Written by: Carroll Jenkins on April 23rd, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1964
Director: Steve Binder
Cast: The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, James Brown and The Flames, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye
DVD released: March 23rd, 2010
Approximate running time: 112 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Shout! Factory
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.93
From 1964, some of the finest rock and soul acts of that era – even of all time – are presented live with an audience of screaming nerdy teens and frantic go go dancers. There is no plot to spoil, so here comes a synopsis of each act.
The credits sequence, featuring the song Here They Come (Jan and Dean) is thrilling by itself, like A Hard Days Night condensed into a few minutes. From there things slow down as Chuck Berry is allowed no guitar solos and must submit to his rendition of Mabelline being ‘topped’ by Gerry and the Pacemakers pickup cover (yawn). This segment of the show is absolutely stolen by a remarkably energetic and endowed brunette in a bikini who attempts to defy gravity with her every movement. The next set by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles is mostly lethargic until they STOP THE SHOW with their rendition of Mickey’s Monkey.
This was, after all, a live performance, and presents obvious reasons why most TV appearances by teen performers were mimed to canned music. Ask the Beatles [or the Monkees] if it mattered what they sounded like live with packed auditoriums of screaming teens drowning their performance to oblivion. The T.A.M.I show was filmed in a 3,000 seat auditorium via the wonders of Electronovision, and the cameras and sound were all mixed on the spot. So far the vocal performances have been rather unimpressive but . . .
Marvin Gaye easily delivers the most polished and professional presentation and best vocal performance to this point with some excellent tunes. Leslie Gore is surprisingly good with some throaty belting though a long drab pop song and a sleepwalking rendition of ‘It’s My Party’ nearly obscure the finer points of her set. Jan and Dean (the nominal hosts) paddle through a couple of their top hits.
Things reach a crescendo as the Beach Boys do a rare set that was cut from prints following the initial run. It’s a truly memorable performance with some great songs, though you can barely hear Surfin’ USA over the screaming audience. Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas are another bland British Invasion act, followed by some great tunes by the Supremes who are upstaged by one of the dancers – Terri Garr.
Now comes the virtually unknown garage group The Barbarians from Provincetown, MA. To date they had released only one single and the A side is performed here: Hey, Little Bird (‘Bird’ is British slang for ‘Girl’). They followed up with three singles which charted nationally in ’65 and ’66. Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl and What The New Breed were both hard rockin’ punk anthems, but their last hurrah was the Righteous Brothers styled rave-up Moulty which told the story of how the drummer lost his hand in an accident (with a firecracker). Sadly, this was recorded without the other members and it’s [unintended] release caused the breakup of the band. Moulty’s hook hand can be seen prominently on the cover of their album, and during the T.A.M.I. performance as he pummels the drums with wild abandon. He also had really long hair for the time. Hey, Little Bird features one of the first fuzz guitar sounds, and though they only get the one song the intensity of the band’s performance and the excitement of the audience is intoxicating. This should thrust you out of your chair, furiously frugging with the go go dancers [the busty one is back for this]. The tune was cut following the theatrical release, but is essential viewing.
James Brown brings the Famous Flames and his combo to augment the house band. He works the crowd with Out Of Sight, but milks them mercilessly with his manic ‘cape’ routine during Please, Please, Please. For the finale he presents a strenuous dance ‘routine’ to the instrumental Night Train. A powerhouse performance that wows the audience.
It impresses the Stones as well, and you can certainly see that Jagger has taken it to heart. At one point he does an improvised jump that very nearly kicks Keith Richard in the head. Starting [redundantly] with a Chuck Berry cover; the set included two of their biggest hits [to that time], Time Is On My Side, and It’s All Over Now, and two [then] unreleased originals – Off The Hook and I’m Alright. Just around the corner they would break big with original compositions The Last Time and Satisfaction. In fact, Dave Hassinger was later the recording engineer for Satisfaction and is present here in the control booth as audio consultant. Perhaps the signature fuzz riff was inspired by Hey Little Bird?
The T.A.M.I. Show was an early video tape project (except for the credits sequence) that was then printed for national distribution. The Beach Boys demanded their appearance cut from all prints following the original run. Nevertheless the picture is very nice considering the source, anamorphic widescreen (as shown in theaters) and no fan should be disappointed. The sound is quite good, and though a few numbers are drowned out by the audience, most tunes are quite enjoyable. Extras include a commentary by director Steve Binder, the trailer, radio spots, and a booklet (sometimes hard to read due to the busy backgrounds).
The T.A.M.I. Show captured the Beach Boys with Brian Wilson just before he withdrew behind the scenes, and the Rolling Stones with Brian Jones shortly before his demise. Other highlights include the incendiary performance of James Brown, go go dancers choreographed by Toni Basil, and the rare live performance by seminal garage band The Barbarians.
Note: The included booklet describes dancer Pamela Freeman’s contributions as gravity-defying. Having made and written my observations regarding her performance before reading the booklet, my comments stand as original if not unique; and that does tell us who this beauty is. Go Pam Go!