Seriously, The T.A.M.I. Show was big. And not just because of a lineup that seemed to include every popular pop, rock, and R&B artist short of the Beatles.
What will always make The T.A.M.I. Show special is the fact that, at a time just before the Watts riots when Southern California was as racially, culturally and geographically segregated as any place in the United States, the show was the first high-profile opportunity for cloistered white kids to see black R&B artists up close.
It’s painful to admit, but many white kids who went to their local theaters to see The T.A.M.I. Show had never seen a person of color in person.
These were the artists who in many cases had written and first performed the songs that squeaky clean white artists like Pat Boone subsequently appropriated, “cleaned up” and recorded in excruciatingly saccharine versions.
It was a revelation.
Music was never the same. Life was never the same.
Chuck Berry, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, and one incredible song. Case closed.
Enough serious stuff.
Let me get this over with: Yes I grew up in Southern California. Yes I loved the Beach Boys. And yes, I was a serious skateboarder until my freshman year of high school.
I also surfed. Once. I stood up on the board once. Briefly.
Then it came out of the waves like a torpedo and hit me in the head. No more surfing.
But here are the Beach Boys with Surfin’ USA. A rip-off of Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen. But an anthem even to a wannabe who could only claim one smack in the head. Truly the essence of cool in 1963 Southern California.
Did you know that we skateboarders also had an anthem? It was called Sidewalk Surfin’ by Jan and Dean. Any of my incoming students this fall are welcome to ask to see the scar on my left forearm from a truly nasty fall on my friend Ricky’s long, smooth, concrete driveway.
Jan and Dean
Back next week.