REELIN’ AND ROCKIN’ The T.A.M.I. Show

Rolling
Stones, Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, James Brown, the Supremes – all captured at a
“golden moment” in rock and roll history, and a pivotal point in race
relations.

 

BY RICK ALLEN

 

In many ways, Shout! Facotory’s T.A.M.I show DVD of
the legendary 1964 multi-superstar laden concert is a filmed representation of
a promise almost fulfilled. The mega-show features a lineup of stars and
superstars – and, in the Barbarians a one-hit wonder – who are presented and
received without regard to age, race and even hipness factor. Most of the time
it is an exciting show that, presented here as “uncut” and seemingly played out
in real time, almost never stops rocking. There are lulls to be sure; The Barbarians
only had one hit “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl?” – and they don’t even do it
or its cult favorite B-side about their one-handed drummer “Moulty” here. But
their time on stage is mercifully brief; one and done. On the other hand, the
much more talented and bigger selling Gore is on too long. She gets six songs
and two, one after another, are pretty obscure. Had she cut it down to the four
big hits she also does, her set, particularly because of the halftime finale,
would have been a highlight. The DVD release is enhanced visually and remixed
for optimum sound quality and there are DVD extras including a Dick Clark
special about the show’s 10th anniversary. But it may be a while
before you get to them since the concert footage cries out for endless
re-watching.

 

After a brief Monkees show-styled montage opening
featuring the rather cheesy and slightly inaccurate theme song – “the Rolling
Stones from Liverpool” – and an intro
from surf-rockers Jan and Dean the show goes into one of its finest sequences.
None other than Chuck Berry starts things off with a couple of his classics;
“Johnny Be Goode” followed by “Maybelline.” As Berry is singing, amps and
equipment are being set up to his left and five players come in, pick up their
instruments and take up the song about midway as the camera swings over to
reveal Gerry and the Pacemakers who finish “Maybelline” and then swing into one
of their big hits after which the camera pans back to Berry and he sings
another one of his, the two acts trading hits for another three songs each! One
of the better if not necessarily one of the hardest rocking of the Brian
Epstein’s pop stable, Gerry Marsden and his band remind us that working the
Liverpool pub circuit was as demanding a way to make your rock and roll bones
as working the chitlin’ circuit was for artists like Berry in the States; if
you couldn’t rock you wouldn’t work. The Pacemakers prove to be as well-oiled a
band who ever learned to Make Show to avoid becoming targets of critical
opinion expressed via tossed beer bottles. At the time of the T.A.M.I. show Berry is just 38,
Marsden 22. They seem at their peak, so vital that it is hard to believe that
within the next six years or so both would be relegated to the Oldies bin.
Marsden’s last significant hit in the U.S. – “Girl On A  Swing” – would come only two years later; By
the end of 1964 Berry would be at the start of a hitless streak that would
break briefly in 1972 with his first and only #1 Billboard single, “My
Ding-A-Ling” and a live “Reelin’ and Rockin'” which would reach # 27. But in ‘64,
Berry would crack the Pop Top 40 three times (with “Promised Land” reaching
#41) and the U.S R&B Top 20 three times with “No Particular Place to Go”
hitting #2.

 

There is significance to those statistics which
the T.A.M.I. show brings home; Billboard magazine had only started using the designation “R&B” since 1958, six
earlier. Until then music by black artists which apppealed or, rather, which
sold or was marketed to black audiences was called “race music.”  Berry’s enormous appeal and the airplay he
received from pioneering rock and roll disc jockeys did a great deal to erase
the line between the races in the musical arena and bands like the Pacemakers
and other acts made up of R&B crazed British teens did their part too.

 

Rock and roll’s detractors claimed that it would
cause teens to rebel against their lockstep embrace of the social status quo,
become sexually active and socialize with people outside of their own ethnic
circle. Exactly. That’s what was so
great about it.

 

In the early 1960’s AM Top 40 radio stations
blasted out hits from artists with the same disregard to categorization as the
T.A.M.I. show did; “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” would be followed by
Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody”, Nancy Wilson’s “(You Don’t Know) How
Glad I Am”, Roger Miller’s “Dang Me”, “Stop! In The Name Of Love” from the
Supremes – and then things would swing right back to Liverpool for the Beatles’
“Ticket To Ride” or London (not Liverpool) from
the Rolling Stones’ “Tell Me.” If you lived in a big city you had your
choice of at least two rock and roll stations so you might go back and forth;
but other factors, from having limited choice to your parents telling you to
quit pushing those damn buttons to plain old curiosity, meant you got exposed
to many different artists and types of music; enlightenment, even of the
subconscious kind, was always a possibility.

