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Monday, November 2, 2009

Apollo Saturday Night

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


Funky Old Man said...

Wow, the Falcons are fantastic!

Debbie D said...

This is amazing! King Coleman!!

Anonymous said...

Ok. I have a number of things to add.

1st and formost, I'm dead drunk so I don't know what the hell I'm talkin' 'bout. But you know, the wine goes in and the truth comes out.

2nd. I was at both of the shows Dave mentions here. The Coasters rocked the garden, but I never saw a band before or since OWN A CLUB AND A SMALL CROWD the way they owned that shitty little RT FIREFLY'S... They came on and KILLED. You know I've watched a million bands since, and nobody ever put as much into it as those guys did that night. PERIOD.

3rd. As far as the show at the garden goes. I think the Shirelles played as well. Aside from that it was one act topping the last until Bo Diddley came on. The backing band set up a Bo Beat and out walks Bo to the edge of the stage and for about five minutes he stands there and stares down the entire crowd at the Garden. Doesn't play a note. Just stands there. When it got to the point that the audience couldn't take know more, Bo kicks it into high gear and pours out a set of molten lava. Hit after hit after hit after hit. The band is chuggin' along and every time you think it can't get any more intense, it kicks up another ten notches. Finally the band sounds like a freight train and Bo is KICKIN' IT! Doin' splits, Karate' all kinds of shit . Just tearin' the muthafuckin' place down. Everybody in the place is goin' nuts, and you don't think that anybody could possibly follow THAT SHIT! The whole joint is screamin' their fuckin' heads off when he leaves the stage. Even that Fat Fuck Richard Nader seems to have actually come alive. Now I love Chuck Berry, but he was up next and I was thinkin' "there is no way in hell anybody could follow that". Sure enough, the lights come down and Chuck's introduced, and he proceeds to spend about ten minutes trying to tune his guitar, and the band (the same one that has backed all of the acts so far) has lost all of the steam that it had when Bo was on. It just goes on forever, the band vampin' a 12 bar blues, and Chuck lookin' confused and tryin' to find a pitch on his guitar. This is pre captains hat. He's wearin' bell bottoms and a flower shirt. Ok. I'm thinkin' Maybe he's drunk. Maybe he just gave up. After all, he's gonna get paid and what the hell difference would it make. I'm resigned to seeing him suck. It sinks in, and right when I'm givin' up, I realize he's in tune and playing along. They stop the vamp and He starts playing CHUCK BERRY. And for the next half an hour, He took everyone in that place for a ride. It was without exception the best show I have ever seen anyone ever put on. Even the cops were dancin.
His attitude toward the crowd was so warm. He was in the moment, asking for requests and playing them without a thought. "Carol, you got it." Man, I've seen hundreds, probably thousands of shows since, some of my favorite bands, NOBODY HAS EVER COME WITHIN MILES.

4th. New York was so much fun for me back then. I remember that shitty little apartment. I remember listening to the Sun Sessions there. And Muddy Waters. I'd come up from school and stay up all weekend going to places who's names I can't remember, seeing bands, drinking. It was a fun time.

LAH-DEE- Fuckin-DAH..

Spazz said...

Andy what has you had? You is DRUUUUUNK!

I forgot how great Bo was so maybe I'm drunk. Don't think it was The Shirelles. Saw them around that time at the Westchester County Center with the Fake Drifters and the Belmonts and it was a total mediocre vibe. Got snubbed by Don K. Reed and I'm still pissed.

Anonymous said...

It's not Wilson Pickett doing leads
for the Falcons - he'd left the group about 18 months before the
"Apollo" album was recorded. This
version of the Falcons was led
by Carlis "Sonny" Munro whose group
,the Fabulous Playboys were drafted
in by the Falcons' manager, Robert
West, to be the "new" Falcons when
the original group broke up.

I'm enjoying your blog.