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Arts and Entertainment

The LAist Blog-along: The T.A.M.I. Show

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It’s said to be the greatest concert film ever made, but the T.A.M.I Show in its finished form has been elusive almost since it was released.

The Teen Age Music International Show was filmed at the Santa Monica Civic over two nights in late 1964 for eventual release as a feature film, a way for all the small town kids that couldn’t make it to concerts see what their favorite acts were like on stage. After its first theatrical run, the Beach Boys insisted that their sequence be cut out, despite a prominent appearance in the opening credit sequence, and a complete home video release has never before seen the light of day. But Shout Factory has finally corrected this egregious gap, and will release a DVD of the complete film, including the excised material, March 23.

LAist was lucky enough to obtain an advance screener so, without further ado, let’s get this party started.

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10:20 Snappy intro number from Jan and Dean set to footage of the various acts in their dressing rooms and limos, getting ready for the big night. Laughing to myself imagining Mick & Keith’s reaction to their mention as “The Rolling Stones from Liverpool”- apparently in 1964, Americans believed Liverpool and London to be the same city. Hey, Toni Basil is credited as assistant to the choreographer, and I think that’s her on screen right when her name is shown. What is she, 15?

10:23 Here come our smiley hosts Jan & Dean to introduce “the guy who started it all back in 1958 - Chuck Berry!” Chuck busts into “Johnny B. Goode” and a gaggle of go-go dancers do the jerk behind him. While Jack Nietzche’s “up to date” horn arrangements don’t really work, Chuck’s on top of his game, singing and playing well.

10:26 WTF? Halfway into “Maybelline”, they cut from Chuck to Gerry and the bloody Pacemakers doing … a cover of “Maybelline”. HOW CAN YOU CUT OFF CHUCK BERRY IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS OWN SONG IN ORDER TO GIVE TIME TO GERRY AND THE BLOODY PACEMAKERS?

10:28 Well for all the cheek that move required, the Pacemakers actually managed to rock more than I would have thought from their dozey hit singles. No sooner does that thought occur to me, than they start “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying.”

10:32 The Pacemakers impress with some pretty spirited, uptempo stuff. But why do they keep cutting between them and Chuck Berry? Chuck’s not even doing full versions of his songs, the film's not showing him in his best light. But he still sounds like Satan himself next to Grinnin' Gerry Marsden.

10:37 The Miracles. Smooth, subtle harmonies. “You Really Got A Hold On Me” sounds like the most desperate love cry of all time. “Micky’s Monkey” contains the program's best dancing yet, as the group give the go-go girls a run for their money. They’re straight-up pros, and more, these gentlemen.

10:48 Speaking of straight-up pros, Mr. Marvin Gaye. The man is the personification of effortless cool. It’s rare to hear performances from this era that are recorded this well, the sound mixed like a seven-inch single, occasionally blurred by the sound of screaming girls but otherwise nearly ideal. Somebody get the guy a witness already.

10:54 Lesley Gore offers the white teen approximation of the blues, a long and unbroken streak of songs about being dumped, cheated on or otherwise mistreated by boys. She’s very cute when she smiles, but it’s odd to see someone sing lyrics this desperate with a big grin on her face. It’s like a creepy expression of repressed rage. I can see her keeping that same grin on her face as she sneaks up behind cheating Johnny and Judy and beats them both over the head with a leg of lamb. In one awkward sequence, they bring out all the acts for the end of “Judy’s Turn To Cry” - her only positive song all night and it’s about revenge - and so Chuck Berry and Smokey Robinson stand there not sure what to do while teenagers dance around them. Chuck Berry has not been the recipient of the best production decisions on this show.

11:08 Jan and Dean aren’t the most in-tune of singing groups but they have their charms. Two tunes in a row is about the right amount though.

11:10 The Beach Boys sound godly great, and the gaggle of screaming girls sure is getting loud. “Surfin’ USA”, “I Get Around”, “Surfer Girl” and “Dance Dance Dance” - how many bands could boast of a four-song set list like this in 1964? They look rosy cheeked and adorable, play their own instruments better than given credit for, and sing like angels. This is some of the best footage I’ve ever seen of them, and I’ve seen a bit.

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11:20 Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas are singing a song about seducing a schoolgirl. Their sub-Beatles Brit Invasion pop is probably the weakest contribution to the program so far, but not totally unlistenable.

11:25 The Supremes are as poised and flawless as you could imagine a group being. This is right at the moment they've just set a record in the US with four number ones in a row, all of which are part of their set. Maybe that's where that confidence comes from. Perfection.

11:34 The Barbarians, the only band on the entire film that didn’t become a household name. They’re an appealingly raw garage band with what must have been the longest hair in America for 1964.

11:36 James Brown, oh my God. He hits the spotlight at stage left, shimmies his way to the mic on one leg, leads the band into the break with a sly hand gesture, and begins to sing, his upper body remaining motionless while his legs are moving furiously. I’ve never seen anything remotely like it.

11:50 James Brown has just laid down the most ridiculous fifteen minute set in the history of music. In the course of four songs, we got deep soulfulness, visionary music, a razor-sharp and high-impact band - God, the sound of that snare drum - and a level of showmanship best described as supernatural. It's not just that he's a good dancer - and not just him but he’s got three backup singers doing those steps right there with him. No, this is like watching Superman do the boogaloo. I am feeling the urge to jump out of the couch and say “yeah!” every time he stops the band dead with a wave of his hand and demands to know, “Are you ready for the night train?!?” This is intensity, and if anybody can point to a more thrilling example of poetry in motion, I'd love to see it.

11:52 Though it’s taking me a second to gather my wits after what I’ve just seen, the Rolling Stones have just hit the stage. They must know what's gone down before them, because they come out swinging. It’s interesting that this early in their career, they already have their signature live sound - slightly out of tune with itself, shambolic, energetic and restrained at the same time. There’s that cool looseness about them, that arrogant gleam in the eye, half the band actively performing while the others stand there looking smug. Jagger’s already got a schtick, but it’s not the same one you’ve seen in the Stones’ movies. He’s not quite the Preening Satyr Mick yet. His dancing is clunkier, more showbiz. Sometimes he leans right into his moves and nails them, sometimes he seems too cool for them. But, cool is part of the package and they sound amazing. Also probably the last time you'll see Keith Richards do anything resembling a choreographed dance move.

12:10 At the end of the Stones’ set, they end up doing “I’m All Right” twice, and the entire crew comes out for the second version, hamming it up with the cast of dancers, shaking maracas, goofing around and doing whatever they can think of to get the cameras pointed at them for a few more seconds. It looks like fun. And that’s that.

I’m guessing there was one hell of an afterparty.

The T.A.M.I Show will be released on DVD by Shout Factory on March 23.

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