Before there was the Monterey International Pop Music Festival or the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, there was “The T.A.M.I. Show.” “T.A.M.I.”, an acronym for “Teenage Awards Music International,” was filmed in October 1964 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. It featured some of the biggest music stars around, including seven future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acts. The British Invasion, Motown and surf groups were well represented. Tickets were free and distributed to local teenagers, who provided a lot of youthful energy and enthusiasm at the concert, as did the beautifully choreographed go-go girls who served as background dancers. The nearly two hours of black-and-white footage of the rock concert was edited and released nationally to movie theaters by the end of the year. Fifty years later the show is probably best remembered for the scintillating performance by the inimitable James Brown.
Jan and Dean play host. American surf duo Jan and Dean emceed the show, performed the theme song, skateboarded and later in the program sang two of their biggest hits, “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)” and “Sidewalk Surfin’.”
Chuck Berry trades guitar licks with Gerry and the Pacemakers. Berry was the only act from the 1950s on the bill, but he hardly looked out of place among the younger groups, go-go dancers and teenaged audience. Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager, also had Gerry and the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas in his stable, and he signed up Gerry and Billy’s groups for “T.A.M.I.” as a package deal. Sharing the stage, Berry and Gerry and the Pacemakers took turns performing. Berry sang two of his biggest hits, “Johnny B. Goode” and “Maybellene,” then passed the baton to Gerry and the Pacemakers who picked up on Berry’s “Maybellene” before launching into their own songs, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” and “It’s Gonna Be Alright.” Berry resumed with “Sweet Little Sixteen” before the British group featuring Gerry Marsden tore into their smash hit “How Do You Do It?” The spotlight was passed back to Berry, who finished with “Nadine (Is It You?).” Gerry and the Pacemakers concluded with “I Like It.”
Motown acts take the stage. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles sparkled during performances of “That’s What Love Is Made Of,” “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me,” and “Mickey’s Monkey.” The Miracles, who were sometimes overshadowed by the dynamic and poetic Robinson, were very active during this show, and the teens in the audience responded positively to their creative, tightly-choreographed dance routines. Marvin Gaye then hit the stage and sounded quite mellow as he sang some of his biggest hits to date, “Stubborn Kind of Fellow,” “Pride and Joy,” “Can I Get A Witness,” and “Hitch Hike.”
Lesley Gore Shines. Lesley Gore, who was still a teen herself, took the stage and belted out six tunes, including her monster hits “Maybe I Know,” “You Don’t Own Me,” “It’s My Party,” and the sequel “Judy’s Turn To Cry.” Gore’s hairdo and couture outfit was vintage mid-1960s.
Beach Boys. After Jan and Dean sang their aforementioned songs, another surf group stepped onstage. And not just any surf band but the definitive one, the Beach Boys. Featuring their classic lineup of the Wilson brothers, Brian, Carl and Dennis, along with their cousin Mike Love and guitarist Al Jardine, the Beach Boys sang “Surfin’ U.S.A.”, “I Get Around,” “Surfer Girl,” and “Dance, Dance, Dance.” Brian Wilson handled lead vocals with a falsetto on “Surfer Girl,” and Love was given lead-singing responsibilities on the other three songs.
Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. Riding the wave of Beatlemania, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas had a hit with “Bad To Me,” a song written by none other than John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas sang that song, along with “Little Children” and two others in a rather sedate performance.
The Supremes. After many failures to find a hit record at Motown, the Supremes reversed their fortunes and broke through in 1964. At “The T.A.M.I. Show,” the trio sang their two number one hits up till that point, “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Baby Love,” along with two other numbers. Diana Ross was already revealing a remarkable stage presence as the lead singer of a group that was to go on to record 12 number one hits.
The Barbarians. The unheralded garage band from New England performed one song in the film and did so without much distinction.
James Brown and the Flames. By far the highlight of “The T.A.M.I. Show” had to be the spellbinding performance by “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business,” James Brown. After performing “Out of Sight” and “Prisoner of Love,” he really took off with “Please, Please, Please.” The full James Brown was on display that evening as he exhibited his incomparable dance moves, fell to his knees on occasion, screamed and shouted and gyrated and sweated as if preaching at a fundamentalist church revival meeting, and put on and discarded his trademark cape. He did spins and splits, glided and slid about the stage, with his legs sometimes appearing as if they had a mind of their own. Brown finished with “Night Train,” then returned for an encore of incredible footwork and one last burst of explosive energy that left the delirious audience in a frenzy.
The Rolling Stones. The Stones were chosen to close the show even though they were not yet superstars. Their first number one hit, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” wouldn’t occur until the following year. Keith Richards, the lead singer of what would become “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band,” said later that the biggest regret the band ever had was trying to follow James Brown onstage at “The T.A.M.I. Show.” Try as they might, they could not hope to reach that level. They still did fine. Mick Jagger was in top form, both vocally and in his dancing and prancing about the stage. They were well-received by the teen audience as they did five numbers, including “Time Is On My Side” and “It’s All Over Now.” They served notice as to the great stage shows that would follow over the next several decades on their numerous world tours.
Grand finale. The “Let’s Get Together” closing song brought all the performers out onto the stage. It was the only time many of them were ever featured onstage together, and it was odd seeing such groups as the Rolling Stones and Supremes in such close proximity to each other. Many of them would outgrow appearing at such forums.
Great show. Rarely has such a tremendous array of music stars been assembled in one place. The performances, with few exceptions, were riveting. It was also a big step forward to see an integrated roster of performers, as well as integrated dancers and audience. “The T.A.M.I. Show” was an impact event in the evolution of rock concerts.
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“Collector’s Edition T.A.M.I. Show Teenage Awards Music International,” DVD, Dick Clark Productions, Shout Factory, 2009
“The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th Edition,” Joel Whitburn, Billboard Books, 2010