The Big T.N.T. Show was filmed in Los Angeles in November of 1965 and stars some of the biggest acts of the day, including many future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members, performing their best material. The Byrds, in their original line-up of Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, and Roger McGuinn, perform two # 1 hits, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season).” Ray Charles gives a rousing performance of “What’d I Say” and “Let the Good Times Roll.” A sultry performance by The Ronettes on “Be My Baby” is met with impassioned screams from the audience; The Lovin’ Spoonful perform their Top 10 hits “Do You Believe in Magic?” and “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice”; and Bo Diddley fires up the crowd with “Bo Diddley” and “Hey, Bo Diddley.” To close the show, The Ike & Tina Turner Revue give an electrifying performance, including “I Think It’s Going to Work Out Fine” and “A Fool in Love.”
Also on the stage that evening was Petula Clark, performing her No. 1 hit “Downtown”; Roger Miller, playing his biggest hit, “King of the Road”; Donovan, opening his set with Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Universal Soldier”; and the reigning queen of folk, Joan Baez, reflecting the continuing popularity of the genre as the Vietnam War escalated.
Performing to the side of the stage in between acts, but not seen in the film, was the Modern Folk Quartet. Made up of future luminaries - songwriter/producer Chip Douglas, Lovin’ Spoonful member Jerry Yester, famous rock photographer Henry Diltz, and songwriter/musician Cyrus Faryar, with session player “Fast” Eddie Hoh on drums, the band closed the evening with the show’s Harry Nilsson-composed theme song “This Could Be The Night.”
Originally billed as a companion piece to the T.A.M.I. Show after that show’s success, The Big T.N.T. Show holds up as an essential time capsule from its day. Phil Spector was on board to help produce, to serve as the on-screen music director, and to play piano for Baez’s rendition of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” David McCallum, a rising star appearing in the new TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., was tapped to emcee. Filmed at what was then the Moulin Rouge nightclub on Sunset, footage also includes shots of the Los Angeles haunts Chateau Marmont, Ben Frank’s coffee shop, and fleeting hot spot The Trip nightclub.
One of the most acclaimed rock events ever captured on film, the 1964 concert known as T.A.M.I. Show also featured performances by several future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. In a lineup like no other, the Rolling Stones, James Brown, the Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, the Supremes, Chuck Berry, Lesley Gore and others took the stage one after another on October 29 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.
Aside from the five rock groups, all the performers were backed by a band that we've come to know as the Wrecking Crew, famed for playing on Phil Spector-produced hits, Beach Boys albums and much more, with future stars Glen Campbell and Leon Russell, among others. Fanita James, Jean King, and future solo star Darlene Love, billed as The Blossoms, provided backing vocals.
Mastered from a new High-Definition transfer, The T.A.M.I. Show / The Big T.N.T. Show Collector's Edition brings both of these history-making films to life in a definitive set that no fan or scholar of rock and soul music will want to be without.
The concert movie has always been a curious genre to me. It's not really a documentary, even though many have been framed as such in order to provide some sort of story for the audience to experience. Concert movies aren't fictional either, even though a plot was shoehorned into 'ABBA: The Movie' just to link all of the different concert footage. If anything, concert films are like a prolonged collection of car chases, each song is fun and catchy and the performances are usually pretty amazing, but as far as cinematic experiences go they're usually not much to look at. That said when you have two classic concert films like 'T.A.M.I. Show' and 'The Big T.N.T. Show' what you get is a showcase of impressive talent by top artists when they were in their prime - and it proves to be incredible material.
In 1964, a foursome band from Britain known as the Beatles dropped by a little American TV show hosted by Ed Sullivan - and the music industry changed virtually overnight. It became imperative to have an audience of screaming teens within a stone's throw of the musicians in order to sell records. What better way to do that with a feature length film telling al of the kids about the big rock 'n' roll movers and shakers that had records out there right at that moment. Hosted by Jan and Dean, 'T.A.M.I. Show' features legendary performances from Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys, The Barbarians, Lesley Gore, and two incredible appearances by The Rolling Stones and "Mr. Please Please Please" himself, James Brown.
