Last month’s long-awaited DVD release of the historic 1964 rock concert film The T.A.M.I. Show has brought new attention to Lesley Gore.
The 1960s hitmaker delivered six songs in the film: her chart-topping 1963 debut hit “It’s My Party,” it’s No. 5 follow-up “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” her No.2 protofeminist anthem from 1964 “You Don’t Own Me,” her No. 14 hit from 1964 “Maybe I Know,” her minor 1964 hit “Hey Now” and “You Didn’t Look Around.”
Some pundits have opined that Gore is, in fact, the most accomplished vocalist heard in the show–big praise considering the show also featured performances by future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers the Rolling Stones, James Brown, Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and The Supremes. It was edited from a five-hour concert shoot at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on Oct. 29, 1964–the second of two consecutive nights and following a matinee performance that afternoon.
“It was pretty crazy!” recalls Gore. “There were some legitimate logistics problems and some other personal problems. Everyone was a diva on some level: James never wanted to rehearse, Chuck didn’t like his amp. Everything happened– but we just kept pushing forward!”
Gore says she was shocked when she went out on stage the first night.
“It wasn’t a proscenium stage,” she says, “and the orchestra was off to one side–not the usual situation. You could see [legendary arranger/conductor/pianist] Jack Nitzsche drop his arms for the downbeat, but the audience was screaming so loud you never heard the orchestra! I saw the tempo because the drummer was drumming, but I had no idea what key they were in. I just stood there for 20 seconds not knowing where to sing or what to do!”
These problems were solved in time for the second night of T.A.M.I.–an acronym for Teenage Awards Music International, which was conceived as an annual concert/awards program, but was never realized.
Having seen the DVD, Gore is shocked, too, by her set.
“I’m trying to remember why they chose those songs!” she says. “It’s probably the only time I ever performed ‘You Didn’t Look Around’–maybe it was intended to be a single. ‘Hey Now”s another one I probably didn’t do again in concert. But it’s wonderful to hear them instead of just the same hits all the time!”
As for the other artists, “all I wanted to do was stand in the wings and watch everybody perform!” she says. “But the question was, How long could I stand all that screaming? People probably think the most difficult thing to deal with was nerves and anxiety from being on stage with so many incredible performers, but the hardest thing was really dealing with the screaming kids because I’d never experienced that volume before.”
Gore had met Gerry Marsden of Gerry & The Pacemakers–who were also on the bill–in England, “but that was it, I think,” she continues. “Diana Ross, Chuck Berry, James Brown–it was all new for me, just remarkable. I was just like a fan sitting there watching everything. I kept my mouth shut and eyes wide open!”
On occasions when she reunites with any of her fellow T.A.M.I. alumni on the road, “we always hearken back to it,” she says.
Meanwhile, Manhattan native/resident Gore is bringing her new band to Joe’s Pub Thursday night.
“I’m playing a lot of material I adore,” she says. “No category, just songs that I feel great singing, like ‘Carousel’ by Jacques Brel, and five or six major Lesley Gore hits.”
She’s especially excited about her musicians–pianist Darryl Tookes, drummer Frank Pagano, guitarist Frank DeMaio and bassist John Arbo.
“The difference is all these guys sing, so I’m able to add material like ‘Viva La Vida’ and bring vocals in and use voices in ways I haven’t done before,” she says. “I’ve probably never had more fun on stage than I’m having now.”
More gigs with the band are forthcoming, she says. And Gore, who was raised in Tenafly, N.J., reports interest from theater people in a Lesley Gore musical a la Jersey Boys.
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