James Brown Records Live at the Apollo: Oct. 24, 1962

On October 24, 1961, James Brown gave an amazing performance for his final night of a run at the Apollo.  The show was recorded and would be released as an album in 1963 called, Live at the Apollo.

Although James had attained a level of stardom in the R&B genre due to his live shows, he had not yet had mainstream recording success.  That all changed with Live at the Apollo, which became his first major breakthrough album.

Brown had a lot riding on the recording.  Syd Nathan, the head of Brown’s label, King Records, refused to record the show, so Brown financed the recording himself.  Even his band members in The Famous Flames felt the extra pressure that night.

Live at the Apollo has long been one of my favorite live albums. Listening to the recording, you can feel the energy in the room. My favorite track is “Try Me,” which James had originally released as a single in October 1958. Below is his performance at the Apollo.

After the release of Live at the Apollo in May 1963, the album sold more than a million copies and spent 66 weeks on Billboard’s album chart.  Brown made the right bet on what became a hit album.  It boosted his crossover appeal for the rest of his career.

Pitchfork notes the importance of the crossover, with a symbolic transformation of R&B into Soul, marking “the dawn of a decade when sharing experiences and points of view across an entire culture meant more than just crossover success.”  In other words, the album “was the true beginning of the 60s.”

Rolling Stone ranks Live at the Apollo as the 25th greatest album of all time.  Not bad for a record that the record company did not want to record.

What is your favorite song on Live at the Apollo? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    The Groundbreaking Rock and Roll Movie, “The T.A.M.I. Show”

    On December 31, 1964, American International Pictures released The T.A.M.I. Show in theaters as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” This early rock concert film gave rock and roll fans a snapshot of some of the biggest bands of the time and was groundbreaking.

    “T.A.M.I.” stands for “Teenage Awards Music International,” although some promotional materials also used “Teen Age Music International.” But the important part of The T.A.M.I. Show is the music, filmed from the standpoint of the audience.  The technique made viewers feel like they were at the show recorded at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on October 28 and 29, 1964.

    Below is the trailer for the film.

    The general consensus is that James Brown gives his greatest filmed performance here, an outstanding display of passion and performing experience that made the Rolling Stones regret they had to follow him. But there are other highlights throughout the concert, including the 18-year-old Lesley Gore and a surprisingly loose performance by The Beach Boys.

    Although producer Bill Sargent lost the rights to the film and it disappeared for decades, it is now available for your viewing on DVD (with extras) and with various performances on YouTube.  Below, James Brown performs “Please, Please, Please.”

    Performers include Jan and Dean (over the credits), Chuck Berry, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Lesley Gore, The Beach Boys, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, The Supremes, The Barbarians, James Brown and The Famous Flames, and The Rolling Stones.

    Artists are still making great music today, but it is hard to imagine people agreeing on so many great performers in one film now. So, travel back to another time, and check out the Rolling Stones closing the show, joined by others on the stage.

    Some trivia tidbits: The opening credits list The Blossoms with the performers, but they are not introduced when they appear as the backing singers for Marvin Gaye (or when later they appear to encourage James Brown to return to the stage). The Blossoms were used to not getting credit, having recorded the 1962 hit “He’s a Rebel” without credit.

    Also, future actress Teri Garr and future recording star Toni Basil appear as background dancers in the film, and singer Glen Campbell and musician Leon Russell played in the show’s backing band, The Wrecking Crew. Reportedly, filmmaker John Landis and future Partridge Family star David Cassidy, who were seventh grade classmates at the time, were in the audience for the show.

    What are your favorite parts of The T.A.M.I. Show? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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