Steve Binder’s The T.A.M.I. Show (1964), a live concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, was recorded on television using live-switch technology that was a precursor to high-definition TV, called Electronovision. In total, four cameras captured the live event from different angles. However, the show wasn’t broadcast live and it wasn’t recording onto VHS. This also means that there was no post-production on the film, except for editing together the opening introduction, which was shot on film.
Both the performers and the crew had only one day to rehearse and try and set everything straight. This was made difficult by real-life tensions among the performers and the immense amount of pressure on the crew to get everything right. The Beach Boys were co-headlining with Chuck Berry, and this was problematic because the melody for Berry’s song “Sweet Little Sixteen” was copied by the group, and used for the song “Surfin’ USA.”
The kinetic energy of the show, where the audience mainly consisted of high school students, was the result of the heart-pounding intensity between the performers and the crowd. It’s very evident that these performers were mega-stars, and for once, all races, sexualities, and genders were able to share the stage together. After all, this came just mere months after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that was signed into law by then President Lyndon Johnson.
The headliners were assisted by go-go dancers (both men and women) who shared common routine moves, proving that no one is bound to gender normative behavior. Whether the crew used Vaseline to create a hazy effect to round the camera edges on slower songs or shot a tight close-up of one of the stars, everything felt natural. As the crew was live-editing they used dissolves and fades to mask the transitions, with the exception of The Rolling Stones, but nonetheless they were seamless. Perhaps the biggest achievement made by both the crew, and the performer, was during James Brown’s set.
Brown hadn’t let anyone of the crew members or other performers see his portion of rehearsal, so the crew needed to be prepared to improvise and try and follow him. He is given the only wide-shot in the entire film, simply due to the fact that the camera crew had no idea which side of the stage he was coming from. The performance electrified the audience and they reciprocated that energy straight back to him, and he sure did feed off it. Another notable snippet came during The Supremes’ set, where Diana Ross is given an intimate close-up before the go-go dancers invade the singer’s space and make their way to the front of the stage, towards both the cameras and the audience. In a pre-internet age, when only a handful of stars were mega-hits and had tons of exposure, this concert was everything; and still is, especially as a time capsule for revisiting the era.