On Oct. 28 and 29, 1964, 50 years ago this month, thousands of screaming teenagers flocked to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to witness one of the most famous concerts in the history of American music. The T.A.M.I. show — short for "Teenage Awards Music International" or just "Teen Age Music International" — was a variety show featuring performances from some of the most important acts in pop music at the time: Jan and Dean, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Rolling Stones and James Brown, who gave a genre-defining performance.
On top of all the musicians, the shows' producers recruited some of Hollywood's best dancers to accompany the musicians, and that included 21-year-old assistant choreographer Toni Basil. Basil would later go on to record "Mickey," the 1982 hit single. But as she tells "Off-Ramp" contributor Sean J. O'Connell that the T.A.M.I. show was one of the most important moments of her career.
For Basil, the highlight from the two nights was James Brown's performance:
"James was just amazing that night. He did, what, how long? How long did he do? At least 15 minutes? My god! Nothing short of Shakespearian.
"If you really think about what he did with that cape, falling to his knees, and Bobby Burnett and putting that cape around him, and getting him up. And walking him off in this extremely dramatic, theatrical way. And James threw the cape off and came back and dropped to his knees again!
"I remember when I saw James hit those steps, I was so perplexed by them I actually ran up to the second floor, where there was a full mirror in the ladies room. And I tried to do the step. And then I'd run back downstairs and look at the step — because he was on forever, doing that step. You know, there was no video like now where you rewind and look at it!"
Basil says the performance changed her dance career completely. "I look back at it and I see how fun and interesting and what a change dance was taking," she says.