Fittingly, rock pioneer Chuck Berry opens the show with "Johnny B. Goode"Johnny B. GoodJohnny B. Goode. He then does the opening verse of "Maybellene" as he turns it over to UK beat group Gerry & the Pacemakers as they do their take on the song. The two acts then continue to take turns going through some of their big hits. Although I like Gerry & the Pacemakers, I would have preferred for the director to keep their set separate from Chuck's. Still, it's better to have a little of Chuck Berry's "rock and roll music" than none at all.
To those who aren't students of mid-sixties pop music, the prominence in The T.A.M.I. Show of the aforementioned Gerry & the Pacemakers and another UK group (Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas) may have them scratching their heads. Although the two groups are a bit obscure today, in 1964 they were among the most popular acts around. The squeals and screams in the audience during their sets is a a testament to their appeal at the time this was filmed.
For me, the highlight of The T.A.M.I. Show is watching James Brown & the Famous Flames as they proceed to torch the stage with their 4-song set. After witnessing it, one will be hard pressed to argue with Rick Rubin's claim that this was "the single greatest rock and roll performance ever captured on film". Hitting every note as he displayed a dazzling series of spins, slides, and splits, James had kids who probably hadn't heard of him before in the palm of his hand (check out the audience shots during the "call and response" part of "Night Train"). There is also an audience shot of a fur coat-wearing mystery woman who is standing mesmerized during Brown's set. I wonder what (if anything) she was wearing underneath that coat.
Watching James Brown's sweat soaked performance and knowing that The Rolling Stones had to follow him, you almost feel sorry for the lads from London. Simply put, there was no way they were going to top James. Still, Mick and the boys put on an excellent show as the concert's closing act. Even though they were several months away from becoming superstars with the release of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", The Rolling Stones' set brims with confidence that is impressive.
A big part of what makes The T.A.M.I. Show work is the presence of the backup dancers. Their shimmying, shaking, and gyrating really adds to the energy of the show. Also, it's fun to see one of the dancers early in her career... a 17-year old Teri Garr! Plus, I wouldn't be me if I didn't mention one of the dancers in a two-piece bikini... damn!! Mr. Russ Meyer, she is ready for her close-up! James Brown noticed her too because during the finale when all the acts and dancers are onstage together, he zeroed right in on her.
Along with Teri Garr, watching The T.A.M.I. Show gives viewers the chance to see performers such as Diana Ross, Mick Jagger, Marvin Gaye, and Brian Wilson before they become icons. Speaking of Brian Wilson, within a couple of months of his performance with the rest of The Beach Boys on The T.A.M.I. Show, he would quit touring with the band for several years to concentrate on songwriting and producing.
Some of the other highlights:
* The Barbarians' highly-energized performance of "Hey Little Bird". If this garage-rock quartet from Cape Cod is remembered at all, it's probably because of their minor 1965 hit "Are You A Boy or Are You A Girl?" or the fact that their drummer (Victor "Moulty" Moulton) had a hook in place of his left hand. Though their presence in The T.A.M.I. Show may have some asking "who are they and why are they in the movie?", The Barbarians make the most of their brief time onstage. Special mention goes to drummer "Moulty", who is a maniac on the skins!
* The Miracles' electrifying performance of "Mickey's Monkey".
* The commentary by director Steve Binder and music historian Don Waller. The two of them do a good job of providing background info about the acts featured in The T.A.M.I. Show and Binder's memory is uncanny when it comes to recalling particular camera shots during the show. He also justifies the decision to have the Rolling Stones close the show instead of James Brown.
* The DVD trailer with optional commentary by John Landis. The future director of such films as National Lampoon's Animal House and The Blues Brothers was among the teenagers in attendance at The T.A.M.I. Show. In addition to his funny remarks about preferring James Brown to The Rolling Stones, Landis recalls that one of his schoolmates (a future teen idol of the 1970s) was also at The T.A.M.I. Show.
The T.A.M.I. Show is an exhilarating document of one of the last moments of rock and roll's era of youthful innocence and exuberance, before things got serious and the genre transformed into "rock".
My grade of The T.A.M.I. Show: A-
Below is the trailer for the DVD of The T.A.M.I. Show: