I’m a huge Dave Clark Five fan. I have every one of their records and bought all the unreleased stuff when it debuted on i-tunes. I saw them perform live back in 1966 with an entire theater full of screaming teen girls, the only “screaming show” I ever attended. If you’re not from my generation, you might not realize that the three biggest groups during the first British invasion of the 1960s were The Beatles, the Dave Clark Five and the Rolling Stones — in that order. The Dave Clark Five hold the record for the most appearances on the Ed Sullivan show with 18. More than The Beatles; more than the Stones.
As a drummer myself, Dave Clark was a real icon and inspiration of mine. I was really looking forward to seeing the two hour special on the DC5 last night on PBS.
Boy, was I disappointed.
The show was one big puff piece for Dave. I found it repetitive (why the same songs over and over?), padded (the band’s home movies seemed to go on forever) and embarrassing. It didn’t help that Dave has not aged well, or that his enthusiasm during the stories he told was barely above comatose (this guy had acting lessons?).
It was great to see bits of interviews with the band’s incredibly talented lead singer and keyboard player Mike Smith — but why none of the other guys, especially Lenny Davidson, who’s still alive and who sang lead on a couple of their hits? Was the band really all right with Dave dissolving them? So much went unsaid. There was no depth whatsoever to the examination of the group.
Guests Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Ian McKellen, and other prominent gay icons — as well as a Judy Garland shout-out — made it seem like Dave was finally going to come out, which could have been very interesting (I first heard the rumor — from female fans — at the concert I saw way back in 1966)…but no, it was not to be.
It was interesting to hear what sounded like a demo/jam version of the rockin’ “Got Love If You Want it” (not the blues standard). It hinted at perhaps lots more unreleased stuff. It was a real surprise to see and hear them do “Georgia on My Mind” for the Queen (Mike was decent — no Bill Medley or Stevie Winwood, though — but the back-up vocals by Dave and Lenny had me cringing).
No mention or footage of Phil Spector (who was prominently featured in a DC5 TV special) or Bobby Graham (the great session drummer who secretly played for the DC5 and a number of other British invasion bands on some of their records), but that’s not surprising if the show was all about polishing Dave’s image. All of those favors called in for appearances on the show, with McKellen’s and Laurence Olivier‘s comments revealing lots between the lines, made me feel sorry for the show’s “guests”. The Tom Hanks induction speech (when they were belatedly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), though, remains one of the best I’ve ever heard and vividly captured the excitement of hearing and seeing the band. I hope there are lots of extras on the DVD/Blu-Ray (including an uninterrupted version of Tom’s speech) — but I’m not counting on it. It should at least include all of their song videos (which I have on a Japanese laser disc); the band was perhaps the earliest rock video pioneer.
The DC5 have pretty much been forgotten. Dave made some brilliant business moves throughout the band’s career but also made a few key mistakes. His owning the band’s masters kept him financially independent and, except for Ray Charles, unique in the pop business world. But by not leasing the DC5’s music to various media and waiting much too long to release their music on CD (Dave was holding out for an unrealistic payday), the DC5 got no airplay on the oldies stations nor public reminders of their greatness via film soundtracks. They eventually released a double-CD greatest hits collection through Disney’s Hollywood Records but, by then (1993), the band had pretty much left the public’s consciousness. The rest of their LP and single recordings (they waxed 18 LPs from 1964-1970!) remain unreleased on CD to this day, except as gray area semi-legit/semi-bootlegs in Germany and the Czech Republic.
My wife is two years older than me. She missed the DC5 and a lot of the other British Invasion groups. This show did not make her a convert. At the end I felt kinda sorry I put her through all two hours. Her conclusion was, “Wow. Dave’s got quite the ego, hasn’t he?”
The show seemed like a pathetically desperate cry for attention and historical recognition. Sadly, I guess that the band’s true assessment will have to wait until after Dave passes. With three band members already gone, though, I’m afraid we’ll always be missing key parts of the DC5 puzzle — most of which are held (and, I’m guessing, will probably never be released) by Dave.