I don’t collect much, but I have long accumulated audio recordings from the 1963-1967 British Invasion era, and even that collection is now mostly digital. High-quality film or video of live performances by these groups during those years remain quite rare. Several reasons account for this. One is that the video recording technology was still pretty crude and film was expensive to shoot. Second, the sound equipment used for live performances was not yet up to the task of competing with the often-screaming crowds. And finally, some of these bands were really not that good in live performance; studio musicians had a bigger role even at that time than many of us teenagers understood. Rumor persists that Dave Clark still has a very firm lock on video of live performances by his Dave Clark Five for all of these reasons.
In 1964, however, American International Pictures shot a high-definition film combining two live concert performances by an impressive array of American and British performers. They gave the edited film the name of The T.A.M.I. Show, which supposedly stood for either “Teenage Awards Music International” or “Teen Age Music International”. The complete show is now available on YouTube (below).
Hosted by the “surf music” duo of Jan and Dean, the show mixed R&B artists like Chuck Berry, the Supremes, and Marvin Gaye with white American Top-40 stars like the Beach Boys and Leslie Gore. To this lineup, the producers added three British Invasion bands: Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, and the Rolling Stones. Liverpool’s Gerry Marsden and his Pacemakers were the first British Invasion band to hit my hometown in Michigan, but I never made it to that concert. It wasn’t until 2001 that I finally caught up with Marsden, sans Pacemakers, at an intimate concert and storytelling session in Windsor, England.
Providing musical backup for some of the American performers was the group of legendary studio musicians who came to be known as “the Wrecking Crew.” Glen Campbell and Leon Russell were part of the group at this time, and played on this concert.
The Pacemakers had come up through the same tough Hamburg, Germany, club apprenticeship as the Beatles did, and shared their manager, Brian Epstein. In this film, they demonstrate their live chops, starting out with their version of “Maybellene” in tribute to Chuck Berry, who opens the show. They followed up with their four biggest hits up to that time, in a back and forth “musical duel” with Berry, and they hold their own in what likely is their best recorded performance of that era. Marsden has a unique, high-held “crook of the elbow” style of playing his Gretsch guitar that I don’t think I’ve ever seen replicated.
Billy J. Kramer’s career at that point was mostly limited to covering songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in a mainstream pop style, and he performs two of them here, “Bad to Me” and “From a Window,” plus his hit “Little Children.”
The Rolling Stones were really just getting started at this point, known in the U.S. only for “Time is on My Side” and “It’s All Over Now,” which they perform here. They were intentionally cast as the closing act, but as fate would have it, they were preceded by an amazing performance by James Brown and his Famous Flames, who stole the show. Keith Richards later admitted that this was a mistake, as their performance came off as quite weak by comparison. However, it is fascinating to see them at this beginning point in their career.
I didn’t touch on the all of the American performers, but the entire two-hour show is well worth watching as a fascinating, high-quality snapshot of one of the most exciting years in rock history.
I have to note as well that a great weekly radio show on the British Broadcasting Company’s Radio 2 is posted for online play every Saturday morning. Click here and search for “Sounds of the 60s” to listen to recent shows. Host Tony Blackburn is a veteran of the “pirate radio” ships that were often the first to play both British and American groups in that era. Blackburn plays from both the British and American charts, with a lot of stories and comparisons. It is very interesting to hear British hits than never made it in America, as well as vice versa, including many British band hits in America that fell flat at home.
(Note: you may need to click through to the link to YouTube due to playback restrictions on this video.)
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