Judge Victor Valdivia loves teenagers...well, he would, if the damn police would stop interfering.
It's the greatest, grooviest, wildest, most exciting beat blast ever to pound the screen!
In 1964, producer Bill Sargent came up with the idea to show off Electronovision, a then-new technology that allowed live images to be transmitted to movie theaters. His brainstorm was a rock & roll concert featuring the hottest acts that teenagers of the era liked along with some up-and-coming artists. Sargent dubbed the concert the Teen-Age Awards Music International (or T.A.M.I.) Show, and the resulting film was indeed popular with young audiences, although most mainstream film critics either ignored or dismissed it. Unfortunately, the Electronovision company, which bankrolled the film, went bankrupt shortly after The T.A.M.I. Show's release and Sargent lost control of the film. For the next thirty-five years, The T.A.M.I. Show languished in limbo. Though it became legendary amongst music fans, the film in its entirety was never released on any home video format and only aired sporadically on TV a few times, and then in versions that were severely edited and cropped. Bootleg videos, many in abysmal quality, circulated for years, but fans longed for an official release.
Finally, with this new DVD issue, it's possible to view The T.A.M.I. Show just as it was originally released. That's no small achievement. The lineup that Sargent put together was pretty impressive back in 1964, but by today's standards, it's astonishing in its breadth and talent. The Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, James Brown & the Famous Flames, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Jan & Dean, Chuck Berry, and Lesley Gore were just some of the artists who performed at the concert, many of them captured just as they were starting to hit their creative peaks. Unlike shows like The Ed Sullivan Show, where artists generally sang to prerecorded backing tracks, these are all live performances, captured on a film that looks and sounds astonishingly good for its age. The T.A.M.I. Show can stand alongside Woodstock and Monterey Pop as one of the definitive concert films of the '60s.
The T.A.M.I. Show was filmed at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, CA, on October 29, 1964. Here are the artists and the songs they perform:
Jan & Dean:
Gerry & the Pacemakers:
Gerry & the Pacemakers:
Gerry & the Pacemakers:
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles:
Jan & Dean:
The Beach Boys:
Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas:
James Brown & the Famous Flames:
The Rolling Stones:
There is so much good music here it's impossible to list it all. You'll get to see James Brown, in the performance that helped make him a mainstream star, delivering his infamously riotous stage act, complete with capes, screams, splits, knee-drops, and enough swagger to almost blow everyone else offstage. The Rolling Stones, in one of the rare live performances captured with founding guitarist Brian Jones, sound less like the sleek hard-rock machine they would become in the late '60s and '70s (or the tedious nostalgia act they would become after that) and more like the grungy blues-rockers they initially set out to be. The Beach Boys, whose segment was excised shortly after the film's release because of managerial problems, shine in one of their last performances with singer/songwriter/bassist Brian Wilson, who would become a mysterious studio recluse for the next twenty years. Their harmonies are so pristine that you'll swear you're listening to a recording. It's also great to see the Motown stars, who at the time were just beginning their reign over the pop charts, and discovering that even that early in their careers, they were all polished and dynamic stage performers. Filmed in front of an audience of deliriously screaming teens, the concert is so energetic that, by the time of the closer, when all of the artists get onstage to perform a rousing version of "Let's Get Together," you'll be as thrilled as the original audience was.
To be fair, not all of the performances are so stellar. Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas and Gerry & the Pacemakers were two of the most lightweight and forgettable groups of the British Invasion and their performances reflect that. Their music is pleasant enough but you'll be hard-pressed to remember any of it even if you've just watched the film. Also, while Lesley Gore was actually a much bigger star at the time than some of the other performers, it does seem like overkill that she gets to sing six songs while most of the others are limited to only three or four. The presence of the Barbarians, a minor-league band that Sargent was a big fan of, is also peculiar. While their song is a nice slice of '60s garage pop (and their one-handed drummer is fascinating to watch), it could have been skipped in favor of more performances from most of the other artists. Still, none of these acts detract from the musical and historic importance of the concert, and even the weakest have one or two flashes of energy.
For this issue, Shout! Factory has remastered the film and restored all of the missing segments. The anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer looks remarkably sharp for its age, showing off the black-and-white footage with little grain or noise. There are a few moments where the film is damaged, mostly during the previously excised Beach Boys segment, but otherwise it looks great. The mono mix is perfectly loud and clear, with no distortion or pops or crackles to speak of. Because the concert was shot on video cameras, there were no multiple tracks to remix into a surround mix, so the mono mix is all that's available, but even so, it's superb. There's a decent collection of extras as well. The best is commentary by director Steve Binder with music writer Don Waller. Waller interviews Binder and extracts some great stories about how the show was put together and shot, and he points out cameos by future stars who got their big break working on the show, such as music producer Jack Nitzsche, singer/pianist Leon Russell, and actress Teri Garr (Mr. Mom), who appears briefly as a go-go dancer. The disc also includes the film's trailer, but has the added bonus that film director John Landis (The Blues Brothers) has recorded a commentary for it. Landis uses the commentary to reminisce about the concert, which he attended when he was a teenage Santa Monica high school student. The disc is rounded out with four radio spots for the film, which are amusing. The package also comes with a twenty-page booklet with extensive photos and liner notes by Waller.
The extras are just the icing, though. The real heart of the package is the film itself, and music fans should rejoice at finally seeing The T.A.M.I. Show in its entirety, as it was meant to be seen. This is a landmark in music cinema and a must for any music DVD collection.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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