October 29, 1964—just eight months after The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, television director Steve Binder was given the task of staging the Teen-Age Music International Show (The T.A.M.I. Show), a concert that captured twelve of the biggest rock and pop acts of the day. Filmed at the 3,000 seat Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the audience largely composed of students from Santa Monica High School, got to see an amazing line up of talent—hosts Jan & Dean, Chuck Berry, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Lesley Gore, The Beach Boys, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, The Supremes, The Barbarians, James Brown and the Famous Flames, and The Rolling Stones; a simply amazing lineup. To top things off, Phil Spector’s legendary house band, the Wrecking Crew, backed most of the acts.

The T.A.M.I. Show premiered in Los Angeles in November 1964, with a wider release just after Christmas that year, but not long after it was chopped up—specifically, the performance of The Beach Boys was removed by request of the band—after that, the only way to see the show was from a bootleg source, a rare television broadcast, or to catch parts of it on the VHS compilation, That Was Rock. Finally, in 2010, Shout Factory released a fully restored version of the show on DVD

The opening sequence is a sight to behold—Jan & Dean rolling by the Whisky A-Go-Go on pre-polyurethane-wheeled skateboards ending up in Santa Monica moments later (that’s editing for you). Watch for the Miracles and Marvin Gaye running out of the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel and into a waiting car. While Jan & Dean are one of the few acts on the bill who were a product of the times, and have been largely reduced to a rock n’ roll footnote, their performance of the show’s theme song, “(Here They Come) From All Over the World” sets the perfect tone.

In a wonderful nod to one of the greats who helped usher in the rock n’ roll era, Chuck Berry gets things started with a spirited version of “Johnny B. Goode.” Though countless musicians have recorded this classic over the years, I’ve always felt nobody does it better than Chuck. Keep your eyes peeled for a young, pre-fame Teri Garr as a go-go dancer bouncing around behind Chuck Berry (The go-go dancers, choreographed by Toni Basil who would score #1 pop hit in 1982 with “Mickey,” have a surprising amount of sexual energy for 1964). Berry then segues into “Maybellene,” which is finished by Gerry and the Pacemakers as the start of their set.

There isn’t one bad performance in the bunch, but some deserve special mention. First, The Beach Boys; cut out of the film after the initial theatrical run, we are so fortunate that their performance has been reinstated here. In what would turn out to be one of his last live performances with the band, viewers get to see Brian Wilson do a seamless falsetto on “Surfer Girl,” and Dennis Wilson giving it his all on drums. The bands performance is so spectacular we can even forgive Mike Love for executing some of the nerdiest dance moves ever recorded on film.

The set by James Brown and the Famous Flames maintains legendary status to this day. James Brown owns the stage from the first note—gliding effortlessly across the stage, he opens with “Out of Sight,” moves into “Prisoner of Love,” “Please, Please, Please” and ends things with “Night Train.” Moving constantly, and showing dance moves that still inspire awe, Brown shows why he is one of the best live performers ever. It’s no wonder that the still very young Rolling Stones didn’t want to follow his performance.

Closing the show is a veritable “Battle of the Bands” between two of the most exciting stage acts in rock history, James Brown and his Famous Flames, and The Rolling Stones (who look young and green, but are already blessed with an undeniable charisma); the other acts join in as well for a spirited, if not totally focused version of “Let’s Get Together.” Apparently, the producer wanted all the performers on the stage at once so they couldn’t be accused of gathering such an impressive roster of talent by cobbling together several different shows.

Filmed on November 29, 1965 at Los Angeles’s Moulin Rouge Club, the follow-up concert film, The Big T.N.T. Show boasts an impressive roster of performers, but it doesn’t quite generate the excitement of its predecessor. With Steve Binder unable to return, Larry Peerce (Ash Wednesday, Two-Minute Warning) was brought in to direct and Phil Spector produced. While the show boasts an impressive lineup of performers, it’s quickly obvious that the concert fails to generate the same level of excitement as its predecessor. Spector brought in an orchestra to open and close the show and it also plays behind some of the artists. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. star David McCallum, who was also a musician, conducts the orchestra and attempts to look cool. Unfortunately, the orchestral versions of “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and “1-2-3” sound like elevator music.

Generally, The Big T.N.T. Show doesn’t look like it was shot as one live show.  It looks and feels as though some of the performances were filmed separately and then edited together. A few cutaways to the audience show kids sitting around looking bored. Suffice to say, that kind of kills the excitement.

The lineup is…eclectic. In the year since T.A.M.I., folk-rock had overtaken the radio. Roger Miller could hardly be called a teen idol, but his story-like tunes, “Dang Me” and “King of the Road” were catchy ditties and “England Swings” is fun kitsch. Donovan hadn’t come into his own yet and seems tentative. Petula Clark is a wonderful singer—nobody delivers “Downtown” as well as she does—but even though she was only in her early thirties here, her conservative style made her seem much older and a bit out of place.

The real shame here is Joan Baez. Looking edited-in on the fly, she performs “500 Miles” and a couple of other folk songs in a fake looking ‘gather round’ done with a camera crane. Worse, she does an unfortunate rendition of The Righteous Brothers’ hit “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling backed by a full orchestra, with Phil Spector on piano. Baez is amazingly talented, but that song is NOT her style!

The Loving Spoonful kick up the excitement a notch and Ray Charles delivers a solid performance as he always did. Spector’s girl group The Ronettes is terrific, with impressive singing choreography. Ike and Tina Turner also bring plenty of energy to the table. While many of the performances here are good, when paired with The T.A.M.I. Show, it’s clear that The Big T.N.T. Show didn’t capture the moment. Watching Phil Spector accompany Joan Baez on the piano, I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps Spector, known for exacting completing control over his projects, was so concerned with exerting his influence over the show, that he sucked a lot of the live excitement out of it.

Shout Select’s Blu-ray of The T.A.M.I. Show & The Big T.N.T. Show comes highly recommended. Each show presented in 1080p, is given its own disc. The set comes with a 36-page booklet. T.A.M.I. offers a Commentary by Steve Binder and Don Waller; interview with Steve Binder; Trailers from Hell trailer with John Landis commentary; original radio spots. T.N.T. offers New Interviews with Petula Clark, John Sebastian and Henry Diltz; extra composite interview.

There are English subtitles on the feature (including song lyrics).

The T.A.M.I. Show & The Big T.N.T. Show (1964-1966)
3.5 Reviewer