Various Artists

That Was Rock [Video]

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In 1964 and 1965, a pair of concert events were captured for posterity in a pair of feature films, The Teen Age Music International Show, officially known as The T.A.M.I. Show, and The Big TNT Show. Between them, they captured concert performances by an astonishing array of top rock & roll, R&B, and pop stars of the era: the Rolling Stones, James Brown, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, the Ronettes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Supremes, the Byrds, the Lovin' Spoonful, and the Beach Boys (although their performance was edited out of the final cut of The T.A.M.I. Show). In 1982, the owner of the two feature films, UPA Productions of America, prepared two different (but overlapping) editions of a composite video entitled That Was Rock. The American version, which featured short introductory segments by Chuck Berry, was a huge success on videotape and laser disc and set a standard that has never been matched. The Bo Diddley set is edited, which is a shame, and Gerry & the Pacemakers are reduced to a cameo, which is unfortunate, but That Was Rock is still almost flawless. The producers have favored the R&B acts from the original two movies over the pop and folk-rock performers that were heavily featured in The Big TNT Show; thus, you are deprived of the Byrds, the Modern Folk Quartet, Joan Baez (in a duet with Phil Spector on "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling"), and Donovan, not to mention Petula Clark, David McCallum, and Jan & Dean, but they're a small loss. James Brown burns up the screen, and the final 20 minutes feature the most exciting footage of the Brian Jones-era Rolling Stones that can be found this side of The Ed Sullivan Show. The Supremes are a disappointment, but Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, and the Ronettes in top form represent the Motown and girl group sounds exceptionally well. Much more troubling is the image quality, which is limited by the process that was used to capture the two shows; rather than capturing them directly on film, the producers used a system called Electronovision in which the performances were videotaped (in black and white) and then that videotape master was transferred to film, very much like the kinescope process by which live television images (in the days before videotape) were preserved by literally shooting a film of the picture on a monitor. This may have made the filming of both shows affordable, but it left behind a slightly murky looking pair of movies, compared to what could have been captured directly on film. Additionally, The T.A.M.I. Show, at least, was released in a widescreen aspect ratio, similar to SuperScope; That Was Rock is the much narrower "academy ratio," which fits the television screen perfectly but,which, for example, cuts off the images of Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard alongside Diana Ross during the Supremes' set, and generally makes all of the close-ups tighter than they were intended. And there are limitations to the sound recording of the show; it would be another three years before a film captured a live rock show with state-of-the-art multi-channel sound system (Monterey Pop). Ideally, one would like to go back to the first generation video and audio masters of both of these movies and apply some modern digital video and audio technology to each. The Japanese version of That Was Rock, which was imported on laser disc in the middle to late '80s is edited differently, with a handful of additional songs and some astonishing images, in particular, of "The Duchess" during Bo Diddley's set, and it has no bridge sequences with Chuck Berry.

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