 

Though the AM stations’ motivations were economic,
as rock and roll became more autonomous and as songs got longer and more
experimental rock music moved over to the FM dial. There was no real lack of
financial motivation there but being the home of classical music fringe
programming like educational programs, the owners of stations, who sometimes
owned the local Top 40 outlets as well, considered them a write-off and figured
“what the hell, let’s let the kids have it.”

 

Not following were “adult” pop acts like Sinatra
and the Supremes (who were heading that way), most country, and some but
certainly not all R&B. But joining the new music were blues and a little
bit of jazz, and for a brief glorious period one could hear Bob Dylan, Marvin
Gaye, Love, Muddy Waters, Leon Thomas and the Beatles and Stones on the same
station.

 

In the early 1970’s FM radio programmers like Lee
Abrams began the new balkanization of radio, dropping all black artists except
a tiny few like Jimi Hendrix and War. By the 1980s even Hendrix would be down
to 3 or 4 songs and the first wave of British Invasion artists like the
Pacemakers were quickly phased out. Calling the music they played “rock”
instead of rock and roll they began to concentrate on acts whose R&B roots
– if any – were so obscured as to seem non-existent.

 

Though bands like the Stones and the Rascals
fought the good fight, demanding that the lineup of their shows would disregard
age, race and sex as criteria even if their audiences for the most part did
not, it was a stance that pretty much did in the Rascals and it was a hard one
for acts without the Stones’ clout to take for very long if not at all.

 

So, the T.A.M.I show, which featured the clean cut
Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys, the “scruffy” Stones, the polished Supremes,
the irresistible Marvin Gaye and the indescribably awesome James Brown, represents
a golden moment in rock and roll time. Not only did it have solid pop hitmakers
of the time in Leslie Gore, Jan and Dean, Marsden and Billy J. Kramer, it had
true rock and roll immortality of Olympian proportions in Gaye, the Supremes,
Stones, Beach Boys, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and something above even
that, something primordial in Brown and Chuck Berry.

 

Most of the audience seemed to get it too. Berry is received with
so much enthusiasm that he is overcome with emotion and can’t get out a couple
of the first lines of “Johnny Be Goode” and looks around the stage as if
searching for someone to whom he can say “Can you believe this!” Remember, even though 1964 would be a good year for
him in terms of record sales, he had only been released from prison for a
questionable Mann Act conviction less than a year before this show; it isn’t
hard to imagine that he might have been a particular target of parents and
others as a symbol of all they hated about rock and roll and he might have had
some trepidation about facing a large racially mixed audience.

 

There are teenaged black girls screaming for
Jagger and the Stones and the Beach Boys, teenaged white girls swooning for
Marvin Gaye and everyone going out of
their minds for James Brown. Well, almost everyone. As the camera pans the
crowd there are little but noticeable pockets of kids who are sitting on their
hands. Either they are dumbfounded and awed – a strong possibility – or,
equally likely, they just don’t get it. Lee Abrams would have been too young to
be among them but his spiritual kindred were certainly there.

 

At the end of the first half of the show, Smokey
and the Miracles, Jan and Dean, Berry and the others who have done sets come
out and backup Gore on one of her hits; all in a line behind her they dance and
clown and seem to be having the time of their lives. For the finale, after the
Stones have done a more credible job of following the impossible-to-follow
James Brown than they or some critics would have you believe (though the
realization that demanding to be the closing act after Brown was a big mistake
can be read on their nervous barely post-adolescent faces), everyone comes out
and dances together: white British pop stars, black American R&B greats,
surfer boys and Go Go girls (including a young Toni Basil and Terri Garr) all
celebrating the Joyous Noise. If you are a damaged old rocker who genuinely
believed that music, specifically rock and roll was going to blow away the lies
and hate behind America’s
race problem – like the person writing this – it may bring the hint of a tear
because, well, it’s just that beautiful to see.

 

At one point there is a shot of three teenaged
boys shoulder to shoulder: from left to right, a young black kid, a
button-downed white kid and another white kid with hair down to his shoulders,
an extremely radical statement in 1964. It’s like looking at a triptych of the
progression of the music and the culture behind it; a picture of the promise
almost fulfilled. It should have been the cover shot for the DVD.

 

For a
complete list of performances and special features on the DVD, visit the Shout!
Factory website.

 

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