Monday, November 14, 2016

The T.A.M.I. Show/The Big T.N.T. Show Blu-ray Review

Two concert films from the mid-1960s are now being released on Blu-ray – The T.A.M.I. Show and The Big T.N.T. Show. These movies feature performances by James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Bo Diddley, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Ray Charles, Donovan and many others, and are excellent documents of the music of the time. The films are being released as a two-disc set, which includes bonus material and a 35-page booklet.

Disc 1: The T.A.M.I. Show

The T.A.M.I. Show has been known under several titles, and the one on this disc is actually Teen-Age Command Performance. It a filmed concert that took place at The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1964, featuring Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, James Brown and The Rolling Stones (among others). The concert is hosted by Jan and Dean, who ride in on skateboards, and who also perform a couple of songs themselves: “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” and “Sidewalk Surfin’” (during the latter, one takes a skateboard out of a guitar case and rides around on the stage). Most of the acts are joined by dancers on platforms behind them. The choreography is by David Winters, who is assisted by Toni Basil. Basil will always have a special place in my heart because of her dance with Davy Jones in Head. And actually, one of the dancers in this film is Teri Garr, who also appears in Head.

There are some excellent performances here, and the film is worth watching especially for James Brown And The Flames, who easily steal the show. Chuck Berry opens the concert with “Johnny B. Goode” followed by “Maybellene.” Interestingly, as Chuck is playing, Gerry And The Pacemakers take up their instruments, and then actually take over “Maybellene” halfway through. Very weird. They then go into “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying,” followed by “It’s Gonna Be Alright.” The audience of screaming teenagers is quite loud. Hey, it wasn’t just The Beatles that received that sort of wild adoration. There is also one older guy in a suit in the audience, who seems to be enjoying himself. Chuck Berry and Gerry And The Pacemakers trade off songs for a bit, with Chuck doing a very short version of “Sweet Little Sixteen,” as one hot chick with feathers dances behind him (apparently that’s Pam Freeman). By the way, you can’t see much of the band backing Chuck, but it’s The Wrecking Crew, which includes Leon Russell (look at him at the piano with short hair).  

Smokey Robinson And The Miracles do “That’s What Love Is Made Of,” “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” and “Mickey’s Monkey.” And hey, are those cops in riot gear in the background? Marvin Gaye does a really good rendition of “Hitch Hike.” There is very little stage banter from the performers, but Jan and Dean do joke a bit occasionally while introducing an act (as with a fire extinguisher when introducing James Brown And The Flames). When introducing Lesley Gore, they sport sweatshirts that read, “Gore Gore Gore Gore.” Lesley Gore does one of my favorites, “You Don’t Own Me,” which was later covered by Joan Jett. Hey, what’s with the Vaseline on the camera lens for the close-ups? And yes, she does “It’s My Party,” taking it straight into “Judy’s Turn To Cry.”

One of the film’s highlights is the set by The Beach Boys (which apparently was taken out of several prints and wasn’t available on the bootleg videocassettes of this film). They start with “Surfin’ USA” and “I Get Around.” Then Brian Wilson takes over lead vocals for “Surfer Girl” (with more Vaseline on the camera lens). They wrap up their set with “Dance, Dance, Dance.” The Beach Boys are followed by Billy J. Kramer And The Dakotas, who start with their big hit, “Little Children.” Interestingly, the other three songs of their set were all written by Lennon and/or McCartney, including the wonderful “From A Window,” a really cool tune. The Supremes do some of their hits, including “Baby Love” and “Where Did Our Love Go.” The Barbarians do just one song, “Hey Little Bird.”   

As I mentioned, James Brown And The Flames are easily the biggest attraction of the film. The dancers disappear, since James Brown does his own dancing, accompanied by The Flames, and needs no help. He starts with “Outta Sight,” and follows it with “Prisoner Of Love.” One of the drummer’s sticks goes flying. But things really get going with “Please, Please, Please.” Each time James Brown falls to the stage, the guys pretend to help him up. It’s a captivating performance. And then during “Night Train,” when James Brown asks, “Are you ready for the night train,” the crowd goes wild. It’s a fantastic set, and when The Rolling Stones follow, it’s a bit anti-climactic. However, it’s wonderful seeing this early footage of the Stones. There are no dancers on stage during the Stones’ set either. They interestingly begin their set with a Chuck Berry song, “Around And Around.” They also do “Off The Hook,” “Time Is On My Side” and “It’s All Over Now.” Then, introducing “I’m Alright,” Mick Jagger says: “Thank you very much. This is one we do. It’s called ‘It’s All Right.’” Mick plays maracas on that tune.

