James Brown – James Brown Live at the Apollo, 1962: #414 of best 1,000 albums ever!

James Brown - James Brown Live at the Apollo 1962

So why is James Brown Live at the Apollo, 1962 on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

This live album, recorded with “His Famous Flames,” is somewhat unusual in terms of structure, but then again, James Brown is an artist (and, let’s face it, man) who never felt particularly constrained by rules and conventions, right?

James Brown Live at the Apollo, 1962 includes 11 tracks that run just over half an hour. The opening track is an introduction by Fats Gonder, followed by warm up music by the band, and several other tracks are literally 12 seconds long and labeled as “Instrumental #1,” “Instrumental #2,” etc.

Throw away tracks, in other words, right? Wrong. These moments on the album are absolutely sizzling, with some of the wildest and hottest horn music you’ll ever hear.

Five songs are relatively short in duration, ranging from two to three and a half minutes. These include a sensational, crazy upbeat version of “Think,” and a beautiful, soulful take on “Try Me.”

There are only two longer tracks on James Brown Live at the Apollo, 1962. Of these, I am partial to the medley that strings together “Please Please Please,” “You’ve Got The Power,” and “I Found Someone.”

But I’m most attracted to the upbeat numbers, and the album closes on a really fun and bouncing organ take on “Night Train.”  

Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to James Brown Live at the Apollo, 1962

As I often do when I begin writing a best 1,000 albums ever entry, I start by ruminating about when I first encountered the album or artist/band, or the time in my life when that music became important to me.

With James Brown, that process led to a really fun epiphany, which is that he enjoyed a real resurgence in terms of exposure of his music in pop culture during the mid-1980s, right when I was at an age when I was able to start making connections to such things. If nothing else, it locked in for me at a tender young age that James Brown is a musical icon.

And for my money, James Brown’s massive catalog of music remains wildly exciting and not quite like any other musician on the planet.

It also helped illuminate how much power pop culture has to teach us about art, pop culture, and the world. I often take it for granted how much I’ve learned and interpreted and synthesized by way of pop cultural immersion, but the Case of Study of Mr. James Brown really helped to hit the point hard.

Now, let’s take a little trip back to 1985, shall we? I was a kid – very low double digits, shall we say – and there was nothing bigger in my pop cultural life than Rocky IV. This is the Ivan Drago one, the Rocky vs. the Soviets one, the “I must break you” one.

And it introduced a young me to the hardest working man in show biz. “Living in America” was as big, loud, funky, and in all ways deeply American as Rocky and Rocky IV. James Brown’s part in the movie was not one to be fast forwarded through upon umpteen VHS re-watches is what I’m saying here.

We’re still in 1985, okay? A little movie came out that year called Just One of the Guys. This movie aired on cable approximately 750,000 times over the years on premium and basic cable. I have seen it many times, and it’s a fairly good teen comedy*.

* And yes, it has that One Part. If you know, you know.

While we don’t hear James Brown’s music in the movie, we hear a lot about him and his music. The classic nerdy, shy guy who gets a makeover (and finds The Cool Guy Magic Was Within Him All Along) is a massive James Brown fan, and lets us know – more than once, if memory serves – that James Brown is the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business, the Godfather of Soul, Mr. Dynamite, and so on.

It left a real impression.

Onward to 1987. Three massive movies featured James Brown’s music: Good Morning, Vietnam and White Men Can’t Jump both featured “I Got You (I Feel Good)” while Summer School had the classic, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag.”

I don’t think it’s overexaggerating to state that these five movies, released over 1985-1987, played a huge role in expanding James Brown’s reach while introducing him to a new generation.

Certainly worked for yours truly.

Some stats & info about James Brown Live at the Apollo, 1962

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? R&B, Soul Music, Live Albums
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #65
  • All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
  • When was James Brown Live at the Apollo, 1962 released? 1963
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #414 out of 1,000

James Brown Live at the Apollo, 1962 on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from James Brown Live at the Apollo, 1962 that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

I’m leaving you darling and I won’t be back. I found something better somewhere down the track.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.