The T.A.M.I Show -- 1964--kicked off a week of musical documentaries on TCM from the 50s through the 70s. This rarely seen documentary is loaded with one amazing musical act after another. Probably the most famous performance, and one that has been seen in various other documentaries, is James Brown. He absolutely tears the house down. Famously Mick Jagger was hesitant to follow Brown's act. This caused Jagger to step up his performance and it is quite remarkable. Especially because so many of their hits are in the future. This is the original group with Brian Jones (who would be dead at 27 [when else?] five years later.)
Other acts of note: Chuck Berry who is unfortunately buried among go-go dancers. The producers put a lot of effort in to choreography. It's staged by David Winters assisted by Toni Basil who, along with Terri Garr, appears with the dancers. They too often take the attention away from the actual singers and bands and you just won't believe the jiggle from one, particularly, well-endowed girl's bikini top, but ignore it as best you can. A terrific set by Gerry and the Pacemakers of all people. Gerry Marsden, who is still alive, just enjoys himself as much as I've seen any singer. There are actually feature two Merseybeat groups the other being an OK performance by Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas.
Another surprise is the remarkable performance of Lesley Gore whose fierce singing of You Don't Own Me now appears to have been decades before her time. One of the nice things about the show each each act gets time to stretch out and come up with well-thought out performance. The Miracles (not yet known as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) is the first soul act in the show and they just kill it. The same can't be said for the next soul performance Marvin Gaye who gives a lackluster performance and gets swamped by the go-go dancers. Motown artists Diane Rose and the Supremes do their usual great job and their of some amazingly tight closeups of them that add to the emotion of their singing.
The Beach Boys do their usual precision work, perhap a little too perfect, a little too clocklike. And Jan and Dean do some of their "Sure sounds like the Beach Boys to me" songs. They also cutely introduce the acts sometimes in costumes.
Another thing that makes this a wonderful collection of important performances is they are actually singing their hits. By this time American Bandstand was already having performers lip sync on television. Though it didn't happen for a few more years eventually lip syncing took over that bastion of live entertainment, The Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan's show is also a great place to catch these acts. I think he went to lip sync around 1966 or so. This show has all live performances that have to be worked out with changing all these acts in and out, backing them with a orchestra if needed and keeping the show going with dancers all over the place. I should mention that a good chunk of the backup band was made up of people from The Wrecking Crew under the direction of Jack Nietzsche. Including drummer Hal Blaine, Tommy Tedesco and Glen on guitar and Leon Russell on the piano.
Finally the most incredible thing about this film is it's film. I'll explain. As I'm watching it I'm seeing a 1.8:1 aspect ratio, filmed black and white movie. So I often look to see what system they are using for this widescreen ratio. There's really only one way for them to do it which would be matted 35mm film. I took a quick look on IMBD and see it's a process called Electronovision, which is odd, and continue watching. And then I start seeing that every camera they're using is a large television camera from the time with a lens turret huge pedestal mounts. So at this point it's making no sense. It turns out this process with the silly name, Electronovision, is actually a way that was used to get high definition from video tape in 1964! It's actually special video recording that was transferred onto film using the kinescope process. This is even more shocking since kinescope is the process that was used for saving life television programs of the late 40s and 50s has a well deserved reputation for low visual quality. The bottom line on all this is because they chose this process you essentially have a very well produced, almost high definition film with performances by some of the founders of rock 'n roll and soul.
Those who have TCM should check out what else they're showing in the next week.