In October 1964, the place to be if you were a teenager living in Southern California, was the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium; if you were a teenager from anywhere, in that heady year with the British invasion of America in full swing, then it was still the place to be – if only you could have somehow got there.
On October 28, filming began on what has become known as the T.A.M.I. Show, even the organizers couldn’t quite agree what it meant; their publicity handouts had it as both the “Teenage Awards Music International” and “Teen Age Music International”. No matter, T.A.M.I. will do and for that Wednesday and Thursday in the Fall of ‘64, it was the hottest ticket in town – although no one actually paid for one as they were distributed to local high school students, for free.
The Beatles had appeared on the Ed Sullivan TV show nine months earlier and the Rolling Stones had toured America, albeit to very small audiences at just a few scattered shows in June, but they were back in America for their second, much bigger, US tour, which is how come they appeared on the T.A.M.I. Show. But don’t for a second think that this show was all about the British Invasion, this was a case of American music definitely on a counterinsurgency mission, even if the Stones were joined on the bill by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and fellow Merseybeat stars Gerry and The Pacemakers.
With a house band under the direction of Jack Nitzsche, it was effectively the cream of LA session musicians who worked collectively as “The Wrecking Crew.” It included drummer Hal Blaine, guitarists Tommy Tedesco, and Glen Campbell, Sony Bono on percussion, and pianist Leon Russell, They were joined by The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, James Brown and The Famous Flames, Lesley Gore, Jan & Dean, along with a trio of Motown stars, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, The Supremes and Marvin Gaye.
The Stones were only two gigs into their US tour having played in New York and Sacramento before arriving in Santa Monica on October 28 to be told they would be closing on the show, this despite the fact that James Brown thought he should be top of the bill. According to Bill Wyman in his book Rolling With The Stones, “James Brown vowed that he was going to ‘make the Rolling Stones wish they’d never come to America.’”
After a day spent rehearsing, the main concert that was to be filmed in a new technique called Electronovision (much like video) took place on Thursday. The opening act was Chuck Berry, who along with Marvin Gaye was sharing a dressing room with the Stones. They were both encouraging towards The Stones, who were somewhat fazed at the prospect of following James Brown, especially Mick. Marvin Gaye told them, “People love you because of what you do on stage, so just go out there and do it and forget about James Brown. Go do your thing – that’s what I do.”
Once Gerry and The Pacemakers, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and Lesley Gore had played, it was time for Jan & Dean, followed by The Beach Boys. This was very much a home town gig for both bands and their sets were a homage to California’s national sport, surfing. The Beach Boys did “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “I Get Around,” “Surfer Girl” and closed with, “Dance, Dance, Dance.” After this, it was Billy J. Kramer and then the Supremes did a four-song set that included the gorgeous, “When The Love Light Starts Shining Through His Eyes,” “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Baby Love.”
Then it was time for the Godfather himself, James Brown. His high-energy set of four songs was “Out of Sight,” “Prisoner of Love,” “Please, Please, Please” and “Night Train.” When the Stones got back to England Mick told Disc and Music Echo, “James Brown was probably the best thing about our trip. He is a fantastic artist. When you’ve seen him, you’ve seen the act to end all acts. We appeared with him on the T.A.M.I. Show and we had to follow him. It was a disaster in a way because nobody can follow James Brown, it’s impossible.”
But follow him they did. The Stones four-song set was very much a reflection of what they were playing on their US tour – “Around and Around,” “Off the Hook,” “Time Is on My Side,” and “It’s All Over Now.” After this, the Stones began “I’m Alright” they were joined on stage by the rest of the performers and they also all did “Get Together,” by way of a finale.
As the Stones left the stage James Brown came over and shook all their hands, it was the beginning of a friendship that was rekindled frequently over the years when their paths crossed while on tour.
The film had its initial release on December 29, 1964, and a limited release in the UK under the less than inspiring title of Gather No Moss. Over the years it has been frequently bootlegged until 2010 when an official DVD was reissued. And finally, for all collectors of trivia, The Police’s 1980 song, “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around,” includes the lyric, “James Brown on The T.A.M.I. Show.”
He was and the counterinsurgency may have had a faltering start, but over the next 12 months it gained pace and by the end of 1965 many bands and singers inspired by what the Beatles and the Stones and others had done, began to regain America’s hold on their own Hot 100.