I heard it mentioned a hundred times in the song “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around,” but I had no clue what the T.A.M.I. Show was. In fact, I thought it was about someone named Tammy Show. Then I found the DVD by accident in the local library and made the connection.
The T.A.M.I. Show was a 1964 concert held over two days in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and was recording in what was groundbreaking “electronovision.” The concert was then released on the big screen.
It’s hard to find an adjective that’s not overused these days. I try not to overstate things. But there is no other way to put it that this film is incredible! Imagine a concert these days with the starpower of the equivalent of these artists, many of them who were still to peak:
- Marvin Gaye
- James Brown
- The Supremes
- The Rolling Stones
- The Beach Boys
- The Miracles’
- Chuck Berry
- Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas
- Gerry & The Pacemakers
- Lesley Gore
- Jan & Dean (who emceed the show)
- The Barbarians
Besides the musical artists, there was an amazing backing or house band, apparently known as the Wrecking Crew, and there was a bevy of young dancers. The story goes that both Terri Garr and Toni Basil were in the dance corps.
There really were few lows in this show. I found that I didn’t care for James Brown’s “Please Please Please” which seemed to go on and on and on. He played this little bit of pretending to fall to the ground sobbing, only to be helped up and off the stage by his bandmates, who draped a king’s robe over his back. He would then throw off the robe and saunter back to the mic. People with probably a lot better musical taste than me think James Brown’s performance was one of the best ever captured on film. I found it cheesy and goofy in spots. Other than that bit, though, he was …well…James Brown.
Marvin Gaye, the Miracles and The Supremes all represented Motown beautifully. I watched Marvin’s “Can I Get a Witness” several times; I didn’t want it to end. He was such an amazing talent and, for me, the best on that stage. Smokey and the Supremes showed why the lit up the charts for years.
The Rolling Stones were absolutely superb. At that point, though, they had not fully defined their own sound. They still had that feel of a (great) cover band. If you’re a Stones fan, the TAMI Show is a must-see.
I was fascinated to see both Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas and Gerry & The Pacemakers, if only because I had heard so much about their part in the so-called “British Invasion.” They were, after all, Liverpudlians (some of them) and friends of the Beatles. I had heard their songs but had never seen more than a few seconds of footage from either group. It is cool to see bands like that that have become little more than footnotes in rock history.
The Beach Boys showed themselves to be a more-than-adequate 4 piece band. They were never the greatest musicians as individuals, but they held their own in that concert.
Chuck Berry’s one of my all-time favorites. It’s sad he only got 2 1/2 songs while Lesley Gore, who performed well, had double that.
Jan & Dean were a bit annoying. Someone re-wrote “Catch A Wave,” put lyrics to it about skateboarding, and talked them into singing it at the show. Bad decision.
The Barbarians were interesting. With their long bowl haircuts and high energy rock, they were sort of a Pre-Ramones (or maybe the Ramones borrowed from the Barbarians.)
If you can get your hands on the DVD or watch it streaming, do it! It’s a highly entertaining great piece of rock history.