LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Director Quentin Tarantino ranks it in the “top three of all rock movies.” “Little Steven” Van Zandt proclaims it “the greatest rock movie you’ve never seen.”
That’s about to change March 23 when Shout Factory releases “The T.A.M.I. Show: Collector’s Edition” for the first time on DVD. Filmed live at the Santa Monica (California) Civic Auditorium in 1964, the first concert movie of the rock era brims with nearly two hours of kinetic performances by 12 acts, seven of whom are now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, including the Rolling Stones (with Brian Jones), James Brown, Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys and the Supremes.
“It was all live, no postproduction, no second choices. It was all gut instinct,” recalls “T.A.M.I.” director Steve Binder, whose credits include “Elvis: ‘68 Comeback Special.” In fact, Binder adds, when he and executive producer Bill Sargent screened the film for several studio executives, one exec said, “‘This is a total disaster; it has too many close-ups.”
“T.A.M.I.” stood for Teenage Awards Music International, which was conceived as an international nonprofit organization that would produce yearly concerts and awards ceremonies for network broadcast. The proceeds raised would be donated for music scholarships and programs. That premise never took root, but the movie did.
Filmed seven months after the Beatles invaded the United States on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and making its “world premiere” November 14, 1964, at 33 Los Angeles-era theaters, “The T.A.M.I. Show” was released nationally in December 1964 and debuted in the United Kingdom in April 1965 as “Teen Age Command Performance.” Since then, the pioneering film has become a cult favorite, kept alive through video bootlegs as rights issues were hammered out.
‘FRONT AND CENTER’
“My goal in shooting this was to put the viewing audience front and center as if they were there live,” Binder says. “I wanted to give the artists the freedom to do whatever they did; to have the camera follow them and not the other way around. I wanted the audience to see the reactions, the emotion, the sweat.”
Watching Brown’s dynamic performance, one of many “T.A.M.I.” highlights, the viewer unequivocally understands why he was called the hardest-working man in show business. Hosts Jan & Dean introduce a diverse lineup of U.S. and English acts that includes Motown artists Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Lesley Gore, Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Barbarians and Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas. The restored film also boasts the Beach Boys’ performance, which was removed after the film’s initial theatrical run.
Providing musical backup was the Wrecking Crew. The band, whose members included Glen Campbell and Leon Russell, is best known for playing on all of producer Phil Spector’s hits. The Blossoms -- Fanita James, Jean King and Darlene Love -- supplied backing vocals.
Asked why “The T.A.M.I. Show” still holds up after 46 years, Binder says it boils down to the artists’ unbridled performances. “Most of the black acts were restricted from mainstream television. So it was great seeing white audiences reacting to Smokey, James and Marvin as equals to the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys and everybody else. It was an integrated United Nations on wheels with nobody discussing race afterward. It’s just a great rock ‘n’ roll film.”