Making its eagerly-awaited home-entertainment debut, Steve Binder’s long-lost concert movie captures two revue-style evenings—dubbed the “Teenage Awards Music International”—that took place at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1964. If the thought of watching grainy footage of screaming teens and shimmying go-go dancers sounds a little too PBS, just scan the lineup: Chuck Berry, a baby-faced Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Lesley Gore and the Beach Boys, among many more. (Miraculously, Shout! Factory’s DVD restores the latter band’s set, which had been MIA from existing prints for decades.) While not a comprehensive who’s who, the film is undoubtedly a key document of pop culture’s acne-scarred adolescent phase and a peerless chronicle of the Top-40-and-beyond music that would change society by the decade’s end.
The show’s last two acts make the biggest impact, and everything you’ve heard about James Brown’s sweaty, kinetic numbers here are true. Watch the Godfather of Soul scream, drop to his knees and engage in his famous cape routine during “Please, Please, Please,” and you’ll understand why Sting namechecks the performance in a Police song. Keith Richards once said that the biggest mistake the Rolling Stones ever made was following Brown, but their ripsnorting version of “It’s All Over Now” offers a hint of what these blooze enthusiasts would one day achieve. Extras are scant—radio spots, a trailer, a rambling commentary track between Binder and historian Don Waller—but any supplement is superfluous. We can now hold, in our clammy palms, the Holy Grail of rock & roll flicks. Hell has finally frozen over.—David Fear
More DVD reviews