1001 Albums: Live at the Apollo

# 40



Artist: James Brown

Album: Live at the Apollo

Year: 1963

Length: 31:31

Genre: Soul/Live



“You’ve got to live for yourself
Yourself and nobody else
You’ve got to live for yourself
Yourself and nobody else”

Remember in the last post when I said I’d be able to crank out a ton of these in a short amount of time thanks to the lengthy trip to Toronto? I didn’t lie but right after that post I had things ocur that basically prevented me from being able to do it. It didn’t help that it was 3:30 in the morning and I was tired as all hell, but without knowing I would soon get incredibly emotionally drained.

Have you ever had a situation where you made a big mistake? It wasn’t purposeful, it was a very honest mistake on your part that anyone could make, but it’s still a mistake nonetheless? The kind of mistake that you can’t really fix instantly and that sits with you and eats you up inside? Yeah, I had one of those. I had made an honest mistake on my part and only realised it at 3:30 am when we stopped at a service station, something related to my work. I won’t go into details of what happened because it’s honestly none of your business, but know that I spent the rest of the car ride, most of Friday and this morning having it eat away inside of me.

I wanted to relax this weekend, get away from the stress and toxicity I was feeling in Toronto and of course something had to happen to make sure I didn’t. What makes it worse is that I have co-workers who like to hold your mistakes against you to really make you feel like shit. They get a sense of superiority over you from doing that and love to make themselves out as kings and saviours of the work force. I know they’re keeping that in as a way to throw back in my face and I will have none of it. But doesn’t change the fact that it makes me feel like ten tons of shit. I already felt like ten tons of shit the moment I realised I made the mistake because I’m a decent person who knows what’s wrong and right and understands the consequences that occur from certain actions and knows the error he has made. Some people don’t realise that others know this and like to make you feel worse for something you already feel shitty about… I’m bracing myself for that. It will happen, guaranteed.

But for now, I’m trying my best to enjoy my weekend and get it off my mind. They found a quick solution and I already talked with the boss, so everything is cleared of my honest to god mistake that got fixed and I honestly should have nothing to worry about (but I’m filled with bad anxiety that doesn’t allow me to relax and chill… so there’s that). So, best way for me to do that is distract myself and there’s no better way to do that than listening to music.

Music is my escape. Every time I get really anxious or down I put on some tunes. It never fails to bring up my mood and make me feel a hundred times better. Music is important to me, it’s very therapeutic and if anyone ever gets in between me and my music listening (especially when I’m doing it to feel better) you better believe I won’t be happy with you.

So, here I was, I made the decision to stop wallowing in my own fear and continue on with the challenge. (I was also writing something else at the same time, but that’s not important). What I got was… a decent album. Not what I was hoping would pump me up and make me feel better, but did enough to keep my mind off things.

Right off the bat, it was another Live album, a little too soon coming off the amazing Sam Cooke one, there was no way it could compare. I shouldn’t compare the two, but it’s more the phenomenon of a good album following an amazing one, making it feel not as great. The same phenomenon happened with Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, which followed immediately after Pulp Fiction. Jackie Brown suffered the fate of being a disappointment before it was even made just due to the impact Pulp Fiction had one the movie-going audience. That’s what I felt here.

I’m going to try my best to set that part of my thinking to the side and look at the album as it’s own thing, but it’ll be really hard. In terms of performance, James Brown doesn’t do anything really that exciting, he’s exactly what you’d expect when thinking of James Brown. He’s more of a visual performer, with his dance moves and swinging legs and hips, but it doesn’t translate that well to purely just audio. Rather than performing with high energy and spirits, he performs with an incredibly cool attitude, which gives off a different kind of performance.

You see, James Brown doesn’t need to fire up and rile up the crowd and get them heated tot he point of ecstasy. No, no, the audience walks in already feeling that way and you can tell just based on how all the women in the audience lose their minds when he starts singing Try Me. He hasn’t done anything except start singing and they they shriek and holler as if all their panties suddenly got soaked. Is it safe to say he was a bit like the Black Elvis Presley? Cool, sexy and had a funky hairstyle? I’d say it’s a safe assumption to make. He goes into his shows knowing the audience will love it from the start, so he doesn’t need to make that extra effort to pump them up (OK maybe a little for the sake of good entertainment).

And that’s really what this album is, enjoyable. It doesn’t do anything out of ordinary or more, it’s exactly what it needed to be for a James Brown live album. You go in expecting James Brown to do his James Brown thing and he delivers. Even the label felt that way, feeling it wouldn’t be a good idea to release a live album of old material that people already know and have heard a bunch of times. It seem that’s exactly what they needed to do because the album sold like crazy. It was selling faster than they could print it. The live album of old material is exactly what the people wanted, the songs they knew and loved that they could enjoy together, compiled on one album.

That’s really the reason why this album is on the list. The album itself is pretty straight-forward and is enjoyable as a whole. If you’re not really a James Brown fan, you can put this on and enjoy it, but it won’t really do much to persuade you into becoming a fan (it didn’t for me at least). But what it did was prove the star-power James Brown had. He wasn’t just a soul singer, he was a powerhouse of soul singing and record selling. He was able to get the crowd going on star-power alone and when the label doubted him he proved the people were there to back him up. He was loved no doubt about it and he knew that and had confidence in his fans that they would be there to prove the label wrong. It was so big that disc jockeys were actually playing the album in full on their stations, which is one hell of an achievement in terms of albums. Heck, it was so big that he would go on to record other Live at the Apollo albums just because of the success of this one.

I’m actually liking the discovery of albums that are on this list due to their historical importance. It’s fun actually researching about the time they came out to understand their context and why they were such a big deal, especially those that don’t really hold up today. It’s satisfying my curiosity and my semi-love of history and I honestly find it really fascinating and interesting. If I leave with one thing form doing this challenge it’ll be all the music history I am learning. Expanding the mind of ¬†musical knowledge that I can drop on unsuspecting victims (in a nice and completely non-pretentious way that looks like I’m trying to prove something). And even if no one wants to listen, I’m happy having the knowledge for myself for my own personal satisfaction.

Didn’t expect myself to get to that, but that’s the joy of writing… you never know where it will take you. Especially if you’re a writer like me who starts with an idea of what he’s going to say and kind of goes with the flow, never knowing where I will end once I’ve started. It’s quite exciting, to be honest.

Song of Choice: Night Train




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