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  Big T.N.T. Show, The Scream If You Wanna Go LouderBuy this film here.
Year: 1966
Director: Larry Peerce
Stars: David McCallum, Ray Charles, Petula Clark, The Lovin' Spoonful, Bo Diddley, Joan Baez, The Ronettes, Roger Miller, The Byrds, Donovan Leitch, Ike Turner, Tina Turner, Phil Spector
Genre: Music
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is late November 1965, and a selection of the biggest names in rock, soul, pop and folk have been assembled by producer Phil Spector to play before a live audience in what is hoped will be just as successful as the previous concert movie, The T.A.M.I. Show, and will go on to spawn a series of yearly occasions where music fans can attend vicariously by visiting their local picture palace to watch. The line-up is eclectic to say the least, so determined is the production to deliver something for every taste, but the audience are up for it and their enthusiasm should make for a memorable evening. All we need is for the host to arrive - ah, here he is, accompanied by four fez-sporting men in shades, and he takes to the stage to conduct the orchestra.

That host was David McCallum, the Scottish star who made his fortune playing a Russian on the then-newly launched hit The Man from U.N.C.L.E. television series, and thanks to that fresh fame he had embarked on a series of albums; not that he could sing, but he had classical training and arranged the music while often talking over the tracks, a sort of nineteen-sixties approach to making a record with a star who didn't have a great singing voice that you just don't get anymore. Nor do you get concert movies like this anymore, not with such a diverse number of acts on it, but that was the fashion in the middle of the decade, you would listen to everything portrayed as popular and played on the radio.

Yet we can see here a tipping point where that was about to change, for though the audience sits through Ray Charles as ecstatically as they do The Byrds, it was clear from a twenty-first century perspective this was not going to be the norm for much longer as music followers settled on one type of style to shower their adulation upon. Certainly television, rather than film, would remain a melting pot of differing genres, often on the same show, for some time afterwards, but eventually that everything but the kitchen sink method of assembling a roster of talent for a broadcast concert (this was created as if it were a television special, no matter that it was headed to theatres across America) was not one that survived other than the occasional pocket of entertainment.

What of that line-up? Though it was true to say this was the lesser sibling to The T.A.M.I. Show, that did not indicate it was worth dismissing. We saw many of the turns at their best, and this remained the best place to witness just how electrifying Bo Diddley or Ike and Tina Turner could be, those latter chosen to end the movie on a high, for the folkies did tend to bring the mood down significantly. Not terrible, but not what we expect from a rock concert from the sixties if you were unprepared for just how huge folk had become, though that was a peak that was only headed on a downward curve from this point on. Joan Baez may have had sensitive girls seen singing along silently when she performs, but her real highlight was where she trilled You've Lost That Loving Feeling while Spector and his orchestra accompanied her: it was odd enough to captivate.

Spector's pet project The Ronettes were a more conventional highlight, Ronnie powering through renditions of Be My Baby and the Isley Brothers' Shout and busting moves to go with her voice, in sharp contrast to Roger Miller up after, once seen as the future of country music his laidback eccentricity proves unexpectedly diverting (even if he does yell "HIPPY!" at an audience member, as if jokingly aware of how he was coming across). Petula Clark represented the British Invasion, with the audience in the palm of her hand as she offers Downtown, naturally, among other tunes, though Donovan was a more idiosyncratic booking, not blessed with many hits yet and going into folk overdrive with a version of Universal Soldier along with three others, put across to rapt silence - it was fascinating to watch the audience as much as the bands and singers. The Lovin' Spoonful's biggest hit here was Do You Believe in Magic, though they seem bemused to be screamed at, but Tina Turner probably stole the show, if it was to be stolen, as she roared her way through her appearance, a welcome reminder of how vital she was. This may sound all over the place, and maybe it was, but it was a great time capsule too.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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