Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Finally! here it it is. Boy have we waited.

I can remember over the past three decades and even longer, how many pirate copies I have seen available, at a high price, of this legendary concert. A pirated VHS edition in scrubby slipcase on Cape Cod going for $45 and "maybe the Beach Boys are on it, I dunno, man." said the seller. He was probably right, he didn't know. Not even the director of the film, Steve Binder, knew what had happened to the Beach Boys that he knew he had filmed but where were they on his film?

It will all tie together decades later, after everyone has their arguments over music rights and legalities and the usual fuss. But keep in mind, along with the dynamite acts, you're watching a house band called the Wrecking Crew, famed for jazzing all Phil Spector hits and backing just about every record that rose out of rock 'n' roll L.A. in the 60s. Jack Nitzsche is manning the wheel and Leon Russell and Glen Campbell are in the band. The Byrds haven't yet released "Mr. Tambourine Man" but the magic of the Byrds guitar sound can be heard chiming from this band. Dean of Jan & Dean will skateboard on stage.

Quentin Tarantino calls TAMI Show, "In the top three of all rock movies..." and I love him for that and would go even one or two better and say it is the best rock movie ever made. All the ingredients are here, and it's years before Woodstock and even Monterey Pop, which by then is in a haze of too much drugs and mud (Woodstock) but still fantastic, and Monterey Pop's lush calling out of the tribe and they come, still tipsy with dreams, and squabbling groups and promoters. The TAMI Show is hardcore Beatlemania without the Beatles. Don't need them. We've got the Rolling Stones, and this is pure early Stones with Brian Jones and they're fresh off the boat. British boys meeting American blues and the cocktail is like none other. And if that's not enough, they close the show, plus follow James Brown. And this is one of James Brown's most riveting appearances on film, ever. Just look at scuff on the knees of his pants! Think the king of soul meets a gospel seance, because that's what happens here. There is a ton of talent before soul power, and the whole concert begins with a guy by the name of Chuck Berry. Yes, indeed this film, this legend, was made in heaven.

Mastered from a high definition transfer, so shelve those scrubby cassettes you bought, the TAMI Show was directed by a twenty-three year old Steve Binder who was already gaining his chops and wisdom under the wings of the Steve Allen Show. The Allen Show is yet another rich pot on the stove you may stick your wooden spoon into for a taste...all Binder knows is that free tickets have been given out to all the local high schools in the LA/Santa Monica region for a concert to be held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium for two days : October 28 & 29th, 1964. What would come would be the best thing that ever hit rock 'n' roll: teenage girls, like thousands. My wife Susan would be one of them.

So other than A Hard Day's Night, the TAMI Show is going to give you the rawest spectacle of music meeting teenage power, and then some. There's no promoters in the way, no attitude, no limousines, no fences to breakdown and crawl over, no Angels with pool sticks. The performers are basically singing medleys of their hits or lighting into songs not even recorded yet. Unheard of. The ratio of black and white performers is exhilarating considering we're tight inside America's war for or against civil rights. People are dying horrible deaths for the color of their skin or politics while black and white on this stage dance and zoom and move and touch and mesh the dynamics of rhythm and blues with sweet old rock 'n' roll. Four months earlier, in darkest Mississippi, three civil rights workers by the name of Goodwin, Schwerner, and Chaney (two whites and one black guy) will be lynched by the Klan. That's right young readers: lynched. Here on this film and during the concert beauty exalts. Just watch The Supremes move with their own rhythm as the cameras move with them and the slippery dancers move in and around them as the young audience swells. If you're a young boy like I am in 1964 two months after this concert and now it's playing as a film in my local theater of small town and all-white USA, you may be as enthralled and falling in love as I am with the beauty of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Chuck Berry, James Brown and the fabulous Flames. Nothing in Black History brought this white boy deeper into the arms of civil rights than to see these acts give so freely and beautifully and swoon. Try to count how many goosebumps are on your arms when "Where Did Our Love Go" comes on.

Susan well remembers how she wrote away to a Sunset Blvd. office for the free tickets as announced in the local newspaper; and passed them out to her pals and they all skipped school on Monday and went to the concert. She wasn't aware then or even now, there was one part of the concert on Sunday; that's why she missed seeing Berry and The Beach Boys, probably Lesley Gore. But she knows she saw The Supremes and Brown and the Stones because she arrived with her pals for the rehearsal that day and got to meet Jagger and Richards when they snuck through a back door and there they were, presto! They signed their autographs (so did The Barbarians) and really were only a few years older than the girls. Susan is standing (no one sat!) in the front row, stage right, dark clothes, blonde hair and holding her jacket. As the Stones light into "It's All Over Now" like an air-lift — and now I know why we have all these years loved that song — the camera moves up along Jagger for a close up of his face (the camera work gets better and better in this film from The Supremes on) while the young and bold director sweeps his cameras out into the audience so you're in the high with them...and there's Susan with thousands shaking up & down, waving her jacket, possessed and natural, changed forever and ever, listening to the soon to be greatest and longest running and most popular group in rock 'n' roll history start their journey. Our journey. And without James Brown, Jagger wouldn't even know how to dance.

Own this. Put it on your book shelf. You'll dance for years to come.