How the T.A.M.I Show Captured a Moment in Rock and Roll History
On Oct. 28-29, 1964, a dozen acts came together for a special concert that would capture a rock and roll moment in time like no other. Held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the idea behind the Teenage Awards Music International was to present a snapshot of the music being embraced by youngsters of the era. A film of the shows was released in theaters later that year as the T.A.M.I. Show.
As Jan & Dean sang in the theme song, they did come from all over the world to be part of this show, resulting in one of the most impressive bills in rock history. From Liverpool to Detroit and from Los Angeles to New York, the lineup was stunning. The Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, the Supremes, Gerry & the Pacemakers, James Brown and the Famous Flames, Lesley Gore, Marvin Gaye, Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Barbarians, Chuck Berry and, acting as hosts, Jan & Dean.
If that wasn't enough, the house band consisted of some of the L.A. session pros that became known as the Wrecking Crew, including Hal Blaine (drums), Glen Campbell and Tommy Tedesco (guitars), Leon Russell (piano) and Jack Nitzsche (keyboards and arranger).
The brains behind the film were director Steve Binder and television producer Bill Sargent, the latter of whom had developed a new technology of filming called Electronovision. The process, which used a high-resolution videotape that allowed for a better picture quality when transferred to film, is considered to be a precursor to high-definition TV.
One key thing about this show was that most of the acts were either at the top of their game, or just about to explode. The Beach Boys, for example, were in the midst of a great run of hits including "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Don't Worry Baby" and the chart-topping "I Get Around," all of which were only months old at the time of filming. Lesley Gore had hit the Top 40 seven times within the year or so leading up to T.A.M.I. and the Supremes were at the start of an incredible five No. 1s in a row.
Chuck Berry, representing the old guard, kicked off the show with a stomping take on "Johnny B. Goode." "Maybelline" segues right into Gerry & the Pacemakers, doing their own version of the song in an almost changing-of-the-guards fashion. Gerry & Co., who, along with Kramer, were there to represent the Liverpool scene in lieu of the Beatles, also deliver a supercharged versions of their classic hits "It's Gonna Be Alright," "I Like It" and "How Do You Do It?"
The excitement of the Motown sound was showcased by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye and the Supremes. The Miracles are spot-on with a sampling of their hits including "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and "Mickey's Monkey," while Gaye commands the stage for a handful of his own hits including "Pride and Joy" and the killer "Hitch Hike."
Watch Chuck Berry Perform 'Johnny B. Goode'
Lesley Gore was given a six-song set to showcase her many hits including "Maybe I Know," "It's My Party" and "You Don't Own Me." T.A.M.I. shows her at the top of her game, and all at the age of 18. The lone obscurity on the bill, the Barbarians gave the crowd a taste of what American teenagers influenced by the British acts sounded like with "Hey Little Bird." They would have a modest hit (No. 59) the following spring with the taunting "Are You a Boy, or Are You a Girl?" which would become a garage rock classic.
When the film was shown, the Beach Boys segment was cut out of the film. Rumors were that Brian Wilson was unhappy with the band's performance, but there are also reports that their manager, the Wilson brothers' father Murry, kept the footage out of the film due to contractual issues. The 2010 DVD release restored the footage, and you can see the band tear through first-class renditions of "Surfin' U.S.A.," "I Get Around," "Surfer Girl" and "Dance, Dance, Dance." Though Dennis Wilson was not always featured on the band's records, his drumming here is nothing but powerhouse as he pushes the band onward.
James Brown was next with one of the most incredible and legendary sets of his life. In only four songs, "Out of Sight," "Prisoner of Love," "Please, Please, Please" and the closer "Night Train," Brown and his Flames kicked the energy level off the scales. From his grand entrance to the famous cape routine and beyond, he delivers a full concert's worth of excitement in only 18 minutes. It remains one of the most thrilling performances by anybody ever captured on film.
Although they would later say following Brown was a mistake and that they had to be persuaded to do so, the Rolling Stones nonetheless gave a stunning performance of their own. The Stones, who had yet to become household names, were on fire, delivering a blistering "Around and Around," "Off the Hook," "All Over Now" and "Time Is on My Side." A particularly unhinged "I'm Alright" made their set the stuff of legend. Even at this early stage of the game, the attitude and charisma of the band is shining through. Within six months, the Rolling Stones were riding high with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."
Later festivals such as Monterey Pop and Woodstock were obviously of a different era. Even though it was only a few years prior, The T.A.M.I. Show represents the peak, and end of its own era. That moment in time when teenagers had found their own music and their own identity, which would soon change and morph into something even more unexpected. With a nod to cliche, it was before that dreaded loss of innocence had set in. This was pure and real excitement.
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