Yesterday Shout! Factory released The T.A.M.I. Show on DVD, and believe me this is a cause for rejoicing. This concert film was shot in October, 1964, when the music industry was at a crossroads of black and white performers, and US and UK bands. And in one film, they all take the stage—James Brown, The Beach Boys, Lesley Gore, Marvin Gaye, and The Rolling Stones, among others—with a shitload of young dancers gyrating in the background, and 3,000 screaming teenagers in front of them.
As exciting as this film is—and it’s also brilliantly staged and shot—it has never been released on VHS or DVD. Over the last 46 years, its lived in only four forms: as legend (I’ve read for decades about James Brown’s feet in this film); as the original 16 mm prints shown at very infrequent screenings; as crummy, nth-generation VHS bootlegs; and in that one damn line in that Police song that confused so many teenagers.
As for me, I saw it in 1993, on 16mm in the worst of all possible places: an acoustically awful classroom at college. However, my buddy Brian and I loved it. The energy, the joy and the raw-yet-naïve sexuality of the performances transcended the less than desirable circumstances.
Next, in the late 90s, I broke down and got a bootleg tape. This time, the joy of the film could NOT transcend the limitations of the presentation.
But all of that is irrelevant now. The DVD looks and sounds gorgeous; with great packaging; an essay; an audio commentary by director Steve Binder; and even a trailer with an commentary by director John Landis (I’m not sure why yet, but he’s there nevertheless). And all for only $12 on Amazon (hint, hint).
Here’s a little context, a side-by-side of my VHS bootleg ($25) and what I just got for half the price:
Last night, I watched it in its entirety for the first time in seventeen years, and I can’t believe how my favorite moments from ‘93 still resonate. These include:
Sexy white women dancing behind Chuck Berry, while he sang “Sweet Little Sixteen” (and, undoubtedly, thought about eating his breakfast).1
Lesley Gore hypnotizing me through a Vaseline-soaked lens.
Keith Richards being sillier than I thought possible.
And my favorite: James Brown has an explosive 17-minute set, where he makes it absolutely clear why he was called the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. And at the end, after he’s collapsed, screamed, crooned, danced, cried, died and been re-born (several times), he walks to the end of the stage and takes a seat on a riser:
He cracks a proud smile and looks at his band, his Famous Flames and his orchestra, and he is clearly the master of all he sees. It lasts only a few seconds, but it’s the only time I’ve ever seen JB give himself a breather.
By the way, T.A.M.I. is an acronym for Teenage Awards Music International, and you’ll have to read the DVD’s essay to really understand what the Hell it means.
BACK TO POST 1If you don’t get this reference, I extend my apologies. And if you do get it, well, I extend a different kind of apology.