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  T.A.M.I. Show, The Rock 'n' Roll Kids
Year: 1964
Director: Steve Binder
Stars: Chuck Berry, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Lesley Gore, Marvin Gaye, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, James Brown, The Rolling Stones, The Barbarians, Jan and Dean
Genre: MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: To the accompaniment of Jan and Dean trilling their way through an introductory song that tells us who we are about to be watching for the next couple of hours, the bands and singers assemble, arriving on tour coaches and, in the case of Jan Berry, a skateboard. Once it has been established what's coming up, the duo appear onstage and welcome us to the show, then it's straight into a performance by the man who some would argue started this whole rock 'n' roll thing, Chuck Berry singing Johnny B. Goode...

If there are concert movies which are legendary, it is usually because they captured something genuinely newsworthy, as with Woodstock or Gimme Shelter, rather than because of the quality of the acts. With The T.A.M.I. Show, on the other hand, it really is those acts which captured the imagination, summing up as they did a point in time where pop music was truly taking flight once more: 1964. The only thing missing was an appearance by The Beatles, but just about every other major hitmaker of the year, indeed of the next few years, would make an appearance in this, which was essentially a television special translated to the big screen.

It was even filmed on video, although a high definition video which was easily as effective as film for the purposes of this production. Naturally, as with every movie showcasing a selection of bands, there were some which were more impressive than others, and at least one, The Barbarians, which is only recalled today not for any hits they might have had but because the drummer had a hook for a hand. Yet even they seem caught up in the spirit of the occasion, and so will you be as everyone here is determined to be the band or singer that you remember above all the others. Whether they will be is a matter of personal taste, but there are undoubtedly a handful of the performers who most agree are just about as good as anybody ever got.

Chuck Berry doesn't get much of a chance to shine, as in spite of being the first act on someone thought it would be a good idea to have him do a song duel with Gerry and the Pacemakers, here representing the Merseybeat sound in lieu of another band who didn't make it to the night, you know who. It's a curious way to begin, as Chuck's groundbreaking hits were somewhat behind him, and few would say that Gerry and company could compare, but things do grow more assured, although Gerry himself looks as if he cannot believe his luck as he waves to the audience and gets screamed at back.

Yes, the screaming. The girls in attendance will evidently scream at anybody who has the temerity to walk onto stage, and that included the dancers, who are quite superb, co-choreographed as they were by Toni Basil (and featuring a young Teri Garr), ensuring the energy levels, already of stratospheric proportions, stay positively galactic. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles provided their own dance routines, although the monkey one we could have done without, but they are enough of a contrast to keep things moving along in a sprightly fashion. Then we get tiny Lesley Gore displaying a great big voice as she belts out Maybe I Know and It's My Party while smiling demurely.

Marvin Gaye doesn't stick around for as long as you'd like, but it's a treat to see him do the Hitchhike complete with those dancers doing likewise, although Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas bring the mood down a notch with their polite renditions, not that the audience seem to mind as they continue to yell. The Beach Boys were not always in every print of this, although they are back now, and rightly so as they do scorching versions of a few well known tunes. The Supremes, like Gaye, appear as if they should have been given a lot more space, but light up the stage like rays of sunshine nevertheless, yet after that are the two bands that everyone recalls, and debate over who was the better.

When James Brown and the Famous Flames explode into the movie, it's everything you could have hoped for as Brown goes through with the stylings that made him infamous, dancing wildly, pretending to collapse not once but three times, and shrugging off the cape his cohorts drape on his shoulders to return to the mic once more - he can't help himself, you see. The Rolling Stones were still a derivative R&B band at the time, yet their intensity makes up for it and you can see why they would soon be massive as Mick Jagger struts around in a manner obviously inspired by Brown, made all the plainer in that the hardest working man in showbusiness has just been on seconds before. No wonder this is judged a classic of its kind: the whole two hours is a joyous and exuberant celebration, and will do you the power of good, it's that kind of tonic. Oh, and it's "Teenage Awards Music International", by the way.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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