Director Steve Binder’s 1964 film came five years before Woodstock and, though the rock & roll promotion machine had yet to get its bearings, let alone get into high gear, this early pop version of a Woodstock-type event, in all its black and white glory, could have been a road map and a perennial …if only, if only, if only…
The T.A.M.I. Show sounds like a Murray The K. sampler album where The Shangri-Las shared a rare live track with the world. That The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, The Beach Boys, James Brown, Chuck Berry and Lesley Gore would all be on the same bill is as close as a counter-culture invasion as the parents in that time period were going to have to be concerned with. The live audience here wouldn’t have to brave the dangers of Yasgur’s farm, but the music presented was drawn from a number of major labels which rock historian Joseph Tortelli felt may have kept the powers that be from issuing a live album.
Tortelli also noted to this writer how Jan & Dean’s 45 RPM of the theme song, “Here They Come”, peaked at #50 in Cashbox magazine. The song was released on February 27, 1965 and was written by the great team of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri. It’s chock full of references to the artists at the gig including a snippet of “I Get Around”, giving those clean-cut beach bums (and the term is used affectionately) Jan & Dean a chance to play The Beach Boys on their own turf.
The lack of a soundtrack album a la Woodstock certainly held the movie back, and had this gem found a life on network tv shortly after its release, it would have been a mainstay for music fans the way the Wizard Of Oz found a more substantial life off of the big screen and in the homes of millions in that other medium. Now lets look at some popularity facts. Jan & Dean had 14 hits, twelve of them coming between 1959 and 1964, Dean also singing lead on The Beach Boys “Barbara Ann” in 1966, after this film was released. The Beach Boys had a dozen hits between 1962 and 1964 while Chuck Berry had a dozen between 1958 and 1964. This information is important for the reader to get a sense of who the biggest act on this program were at the time it was filmed. James Brown did have six of his 44 Top 40 hits between 1960 and 1964, though he had yet to hit the top 10.
But the biggest acts on the show on this DVD (in retrospect) eclipsing in sales and finding legendary status right next to James Brown and Chuck Berry – The Rolling Stones and The Supremes – were yet mere novices at this point. The Stones first two American hits, “Tell Me” and “It’s All Over Now” launched in August of 1964, The Supremes were pretty much in the same boat, their “When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” was in the Top 25 in 1963 but it wasn’t until July of 1964 that they started to rack up their string of five #1 hits. Lesley Gore had three top 5 hits in 1963 – beginning with the #1 smash “It’s My Party”, and four more Top 40 hits in 1964…Gore was a much bigger star than the Stones and the Supremes put together at that point in time (though not for much longer, especially with the Supremes hitting #1 a second time two weeks before the filming of this epic). Also key to point out is how r & b and psychedelia and British invasion and girl group were all put into the same mix…along with beach music.
That would be like mixing reggae/rap and heavy metal along with euro dance today, a very distasteful thing that couldn’t be duplicated in the new millennium. Well….it could be attempted but you would have niche audiences splintering off, rap and hip hop are just anathema to folk music and middle-of-the-road. The T.A.M.I. show documents a unique point in time when pop music was under one umbrella, it made it possible for Tammy Wynette to cross over from country in 1968 with “Stand By Your Man” and be played on the same radio stations as Deep Purple’s “Hush” that same year. Admittedly, “Hush” was written by country singer Joe South while the follow-up hit, “Kentucky Woman” was written by Neil Diamond, but the key here that the T.A.M.I. show either took a snap-shot of or helped usher in was that when Deep Purple churned out “Smoke On The Water” five years later it would still be played on the same contemporary radio stations playing Tammy Wynette. The possibility of crossover in the 1960s was key to creating long-lasting stardom and that such a thing is missing in 2010…and that the T.A.M.I. show finds a new life on DVD and on PBS …is just a sign of the times, minus Petula Clark.
The two concerts from October 28 and 29, 1964 were distilled into one movie released in December of 1964 and clocking in at two hours and three minutes. It actually spawned a sequel in 1966, the T.N.T. Show, which makes its checkered history on the market and off the market a huge question mark. Just think if this got the annual play the aforementioned Wizard of Oz found, which would have been almost guaranteed given the strength of the artistry at play. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and Marvin Gaye would become superstars, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas and Gerry & The Pacemakers brought a totally different crowd to the table while Moulty & The Barbarians brought true street cred and wardrobe (that would be picked up down the road by those “New” barbarians, The Rolling Stones. Heck, Keith Richards joined Ron Wood’s New Barbarians and one can only wonder if he didn’t pick up the name watching Keith and Moulty perform in this iconic flick.
When one looks at the monster set list of 48 songs there’s no doubt a double or triple album (eight songs per side) would’ve been a huge sensation…and would have propelled the film in the same way Monterey and Woodstock hurried into the history books, the audio putting an exclamation point on the video. An entire list of songs can be found on Answers.com
The T.A.M.I. show is in an exquisite package from Shout! Factory with liner notes and extras that the package deserves. Moulty of The Barbarians allowed us to conduct two additional interviews on Visual Radio for the re-release, the first of which has already aired on cable tv with the second to follow soon. Moulty’s inclusion on Lenny Kaye’s seminal NUGGETS album and subsequent boxed set also gives The T.A.M.I. show that underground cache that makes it so very special. There’s no other film from a time period so early in the dawn of rock & roll which captures so many important purveyors of such vital music and mixes it up in a way which all can enjoy…even close to fifty years after the fact.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.