From All Over The World

We went to see "The T.A.M.I. Show" at the cemetery.

Actually, I kind of dig the cemetery. There was one at the end of our street growing up. It was a cool place to ride my bike. Not that I’d want to get caught there overnight. And I’d actually been to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery back in the seventies, when I made a point to visit each and every music and movie highlight/location/point of interest, everything from "Pico & Sepulveda" to Gower Gulch. If I remember correctly, Hollywood Forever is the final resting place of Cecil B. DeMille. I remember an expansive lawn in front of his tombstone. I figured that’s where they’d be projecting the movie, alas, they showed it on the side of a mausoleum.

Funny to ride the freeways these days. There’s movement we haven’t seen in decades. Like someone sprayed WD-40 all over the highway. Seems that the way to relieve traffic congestion is to raise fuel prices. Turns out driving is not an American right, but a privilege. One that is commensurate with your economic class.

But, when we got to Santa Monica Boulevard, there was a lineup of cars, waiting to get in. Turns out the backup had to do with the collection of money. When we finally made our way to the head of the line, we found the clerks liked to bullshit, would answer all your questions… Why didn’t they have two stops? One for money, one for answers? Ah, efficiency. Years pass, but new generations still don’t give a damn about time. Whereas when you get older you can see the sand running through the hourglass, you don’t want to wait at the grocery store, you don’t want to wait anywhere. You could expire in line!

How many people were there? I’m not really good at that. Certainly over 1,000. At $10 a head, that’s not a bad payday. See, there are more ways to make money than promoting evanescent talent in decrepit venues.

Yes, unlike at too many sheds, we parked our asses on luxuriant grass. On a blanket. With our cooler. That’s what you do, picnic. I was motivated to go by the flyer Bob Merlis forwarded. I’ve been itching for years, but never had a free night or I wasn’t interested in the movie.

The assembled multitude… Was hipsters. Not richsters. Richsters don’t like to hang with the common folk. These were people who either couldn’t afford the modern day diversions or wanted to make the scene.

Speaking of scene, they had a deejay. Who flew all the way in from Chicago. Call me an oldster, but I don’t think playing records from your collection when no one’s paying attention is a high-flying gig. Shit, couldn’t someone just hook up their iPod?

And, as the sun went down, Michael Des Barres took the mic and implored us to… Shit, I don’t know. I stopped listening. I was here to see the fucking movie. Endless ads, endless hype, we paid our money, give us the show!

Which was a less than stellar print of "The T.A.M.I. Show", which I’ve never seen in its entirety. Rights issues hamper its availability. Actually, the Beach Boys segment hasn’t been included for over thirty five years. But, the band loaned their segment for inclusion, after the main show was done. And, the image was much better, but there was a sound problem and most people left. Not me, I realized that the Beach Boys sit at the pinnacle of my pantheon. Because I got such a rush singing along. I didn’t get that feeling accompanying the Stones. I got nostalgic singing along with Gerry Marsden and his Pacemakers, and I found Lesley Gore surprisingly good, but no one was in the league of the Beach Boys except James Brown.

Remember when you had to go to the show to find out?

I bought the first two Rod Stewart albums without hearing them first, the reviews were just that good. And six months later, I ventured to the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester to see him and the reconstituted Faces. That lame gentleman singing standards and serial marrying? I’m convinced he’s not the same guy. Because Rod Stewart was the coolest rock star of 1971. You didn’t want to be Jagger, you wanted to be him.

Rod entered the stage strutting in the middle of the first song. When he strode up to the mic, he fell backwards, and ascended just in time to hit the first note. And that voice! I was sold. I bought every album thereafter. Because of "Gasoline Alley" and that one performance.

And I realize they called on James Brown to quell rioting. But I didn’t quite get it until last night. When, I saw something in its entirety that I’d only seen excerpts of in clips. His cape routine.

Actually, the highlight was his dancing. Michael Jackson’s moonwalk? An earthly prance in comparision to James Brown’s ethereal jaunt! Watching you were stunned Brown lived that long. With not only all those knee-drops, but the endless twirling, the rotating legs, the movement. Imagine Michael Jackson at 78 RPM, that’ll give you an idea.

Actually, Michael Jackson’s not a bad reference point. That moonwalk, done in Pasadena at that awards show? That made Michael, that one event. The clips on MTV were just gravy. I remember going to people’s houses who had tapes, you watched it again and again, it was just that good.

But James Brown was even better.

Sitting there I contemplated how different things are today.

Those acts of yore, ’64, in fact, seemed quaint at this distance. But, you’ve got to remember, we didn’t possess the exhibition and distribution opportunities of today. The spark was lit on the radio, you saw them on stage and you testified. Took years for the word to spread, for your career to be solidified. Today, everyone watches the train-wreck for five minutes and then moves on. Moonwalk, schmoonwalk. Next!

Music doesn’t drive the culture, and we’ve seen enough dancing to no longer get excited. But, those "T.A.M.I. Show" dancers… You could see why the older generation was frightened. They looked like they were having sex on stage!

"The T.A.M.I. Show" is a time capsule. Of a distant age, when the world wasn’t so connected, when the way to fame and riches, the way to see the world, was to record one two and a half minute number. And the audience was glued, because this was the only truth in the media.

There was screaming in the Santa Monica Civic. Oftentimes, you could barely hear the act. We didn’t see Felice’s visage, but she remembers screaming there too. I remember seeing the trailer at the Majestic in downtown Bridgeport, being exposed to James Brown’s image for the very first time. And asking myself, what the fuck is this? You know how when you’re exposed initially, you can’t even process. Hell, we laughed when we saw the Beatles perform "She Loves You" on "Jack Paar" in November of ’63. But, by January, a day after "I Want To Hold Your Hand" hit the airwaves, we were fans.

And despite it being a movie, despite the performances being forty four years old, despite so many in attendance being stoned (the smell of pot was constantly in the air), when James Brown was finished, he got a standing O. Yup, this guy who’s six feet under himself had mesmerized a whole new generation, and reinforced to those who’d been contemporaries that it’s all not about sponsorships and commercials, but owning the stage. James Brown owned the stage at "The T.A.M.I. Show". He was unforgettable. His legend lives on.

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