only revealed the darker side of stars like Barry White, Buddy Rich, Casey Kasem, and Orson Welles; they also created a few celebrities of their own, such as the whacked-out and quite possibly cracked-out music-business-wannabe proprietor of J&H Productions.

Not only are these tapes huge hits as tour-bus entertainment for rock and country stars, but comedy writers in Hollywood certainly had access to them. The running joke in The Simpsons, wherein Bart goads Moe into vitriol-spewing rage by getting him to ask for patrons like Al Coholic, was pretty much lifted verbatim from one of these albums. Orson Welles' ill-fated frozen peas commercial was similarly borrowed for an episode of Pinky and the Brain. And on In Living Color, David Allen Grier and Tommy Davidson's Funky Finger Productions seemed to owe a lot of its spirit to the aforementioned J&H Productions.

Hilarious, influential stuff. And now you can have a Kapusta Kristmas without forking over the $100 the albums are going for on eBay, or tracking down a bootleg tape and suffering the usually terrible audio quality: Almost all the best of the Kooper tapes have found their way online. We spent a good chunk of a recent week hunting most of them down, and here are some highlights:

Artist: Buddy Rich
Backstory: This is perhaps the most infamous of these outtakes -- at least in music circles. Rich was a helluva jazz drummer, but let's just say he seems to have been a graduate of the Bobby Knight School of Anger Management and a sideman's worst nightmare, as this surreptitiously recorded tour-bus tirade attests.
Excerpt: "What the fuck do you think is goin' on here? You had too many fuckin' days off, and you think this is a fuckin' game!? You think I'm the only one that's gonna work up there, while you motherfuckers sit out there and clam all over this fuckin' joint!? What do you think this is, anyhow? What kind of playing do you think this is? What kinda miscues do you call this? What fuckin' band do you think you're playin' on, motherfuckers?"
Linkage: http://www.cis.rit.edu/~ejipci/ buddy_rich.htm

Artist: Barry White
Backstory: The rotund loverman attempts to record a radio spot for a "bee-yoo-ti-ful weekend" at Paul Quinn College in Waco, Texas. White and his majestic baritone take umbrage with the copy he is asked to read.
Excerpt: "This asshole fucked these words up, man; I mean, he got words in here he don't even need!"
Linkage: http://www.campchaos.com/ show.php?iID=834

Artist: Casey Kasem
Backstory: The American Top 40 DJ and voice of Shaggy vehemently disagrees with the song chosen as a lead-in to his discussion on the tragic death of an Ohio dog named Snuggles. Negativland recycled snippets of this rage and interspersed them with "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" on their multiple-lawsuit-inspiring song "U2."
Excerpt: "I want somebody to use his fucking brain to not come out of a goddamn record that is . . . up-tempo, and I gotta talk about a fucking dog dying!"
Linkage: http://www.empty-handed.com/ archive/2004_01_11.html

Artist: Orson Welles
Backstory: Little is known about when this ad for frozen peas, beef burgers, and fish fingers was recorded, but rumor has it that it was in Canada in the late '60s. By that time in his life, Welles had fallen far from the Olympian heights of Citizen Kane and A Touch of Evil, and was forced to record tawdry radio commercials for frozen foods. Yet he remained utterly stentorian to the end, as this coldly savage attack on poorly written copy attests.
Excerpt: "That doesn't make any sense. Sorry. There's no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with 'in' and emphasize it. Get me a jury and show me how you can say, 'In July,' and I'll go down on you. That's just idiotic, if you'll forgive me for saying so. That's just stupid . . . 'In July'; I'd love to know how you emphasize 'In' in 'In July'. Impossible! Meaningless!"
Linkage: http://www.thefoodsection.com/ appetizers/2005/04/orson_welles_on.html

Artist: J&H Productions
Backstory: As nearly as we can tell, at some point a guy in Cincinnati just decided he wanted to get into the concert business, and not just as some sweaty stagehand either. Nope, he was just gonna hop right in at the Louis Messina level, so in a bold, visionary effort to transform his life, he sent this tape-recorded résumé/statement of intent to several bigwigs in the industry.
Excerpt: "I want the stars that's gonna be in the coliseums that's gonna make the people sway and rock and clap their hands to the beat and get up and dance in an area that will be big enough for them to do it in."
Linkage: What little info there is on this ambitious mystery man is here: http://www.timharrod.com/jhhome.html. Make sure you click part two of the link immediately after part one. Trust us.

More by John Nova Lomax

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