Music mogul donates audio interviews with icons

Mick Jagger, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan,
Mick Jagger, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan,
CBS/Getty Images

(CBS News) When celebrities make it big, they have the luxury of saying "no" to interviews. However, even if you're a big rock star, when the boss calls, you say "yes."

In this case, the boss was Joe Smith, former president of Capitol Records. Smith spoke on tape with many of the biggest names in music. The interviews are being heard now for the first time.

Smith spent only a few years in the mid-'80s recording his intimate interviews, but their content covers a half century of history, and offers fresh sound from some very familiar faces.

Paul McCartney can be heard in one of Smith's recordings saying, "Boy, did we come a long way in 10 years. We literally came from the backstreets of Liverpool to the front streets of America."

In that candid recording from the mid-'80s, McCartney casually attributes part of the Beatles' success to their experimentation with drugs. "'Sgt. Pepper' owes a lot to drugs - to pot and stuff," McCartney said. "It certainly made our minds go, 'Yeah, we can do that.'"

Fellow Beatles star George Harrison was asked how hard it is to be George Harrison. He replied, "Well, right now, it's getting easier all the time."

(Below watch Billboard's Joe Levy discuss the donation.)

From 1985 to 1988, Smith recorded more than 238 hours of these one-on-one sessions. Smith said, "The idea was to put on tape the voices and the feelings of some of the greatest musicians and music figures over the years, as many as I could get to."

From Ella Fitzgerald and Mick Jagger to Barbra Streisand, Smith's guest-list reads like a who's who of popular music. He donated the entire collection to the Library of Congress, where each one will be digitized for public listening and learning.

The recordings offer some golden moments with music legends - like when blues legend Bo Diddley accuses The King of ripping him off. "Elvis Presley copied me and Jackie Wilson," he said. "He combined the two acts together. I take my hat off to him. The name of the game was make money, and that's what he did."

Or when Bob Dylan dismisses the decade that, for many, defines him: "I can't imagine people making such a big fuss over the '60s, unless things are so dull now that they just have to think of some time or times when things were better."

Dylan also said, "Little Richard, he was actually the one who taught me."

Smith interviewed Little Richard about the first time he ever heard his greatest hit. He recalled, "I didn't even know that I had hit after I had hit. One night I was lying in the bed, and I heard 'Tutti Frutti.' I woke up everybody, because there wasn't no telephones, so I had to get out of the bed. That's probably why I was screaming so loudly. I felt an electric charge go over my body."

These recordings might seem priceless to fans, but for Smith, they were just another day's work. He's just starting to realize how important his collection is. He said, "I've never thought about it that way."