Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The T.A.M.I. Show

The long-lost 1964 concert film The T.A.M.I. Show opens with an upbeat montage of its performers racing from all corners of the Earth to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. For two magical nights, October 28th and 29th, 1964, Santa Monica was the epicenter of youth culture, a Mecca for teenyboppers eager to scream their lungs out for an astonishing array of top performers. The opening montage captures the breadth of talent on display for a concert for what was alternately known as Teen Age Music International or Teenage Awards Music International. The Rolling Stones and, to a much lesser extent, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and Dakotas performed reconnaissance for the British Invasion, hosts Jan & Dean and The Beach Boys represented Southern California, and The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles did Motown proud.


The concert begins, appropriately enough, with Chuck Berry, the father of rock-and-roll guitar, performing “Johnny B. Goode” and “Maybelline” before the camera pans to Gerry & The Pacemakers finishing the song while coated in flopsweat and looking like bootleg Beatles with their matching suits and ties. This transition establishes a utopian tone of inclusiveness where the distinctions between black and white and soul and rock disappear in a sweaty hormonal haze. In the world of The T.A.M.I. Show, it doesn’t matter if you’re a suave soul titan like Marvin Gaye or a tiny little Jewish girl from New York like Lesley Gore: If a performer could quicken the pulse of a 13-year-old girl, then they belonged onstage.

No one quickened more pulses on The T.A.M.I. Show than James Brown, who cemented his reputation as perhaps the greatest performer alive with an explosive set on par with Michael Jackson at Motown 25. Brown struts, swaggers, drops to his knees, and howls and growls sentiments too intense for mere words. He’s a powder keg of kinetic energy, a sex machine. An overmatched and intimidated The Rolling Stones were burdened with the unenviable task of following Brown; Keith Richards later said that was the worst decision The Stones ever made. The T.A.M.I. Show captures pop music in a transitional state, just before The Beatles and Bob Dylan turned on and the counterculture kicked into high gear, when representatives from the disparate worlds of surf, Motown, girl groups, soul, and funk united on one stage to attend to the voracious demands of their real bosses: teenagers.

Key features: Trailer with commentary from John Landis (who was in the audience) and a feature commentary with director Steve Binder.