The Big T.N.T. Show
As they say, one good turn deserves another. In the two years after 'T.A.M.I. Show,' a number of hot rock 'n' roll and soul stars rose to the heights of fame, only to fade away into the distance. In the music industry, two years is a lifetime. So what better way to introduce some new talent and reintroduce some great acts than another feature length concert film? Under the eye of producer Phil Spector, the Wall of Sound comes to life with musicians like Joan Baez, The Byrds, Petula Clark, The Ronettes, Ike and Tina, and Ray Charles.
As I said before, I've always found it a bit difficult to categorize concert films like this. Really, you're there to listen to the music making it more of an auditory experience rather than a visual one. If the act in question happens to put on a good show, all the better, but it never feels like a requirement. The tunes are what you're there for. At the same time, I can't deny how cool it is to see the people I grew up listening to as a kid in the 80s on screen. My dad was one of the first people I knew of to jump onto the CD craze in the early 80s. Because most of the stores in our area didn't have much of a selection for the format, he turned to mail-order subscription services. One of the best ones he signed up for was an annual collection of various chart-topping hits of every year from the early 1960s all the way to the mid-1970s. The music featured throughout 'T.A.M.I. Show' and 'The Big T.N.T. Show' is the music that I grew up listening to - and it's great stuff!
I personally discovered 'T.A.M.I. Show' while working at a movie and music retail chain store commonly found in shopping malls. That job had few perks but when I was the opening manager I got to chose the music or what movie would go on our displays. On a whim, I popped in the DVD of 'T.A.M.I. Show,' and was glad I did. When Chuck Berry came out slinging 'Johnny B Goode' I stopped what I was doing and just watched. Throughout my run at that particular store, whenever I would be having a bad day I would pop that DVD on and would instantly turn things around. The music drew in customers and we tended to have better sales days whenever it was on. Could be a coincidence, but I like to think it was because hearing The Beach Boys just made folks feel better and more welcome at the shop.
All warm and fuzzy nostalgia aside, as concert films, they're a little here or there. While the tunes are certainly amazing, the films themselves are a bit restricted by the presentation. On one hand, you have 'T.A.M.I. Show' which looks and feels like a really long Ed Sullivan showcase. It's great, but a lot of the acts look a bit rushed through as they only get to perform sixty to ninety seconds of their signature songs while other acts get to dominate the stage. But that really is a small complaint because you get two incredibly arresting performances from James Brown and The Rolling Stones to close out the show. If the other acts were actually edited around for time constraints, it was because these two were so incredible that the filmmakers had to leave their performances intact.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have 'The Big T.N.T. Show,' a concert show that I don't think of as being particularly successful. It tries to be more cinematic, it's shot in an open air venue, the audience looks to be more a part of the show and closer to the performers - but you can also feel the edits. While a performer like Ray Charles could be on screen or Ike and Tina and that would naturally be something to get excited and cheer for, the audience reaction doesn't feel organic to the moment, like they borrowed footage from another show and edited it in here. It's also a clunkier movie experience as there isn't an MC like Jan and Dean to guide the audience to which act is going to appear next. But who am I to complain? Honestly, when you've got Ray Charles, Petula Clark, and Bo Diddley among a dozen other incredible artists performing, 'The Big T.N.T. Show' is certainly a rare event, and one worth watching.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'T.A.M.I. Show / The Big T.N.T. Show' arrive on Blu-ray as a two-disc set courtesy of Shout! Factory and their Shout Select imprint with a spine number 9. Both 'T.A.M.I. Show' and 'The Big T.N.T. Show' are given their own Region A BD50 disc. Both discs are housed in a sturdy two-disc Blu-ray case. Included is a booklet containing photos from the event, stills, and a collection of essays. Each disc opens to their respective animated main menus featuring standard navigation options.
After seeing this film many times on DVD, I wasn't expecting much on the video quality front. I was actually pleasantly surprised that 'T.A.M.I. Show' looks as good as it does on Blu-ray. It may not look amazing, but this 1.78:1 1080p transfer does the show justice. Now, as you watch the show, every now and again you can see that T.V. studio cameras were used for much of the filming. While some shots do appear to have been photographed using actual film, a lot of this show has the appearance of a high-quality kinescope transfer. This is because of the Electronovision process of recording the concert initially on high-quality tape and then transferring to film for theatrical distribution. There is some apparent film grain throughout, but detail levels are largely restricted to how close the camera got to the subject. The black and white presentation offers up some decent black levels and grey scaling, but there never really is much in the way of apparent depth to the image. It's good, certainly better than the DVD, but not ideal.
