True, one could consider The T.A.M.I. Show: Collector’s Edition, now finally available from the folks over at Shout! Factory, as “just” the single most frantically paced, ultra-high-decibel time capsule of an extraordinary era ever preserved on disc. Or even, as Quentin Tarantino most assuredly claims, “in the Top 3 of all rock movies.”
I will go all that one further, however: The T.A.M.I. Show (as in Teenage Awards Music International) is absolutely essential viewing to anyone and everyone who consider themselves fans, followers, and/or students of popular music.
Allow me to elaborate. The dozen acts herein (co-hosts Jan and Dean sing whilst skateboarding across the opening credits) did indeed come “From All Over the World.” Not to mention everywhere across the musical map as well: Kicked off by “the guy who started it all,” Chuck Berry duck-walks us all the way from St. Louis to New York City, where the about-to-be-renovated Brill Building sound is sung most proudly and loudly by none other than Lesley Gore (whose proto-feminist lyrics and attitude herein should have all you brand-new Runaways fans repositioning the birth of girl-rock once and for all).
The magnificent Motor City is then represented by Smokey Robinson, along with superstars-in-waiting Marvin Gaye (who performs two songs soon to be recorded by a waiting-in-the-wings Rolling Stones) and The Supremes (poised to leave behind forever their branding as “those no-hit Supremes” with an historic string of global million-sellers).
Meanwhile, England swings via Billy J. Kramer with his Dakotas plus Gerry and the Pacemakers (four of impresario Brian Epstein’s other clients unfortunately occupied overseas at this point in time, putting finishing touches onto Beatles For Sale, it seems).
Why, even what we now know and love as that runt of the musical litter, garage rock, is represented by none other than the aptly-named Barbarians and their (I kid you not) one-handed drummer Victor “Moulty” Moulton. A special note must here be made of The Beach Boys‘ four-song set, propelled practically through the roof by their drummer, Dennis, as this particular footage was removed from most every existing print of The T.A.M.I. Show soon after its original theatrical release in 1964 and has only now been fully reinstated in all its harmony-drenched, sun-kissed splendor.
And then! As impossible to pin down geographically – not to mention musically or even vocally – as he remained for the rest of his career comes the one, the only James Brown.
Now it’s been said before, but I’ll just have to say it again (and again and again): His performance in The T.A.M.I. Show remains one of the most jaw-dropping, above-kinetic, gut-and-thigh-ripping performances ever executed. Anytime, any place, by anyone. Everything you may have heard about this man and these particular eighteen minutes (e.g., “the single greatest rock ‘n’ roll performance ever captured on film”:Rick Rubin) is absolutely, 1,000 percent true. Just look at it yourself if you don’t believe me … or everyone else who has ever seen it.
Somehow, those newly rolling, original Stones – with Brian Jones and even Bill Wyman‘s vocal mike present – arose to the task of following Brown, and their performance closed the event, and the film, with a mixture of pure, simply pimply beat ‘n’ soul that wins over even many of the pole-axed teens who’d just survived Brown’s set.
Finally, cue the entire cast and assembled dancers (watch closely for a very young Teri Garr) back onstage to frug a mighty big storm up around Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and, scarcely two hours after it all began, the curtain drops.
What novice director Steve Binder and his crew captured, and what today is immaculately preserved upon The T.A.M.I. Show DVD, is busting-full of rich musical (I repeat: James Brown) and cinematic (Diana Ross‘ eyes literally filling the screen during “Where Did Our Love Go”) moments that have been oft-shot by everyone from D.A. Pennebaker to Martin Scorsese since, but never truly duplicated. For what T.A.M.I. managed to mount and maintain all those years ago irrefutably remains the highest of bars for concert events, and films thereof, to reach even today.
It may, sorrowfully, have taken nearly half a century to make it into our homes, but this film has not returned anew one single frame, nor scream, too soon.
Trust me, Steven Van Zandt is right: You have never seen, nor heard, anything quite like this before.
Musician/writer Gary Pig Gold is the co-founder of the To M’Lou Music label.