The excitement, entertainment and music of teenage America!
I started collecting 16 mm films in the 1970's--jazz films mostly. Every now and then, though, something outside my area of interest would catch my eye in the film catalogues available on the underground market to collectors.The deliriously entertaining and rockin'100 minute TAMI Show was up for grabs in this format from one collector I knew (who was making prints from a negative he'd struck from a master print in his collection) for a mere $200.
In 1978 not a whole lot of people were hip to this amazing little documentary or to many of the artists performing in it; I remember its being briefly released theatrically in the mid-1960's when I was in high school as a Rolling Stone concert film. It was much more than that.
Filmed in 1964 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in "Electronovision" (i.e., videotape later transferred to film), the TAMI Show is a record of one truly great concert hosted by the marginally talented Jan and Dean, featuring a mixture of groups and individuals and musical styles that pretty much summed up popular music of the era: American rock and roll(Chuck Berry); Motown (The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Marvin Gaye--who was himself backed by Darlene Love and the Crystals, though the latter are credited as `The Blossoms', their SHINDIG name from television); California surf music (the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean; sadly enough, the true pioneers of surf music, such as the legendary Dick Dale, are not represented here); American garage band (the Barbarians); the uncategorizable (but described in the TAMI theme song, sung by Jan and Dean, as representing New York City) Leslie Gore; the British Invasion (Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Rolling Stones); and the incandescent James Brown and His Famous Flames.
The whole spellbinding production was masterminded by Jack Nitzsche and directed by Steve Binder (who later gave us `The Singer Special', the unforgettable 1968 Elvis Comeback Special).
Before screening The TAMI Show, though, I would clue the audience in on its background: T.A.M.I. stands for "Teenage Music International", a foundation devoted to providing music scholarships to teens. The film itself was to be shown at the TAMI Foundation's first annual awards ceremony, where the scholarship winners would receive a TAMI, an award like an Emmy or an Oscar. Evidently the foundation never made it that far. As I've said, the film was released to theaters, then quickly withdrawn and never seen again.
The Beach Boys segment was included in the theatrical release print, but no subsequent print I've ever seen includes it. In fact, except for the opening sequence--a montage of film clips of the audience members and the show's performers arriving at the auditorium (including a WONDERFUL shot of Diana Ross applying her lipstick)--and some brief shots of them and the rest of the performers massed together onstage as the Stones perform `Dipsy Doodle' (!) at the show's conclusion, you never see the Beach Boys at all.
It's true that actress Teri Garr is among the TAMI Show's SHINDIG-like dancers (wearing a sweatshirt with what looks like a target on the front); also true is that Glen Campbell and Leon Russell appear in the house band, in tuxes no less. NOT true is that Ann-Margret dances behind Chuck Berry during his performance of "Sweet Little Sixteen" and caught the eye of some Hollywood hosebag who sought her out and made a movie star out of her. The young lady in question does look like A-M, but it's not her; besides, she was already deeply involved in show biz by this time.
Everybody is just great: Chuck Berry opens and trades off with Gerry and the Pacemakers, a peripheral British Invasion band that NOBODY I knew listened to (though Gerry Marsden was a pretty decent guitarist); Smokey Robinson and the Miracles follow with some choice material, ending with Smokey singing "Mickey's Monkey" and everybody dancing. Marvin Gaye does his thing next backed by the aforementioned Crystals.
Petite Leslie Gore, whose hair has been lacquered with hairspray for the occasion--it was a different world then, y'all--sings her hits, including "You Don't Own Me", which never failed to get a cheer from the audiences to whom I showed the film. Missing was the execrable "Sunshine and Lollipops", an inexplicable hit written by the no-longer-worth-maligning Marvin Hamlisch.
Jan and Dean follow with a few of their hits; Dean Torrance's falsetto sounds absurd onstage. The Beach Boys sequence followed with 4 songs, only three of which have been released as part of various rock retrospectives: `Dance, Dance, Dance', `Surfin' USA', and `Surfer Girl'. The fourth song is, I'm told, `I Get Around'.
Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas (Kramer's friend John Lennon-who wrote `Do You Want To Know A Secret?' for him-suggested that Kramer add the `J' to his name) follow with their Lennon-McCartney-penned hits "I'll Keep You Satisfied", `From A Window', and the beloved "Bad To Me". I could never watch Billy J without someone commenting on how much he resembles Andy Kaufman.