The Big T.N.T. Show
Much like 'T.A.M.I Show,' 'The Big T.N.T. Show' is limited by its source elements and how it was archived throughout the years. While the 1.78: 1080p presentation is pretty good, it's actually a bit of a step down from the appearance of the 'T.A.M.I. Show' - which is weird because this one was actually recorded on film instead of the Electronovision process. Here, the image feels dark without much in the way of shadow separation where the only tones are in black and grey with only moderate separation. Detail levels, despite the presence of natural film grain, tend to skew on the softer side of things without much in the way of fine detail coming through. Certainly an improvement over a DVD, but not much better. The source appears to be in good shape overall without any sort of nicks or speckling visible.
Where this show shines is with its DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix. Everything sounds simply amazing here. One by one each act comes on and belts out a classic rock 'n' roll tune to the best of their strengths. Where they're nailing the high tones or punching in the low notes, the show sounds amazing. Since this is a music concert, there really isn't much in the way of sound design outside of the screaming teens who have a rich and natural presence throughout. The show sounds amazing throughout, but James Brown's 'Night Train' is the star of the night in my opinion. Brown doing his thing and playing off the crowd was just awesome. The track is free of any age-related issues or distortion.
The Big T.N.T. Show
Thankfully the audio presentation of 'The Big T.N.T. Show' comes through. This DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix is a pretty great representation with a nice natural quality to the vocal work. This track only shows its limitations when someone has a pretty high vibrato like Joan Baez. She tends to tax the high notes, but the rest of the groups work well within their vocal ranges. Like 'T.A.M.I. Show,' the audio is really focused on the musicians and what they bring to the state. There is that expected audience cheer, but for whatever reason, the cheering kids sound canned and looped in. It's odd because the various artists here were clearly recorded in the same room with the audience, but the audience sounds fake and lifeless. Thankfully the track is free of any age-related issues or distortion present and the songs come through crystal clear.
Audio Commentary: Director Steve Binder and Music Historian Don Waller provide a very informative and interesting commentary. It's fascinating to hear the back story of the logistics about putting the show together with that many artists all in one place. Unfortunately, Waller and Binder aren't in the same room together, but their combined commentaries are pretty good.
Original Trailer With Optional Commentary by John Landis: (HD 3:38)
T.A.M.I. Show Radio Spots:
Radio Spot 1: (1:07)
Radio Spot 2: (1:05)
Radio Spot 3: (00:38)
Radio Spot 4: (00:35)
The Big T.N.T. Show
Petula Clark Interview: (HD 3:18) An all too brief interview - but a good one - with a music legend.
John Sebastian Interview: (HD 4:11) It's great to hear from the legendary musician of The Lovin' Spoonful and he's got some great memories about the show.
Henry Diltz Interview: (HD 8:04) Diltz is animated and fun as he recalls seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and how it inspired his band The Modern Folk Quartet - honestly his story reminds me a lot of 'A Mighty Wind' so that kinda gave me a laugh.
The Big T.N.T. Show - An Eclectic Mix: (HD 8:26) This is some additional interview footage with Sebastian, Clark, and Diltz, it's a pretty good little extra, but it also feels like there was a lot more to their respective conversations that could have been brought to this extra feature.
Trailer: (HD 3:02)
If you're someone who loves classic Rock 'n' Roll, Soul, and great tunes of the 60s, it doesn't get much better than 'T.A.M.I. Show' and 'The Big T.N.T. Show.' Combined, you get nearly three and a half hours of great music wrapped up in a neat little package. This was the music my parents would play all the time when I was growing up - especially on road trips - so It hits home for me in a big way. Shout! Factory through their Shout Select imprint have done right by these respective shows. Their video presentations are limited by their source elements and the recording technology used to capture the shows live, but the audio is dynamic and sounds fantastic. The collection of bonus features may not be much but they're worth picking through. At the end of the day, I'm calling 'T.A.M.I. Show / The Big T.N.T. Show' recommended.