Tag Archives: Live At The Apollo

Rocks In The Attic #626: James Brown – ‘Get Up Offa That Thing ’ (1976)

RITA#626The collector in me breathes a heavy, internal sigh when I think about James Brown records. I’ve always liked the collecting aspect of music, almost as much as the tunes themselves. It started with Aerosmith, and I ingested everything greedily. Then I turned to AC/DC, same deal; then the Beatles. And on and on and on.

It’s too hard with James Brown though – he just has too many records. Wikipedia credits him with having sixty-three studio albums, fifteen live albums and forty-nine compilations (at the time of writing). Of course, there’s a lot of variability in there – a couple of diamonds for every half a dozen lumps of coal.

It’s always worth the effort mining his work though – this, his forty-sixth studio record, features one of his biggest hits, Get Up Offa That Thing / Release The Pressure. The song, released as a two-part single a couple of months before the album dropped, is a dancefloor smash and a worthy addition to the man credited on the sleeve as the Minister of New New Super Heavy Funk. He should add ‘doctor’ to his list of titles, given his medical advice in the song – ‘Get up offa that thing and dance till you feel better!’

RITA#626aI’d like to collect all sixty-three studio records but I think it might be too difficult, particularly considering my location in the world. I’m sure that I’d have a better chance if I was within driving distance of record shops in the Bronx, or other inner-city American areas. There’s always Discogs though, and that helped me greatly when I was collecting all of the James Bond soundtracks.

Perhaps I have another James-related quest in me. Five down, fifty-eight to go…

Hit: Get Up Offa That Thing / Release The Pressure

Hidden Gem: I Refuse To Lose

Rocks In The Attic #401: James Brown And His Famous Flames – ‘Please Please Please’ (1959)

RITA#401As far as debut records go, this has to be one of the most unlike the same artist’s future output. Compared to the deep funk of the late ‘60s into the ‘70s, this sounds very tame. But compared to contemporary records, it sounds anything but.

The instrumentation on this record doesn’t sound a million miles from the band at the dance scene in Back To The Future – the basic line-up of guitar, upright bass, drums and piano, augmented by the occasional blast of saxophone. The choice of material is also very similar – Night Train, heard in the film as George McFly dances by himself, was recorded by Brown’s band in 1961, later appearing on the seminal Live At The Apollo album.

The sawdust is already in Brown’s voice, as is the raw, burning sound of integrity like he’s singing about the end of the world. He’s just not singing about hot pants yet. If he had at this point in his career, he would have been viewed in retrospect as some weird Nostradamus figure – hot pants hadn’t been invented yet. And young ladies were far from being objectified as sex machines.

Hit: Please, Please, Please

Hidden Gem: Chonnie-On-Chon

Rocks In The Attic #213: James Brown – ‘Live At The Apollo’ (1963)

RITA#213Two hundred and thirteen blog posts in, and I haven’t covered any James Brown! Sacrilege!

In the summer of 2004, I went to see James Brown at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall with Moo. The day before I had narrowly missed seeing James play at Glastonbury (a freak thunderstorm blocked my path to the Pyramid Stage where he was playing that afternoon).

Our seats at the James Brown show was in the front row, to the side of the stage, but in the front row all the same. Seeing James play live is one of my greatest achievements, and not many people can say they’ve seen him from the comfort of the first row.

I remember the ushers at The Bridgewater Hall being a little too heavy-handed in their health and safety responsibilities. The very animated gay man sat on the other side of the aisle from us, wasn’t allowed to dance in the aisle, just a step away from his seat. Every time he would wander out, he’d get ushered back into his seat.

Aside from this type of petty rule policing, the show was fantastic. Emcee Danny Ray introduced James on to the stage as he had been doing for the previous thirty years. James wasn’t as energetic as he was in his heyday, but he was far more lively than any other 71-year old I’ve seen. A couple of hot dancers and a crack-hot band filled the stage.

Throughout the show, a really old white guy in the front row of the theatre had been dancing crazily, like a zombie. At one point, James motioned to his ‘man’ (a large bodyguard type who stood close to him all night), and pointed to the old man. James’ ‘man’ went down from the stage and brought the old guy back up with him, so he could dance like a crazy zombie on stage with James. Fantastic.

I had heard about James’ numerous issues prior to seeing him perform. Moo told me that a friend of his had seen James play at his previous Manchester gig, and he had refused to come out on stage, making the support band play over and over until he was ready.

I didn’t see any of that. He was professional to the very end. All I saw was one of the greats. Just a very happy memory.

Live At The Apollo is always bandied around as one of the greatest live albums. It has a lot of charm, and it has a few problems (like how they cut a song in two between side one and side two of the record), but at the end of the day it’s still not really James Brown to me. This record captures him in his first wave of chart success, with one foot firmly placed in gospel, and a couple of years before he single-handedly invented funk with Out Of Sight and Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag. To hear a similar show to the one I saw in Manchester that time, it’d have to be Revolution Of The Mind: Live At The Apollo, Vol. III.

Hit: Please, Please, Please

Hidden Gem: Think