Next in this lineup is/are the original Supremes. Now when this film was originally distributed, the sound for the Supremes sequence was out of synch with the visuals; even the trailer for the film contained this annoying flaw. The guy who sold me my print CORRECTED this flaw; the result is a totally satisfying Supremes experience. Look for Teri Garr as a dancer in this segment.
Rhode Island's The Barbarians follow. Remember `Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl'? Sure you do. Remember "Moulty", the band's drummer (aka Victor Moulton) who had lost a hand in an accident and holds a drumstick in a CLAW? They had a hit song by the same name:
(spoken): I remember the days when things were real bad for me It was right after my accident, when I lost my hand It seemed like I was all alone, with nobody to help me.
You know, I almost gave up all my hopes and dreams But then - then - then something inside me kept tellin' me Way down inside of me - over and over again To keep goin' on - yeah, on!
Moulty! Don't turn away (you're gonna make it, baby) Don't turn away (ah, try to make it, baby) Don't turn away
What you probably don't know is that Moulty Moulton was backed on the song by Bob Dylan's band, listed as `Levon and the Hawks'. The Barbarians sing one song on the TAMI Show and it's a good one, characterized by more of an '80's punk sound than was typical of the 60's.
THEN--James Brown enters from stage left, skating one-legged the whole way, electrifying EVERYONE. It is IMPOSSIBLE to watch the James Brown sequence and not be transformed by it: he pulls out ALL the stops, dropping to his knees (hard too), dancing faster than God Almighty ordinarily allows, shouting, whispering, screeching, imploring, and shutting down everything that came before. To witness his performance is to have an epiphany. At the end, even the hardened studio musicians backing everybody up stand to applaud him, and he's called back from the wings at least twice to a sustained ovation.
The Stones are next; and to this day Keith Richards says that following James Brown at the TAMI Show was the biggest mistake of their lives. But they put on a pretty damn fine show nonetheless; in fact, it still stands as my own favorite Stones performance.
POSTSCRIPT: this film has been available commercially only in truncated form, paired up with THE BIG TNT SHOW on a single tape, with Chuck Berry doing the intros to SOME of the performances from both films. That tape is itself out of print; you might be able to find it for rent somewhere. Sadly, you can't watch Chuck emceeing without cringing or feeling ashamed for him.
Dick Clark currently owns the rights to this wonderful film, so good luck ever seeing it again in our lifetime, since he'll probably outlive us all. The TAMI Show deserves to see the light of day again as it was originally introduced to us--uncut, without colorizing, in theaters, and with the Beach Boys segment intact. Then let us buy our own copies.
Toni Baker .... Himself (keyboardist, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas) (as Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas)
Florence Ballard .... Herself (as The Supremes)
The Beach Boys .... Themselves
Chuck Berry .... Himself
Jan Berry .... Himself (as Jan and Dean)
Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas .... Themselves
James Brown .... Himself
Glen Campbell .... Himself (guitarist in house band)
Les Chadwick .... Himself
Marvin Gaye .... Himself
Gerry and the Pacemakers .... Themselves
Lesley Gore .... Herself
Pete Hilton .... Himself (drummer, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas) (as Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas)
Mick Jagger .... Himself (as The Rolling Stones)
Al Jardine .... Himself (as The Beach Boys)
Brian Jones .... Himself (as The Rolling Stones)
Raymond Jones .... Himself (bass guitar, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas) (as Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas)
Billy J. Kramer .... Himself (as Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas)
Mike Love .... Himself (as The Beach Boys)
Leslie Maguire .... Himself (as Gerry and the Pacemakers)
Freddie Marsden .... Himself (as Gerry & The Pacemakers)
Gerry Marsden .... Himself (as Gerry & The Pacemakers)
Mike Maxfield .... Himself (guitarist, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas) (as Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas)
The Miracles .... Themselves
Eddie Mooney .... Himself (guitarist, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas) (as Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas)
Keith Richards .... Himself (as The Rolling Stones)
Claudette Robinson .... Herself (as Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)
Smokey Robinson .... Himself (as Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)
Bobby Rogers .... Himself (as Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)
The Rolling Stones .... Themselves
Diana Ross .... Herself (as The Supremes)
Phil Spector .... Himself
The Supremes .... Themselves
Dean Torrence .... Himself (as Jan and Dean)
Charlie Watts .... Himself (as The Rolling Stones)
Ronnie White .... Himself (as Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)
Brian Wilson .... Himself (as The Beach Boys)
Dennis Wilson .... Himself (as The Beach Boys)
Mary Wilson .... Herself (as The Supremes)
Bill Wyman .... Himself (as The Rolling Stones)
Runtime: USA:123 min
Color: Black and White
Sound Mix: Mono