The dancers then do come back out, as do the other bands, and they close out the show with “Let’s Get Together.” The T.A.M.I. Show was directed by Steve Binder.

Disc 1 Special Features

The first disc contains several special features, including a commentary track by director Steve Binder with music historian Don Waller. Steve Binder talks about how the project came about, and about the movie’s theme song. He also explains that T.A.M.I. stands for Teenage Awards Music International. The stuff about how the whole thing was filmed and put together is really interesting and unusual. (“I was sitting in a makeshift control room, basically doing the camera cutting as they were performing,” Steve Binder says.) They talk about the dancers, the audience and about each of the acts, including about how The Beach Boys were cut out of the film and then put back in. This is a really good commentary track, and will be of interest to all music fans.

The special features also include an interview with Steve Binder, four radio spots, and the film’s trailer (the trailer’s narrator erroneously says The Beach Boys play “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena”). You can also watch the trailer with an introduction and commentary by John Landis, who was in the audience when the film was made.

Disc 2: The Big T.N.T. Show

The Big T.N.T. Show is a filmed concert from 1965, and originally released in 1966. It features performances by Joan Baez, The Byrds, Ray Charles, Donovan, The Lovin’ Spoonful and several other artists. During the opening credits sequence, there is a shot of The Trip, and on the marquee is Lovin’ Spoonful with The Grass Roots as the opener. Coming soon are The Miracles and Marvin Gaye, both of whom performed in the first film.  The Big T.N.T. Show was produced by Phil Spector and directed by Larry Peerce. The concert opens with David McCallum leading the band in an instrumental rendition of “Satisfaction,” which is interesting, as the Stones closed out the first film, but it’s a rather lackluster beginning. Things then get going with Ray Charles performing “What’d I Say,” which is fantastic. Some of the crowd goes nuts, but others are remarkably sedate. Petula Clark then sings “Downtown,” performing it from within the audience.

The Lovin’ Spoonful do “Do You Believe In Magic,” with a false start. It’s cool that it was left in the film. They follow that with “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice.” Both of these songs were hits for the band. It’s a treat then to see Bo Diddley perform, though it always seems weird that he sings about himself. Here he performs “Hey Bo Diddley” and “Bo Diddley.” I love that one of the three female backing vocalists also plays rhythm guitar. It’s odd to have Joan Baez follow Bo Diddley. Talk about a shift in gears. Joan plays within the audience, doing “500 Miles” and “There But For Fortune,” performing them solo. We then go back to Ray Charles, who does a really good, though very short, version of “Georgia On My Mind” and a fun rendition of “Let The Good Times Roll.” (Hey, look at the little boy with his fingers in his ears, trying to block out the sound of the screaming girls.) Joan Baez, seated next to Phil Spector on piano, then sings “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” which is a bit weird, as you might imagine. The Ronettes do their famous “Be My Baby” and “Shout,” accompanied by dancers. The band is in the orchestra pit rather than on stage this time.

It’s surprising how much the teenage girls freak out when Roger Miller is introduced. I like him, don’t get me wrong, but I would not have expected such a reaction from young girls. He does talk a bit about his music: “It’s not exactly rock music, it’s not exactly folk. It’s sort of depressive jazz.” And yes, he does “King Of The Road.” He follows it with the goofy “England Swings.” Check out the dancers during that song. David McCallum introduces The Byrds by quoting “Turn! Turn! Turn!” And that’s the song The Byrds choose to start their set. Wow, David Crosby looks impossibly young. They also do “The Bells Of Rhymney” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

One of my favorite singer/songwriters is Donovan, and in this film he plays “Universal Soldier,” “Summer Day Reflection Song,” “Bert’s Blues” and “Sweet Joy,” performing them solo, the last of them from within the audience. Then Ike And Tina Turner get things cooking with “Shake,” which leads straight into “A Fool In Love” and then “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine.” “Please, Please, Please” was a highlight of the first film, and it’s also a highlight of this film, with Tina going out into the audience, singing directly to certain people. They then end with “Goodbye, So Long.”

Disc 2 Special Features

The second disc contains three short interviews. The first is with Petula Clark, who talks about Phil Spector. John Sebastian then talks about that false start on “Do You Believe In Magic,” and about the two songs his band plays in the film. Henry Diltz, of The Modern Folk Quartet, talks about getting the gig, recording the theme song and about not getting on camera. The Big T.N.T. Show – An Eclectic Mix is a featurette which contains more from those three interviews, as well more from the interview with Steve Binder. The second disc also includes the film’s trailer.

The T.A.M.I. Show/The Big T.N.T. Show is scheduled to be released on Blu-ray on December 2, 2016 through Shout! Factory, as part of the Shout Select series.

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