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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

James Brown Month: The Freakin' T.A.M.I. Show

It's the stuff of legend - in California in 1964, a grand gathering of rock 'n' roll & rhythm and blues stars for the first and just about only film of its kind, the T.A.M.I. Show, is capped by a battle of the apex of both genres - the Rolling Stones vs. James Brown. 

So much has been written about the different reactions each performance camp had to the announcement that the Stones would follow Brown. One thing's for sure - it wasn't the Stones' call. Producers Bill Sargent and director Steve Binder made the running order, and it was much to both acts' displeasure.

"umm . . . you know we didn't ASK to follow you, right Mr. Brown?"

"Nobody follows James Brown!" Brown kept saying. Binder had never seen JB perform, and Brown refused to rehearse for the program, telling Binder "you'll know what to do" when the cameras started to roll. Maybe if he'd given a little up, Binder would have understood. 

The Stones certainly did. According to an interview in MOJO, Jagger apparently came to Sargent and Binder and said "We can't do this." But Binder insisted they could, and Sargent wanted a British band to close up the show, so the die was cast.
"don't matter, son. get ready for the night train."
Apparently Jagger was so nervous watching Brown backstage Marvin Gaye had to tell him, "Just go out and do your best." Keith Richards would later say that going out after him was the biggest mistake of their career. 

Why was everyone making such a big fuss?


In addition to a hot "Out of Sight", in addition to the greatest version of the cape act ever captured on film, there is "Night Train", which is so fast, and so nuts, JB actually loses step a couple of times, and then turns his missteps into genius. Apparently Elvis Presley used to rent a theater and would roll this performance over and over again. Brown himself said it was the fastest he'd ever danced, and the best thing he'd ever done. 

RJ Smith quotes Brown about the T.A.M.I. saying "[IT] was the highest energy thing has ever been. I danced so hard my manager cried. But I really had to. What I was up against was pop artists. I was R&B. I had to show 'em the difference, and believe me, it was hard."

For their part, the Rolling Stones manage to get out with their asses basically intact. They deserve major points for even going on, and they're pretty great. Jagger shows his amazing sponge-like performance instincts by doing a serious number of JB moves that he'd just seen fifteen minutes before. Apparently they revamped their setlist entirely following the JB performance to give it more of an edge and freshness - "Off the Hook", which totally rocks here, was not even released yet! Brown apparently even shook their hands afterward and congratulated them, and invited them onstage a week later at the Apollo to have them take a bow. 

He won. He could afford to be generous. 

"Have another few thousand drinks and you'll get over it, pal."

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

summer of 64... All Over Now blasting out of the transistor radio...The Stones were Hot, James \brown was Nobody ( not until sex machine that is) . Kurhaus Scheveningen Holland just check it out. love from amsterdamned !!