Apollo Saturday Night was the first record I bought after moving to New York in the early 80s. I was on a Coasters kick after catching their act twice within a two week period. The first killer show was Richard Nader's Garden Party reunion in the fall of '81. The bill was Ricky Nelson, Chuck Berry, The Coasters, Lesley Gore, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Bo Diddley and Bobby Vee. This bill was as incredible as it sounds--each act better than the next. Even Bobby Vee didn't suck (Volare, baby!). Chuck was a spry 55 and he duckwalked, played piano and brought down the rafters. Little Anthony and the Imperials had matching moves and suits and Bo Diddley and Lesley Gore were stellar as well. Headliner Ricky Nelson was really good but I booed him because that's what I thought you were supposed to do when you saw him at the Garden. (I had also booed him a few weeks earlier at the Bridgeport Jai-Alai so this theory might not hold water.) I regret booing him both times especially since now I'm a big Ricky Nelson fan but hopefully I'll be able to explain things to Ozzy Nelson while he's kicking my ass down in hell.
The Coasters were pretty much the original line-up (or real close) so it was a total gas seeing my idols in person. Two weeks later they played a gig at the long defunct RT Fireflys down on Bleecker and Broadway. (It later turned into a crummy metal/grunge club in the 90s. Not sure which cellular phone store currently occupies this space.) The Coasters killed a small crowd of maybe 15 people. They did two sets with two completely different costume changes and hung out and chatted at the bar throughout the night. When I moved to my first shoebox-sized apartment on Thompson Street I bought this record at an overpriced record store in the West Village. At this point I had sold off every single (hippie) record for one dollar each so there was a point where Apollo Saturday Night was the only record that I owned. OK, that and a quad copy of Dark Side of the Moon which I held onto thinking that it would be worth something one day but as of 2009 that day still hasn't come.
The Coasters spent a lot of time on the visuals and gags in their stage act so unfortunately their brand of live insanity doesn't translate well on record. The crowd goes apeshit so you'll have to take their word for it. Much cooler is hearing a young Wilson Pickett singing lead for The Falcons or Otis Redding soiling a roomful of panties on what was his first trip to the Apollo. Listen closely for a swooning gal heckling him to "sing it pretty" while her friend answers Otis' musical question "where can my baby be?" by blurting out "right here!" This is a Japanese import and the copious and confused liner notes refer to the evening's emcee as "Ken Colburn" when in fact it's none other than Mr. Mashed Potato himself King Coleman holding down the fort. The Tom Dowd recording is a little dry considering that James Brown already mastered live recording over a year earlier at the same venue (with better results), but still, it's a swingin' document and until the unedited tapes or a time machine surface this will have to do. So download this whole mess, dim the lights and pop open a cheap beer because ladies and gentlemen, it is Star Time at the Apollo.
Recorded live at the Apollo Theatre in New York Saturday November 16, 1963
1. The Falcons - I Found A Love
2. The Falcons - Alabama Bound
3. Otis Redding - Pain In My Heart
4. Otis Redding - These Arms of Mine
5. Doris Troy - Misty
6. Doris Troy - Say Yeah
7. Rufus Thomas - Rockin' Chair
8. Rufus Thomas - Walking the Dog
9. The Coasters - T'ain't Nothin' To Me
10. The Coasters - Speedo's Back In Town
11. Ben E. King - Groovin'
12. Ben E. King - Don't Play That Song
13. Ben E. King - Stand By Me
14. Finale - What'd I Say