The Dave Clark Five

The Dave Clark Five. Beginning upper left hand corner, going clockwise: Mike Smith, Rick Huxley, Denis Payton, Lenny Davidson. That's Dave Clark in the center.

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.

16 Responses to “The Dave Clark Five”

  1. Rick Catizone says:

    I too really liked the Dave Clark Five…and some pieces more than some Beatles pieces. It was an interesting time with the British groups, and the heavy stuff as well. Sorry the show turned out to be such a disappointment for you. Nothing worse than being very expectant for something you really like, and have your visions of what it could have been dashed upon the rocks.

    Conversely, I have seen many of the DooWop and classic 50′s 60′s group revival shows on WQED and thoroughly enjoyed them.

    Best,
    Rick

  2. Belmo says:

    Dave is known for being pompous and having an enlarged sense of self-importance. Holding back the DC5 music for big paydays cost him financially and a well-deserved place in music history. I have the early LPs in my collection as well as several best-of collections. I always enjoy listening to them. However, I think their failure to progress musically is really what is responsible for their dropping out of public view. The Beatles and The Stones continued to grow and improve and to shape the world of rock music. The DC5 failed to do so. Sadly, they will be relegated to just a footnote of the British Invasion when that final “History of Rock Music” book is written.

  3. Bill says:

    @Rick:
    It was painfully embarrassing. I think Dave and his group should be recognized for what they accomplished — but this wasn’t the way to do it. It made me feel bad for the band — but not Dave. It was transparently clear he knew exactly what he was doing. Unfortunately, he underestimated his audience, who saw right through it. Mike, Lenny, Rick and Denis are the ones for whom I feel sorry.

    @Belmo:
    The DC5 actually did progress musically, generally going from hard rocking beat pop (“Bits and Pieces” , “Anyway You Want It”) sprinkled with the occasional ballads (“Because”, “Come Home”) to soul (“You Got What It Takes”, “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby”), touching on a bit of drug-free psychedelia (“Inside and Out”, “Maze of Love”, then wallowing in pop schmaltz (“Put a Little Love in Your Heart”, “Red Balloon”)— it’s just that they never truly led the charge. Except for establishing an incredibly powerful (and very well-recorded) sound, for the most part the DC5 were followers, not leaders, when it came to music. Business-wise, though, Dave was way ahead of the pack. And, despite their descension into some pretty cringe-inducing pop, they still kept managing to knock a few rockers out of the park right up until the end. Give a listen to Dave Clark & Friends’ (the friends in question being Mike Smith and a batch of studio musicians) incredible version of Neil Young’s “Southern Man” — WOW!

  4. Bjorn says:

    The worst part was Springsteen, Van Zant and Weinburg waxing lyrical about what a great drummer and song writer Clark was. Clark didn’t drum on the records and never wrote one word or note of any song the DC5 recorded. Yet his ego is so huge he left those comments in knowing them to be totally untrue.

  5. Bill says:

    @Bjorn:
    I suspect as much but you might be being a bit too harsh on Dave. I know he could drum (I saw him perform live in person and on TV). I also know that Bobby Graham played for him on a number of recordings — but I doubt (and have no evidence) that it was all of them. Graham never claimed he played on ALL of the DC5′s records.

    As for songwriting, he usually shared credit with Mike Smith or Lenny Davidson. I don’t know if it was a forced false credit (like Elvis’ songwriting credits) or whether he actually contributed to the lyrics or melody (I’ve always been suspicious of those credits). It’s likely we’ll never know the truth, as his key collaborator, Mike Smith, has passed away and Dave seems to keep a tight grip on any DC5 PR. Dave did receive the sole credit for “Because”, a lovely tune and an early DC5 hit. Did he really write it? Did he force Mike to give up his half of the credit for some reason? Maybe Mike’s widow or Lenny Davidson knows — but they don’t seem to be talking.

    There are many valid reasons to laud Dave Clark; he broke a lot of ground both musically and business-wise. A solid, clear-eyed, non-biased look at Clark and his band’s career would have served them all much better than the embarrassingly shallow and obvious puff piece that ran on PBS.

  6. Bill says:

    Checking the internet (not the most reliable source of information), I came across this posting from “Chuck” in Fort Worth, Texas:

    Clark wrote nothing but paychecks weekly to the members of his company – oops – band. He had a ghostwriter on board up through “Any Way You Want” It named Ron Ryan. Ron also wrote “Because”. In fact Clark didn’t play the drums on the hit records although he covered them well live; Bobby Graham played on the records through mid ’67. “Bits and Pieces” was conceived as a country tune by Ryan; Mike reworked it into the pop hit it became. Ryan also replaced the lyrics to the DC5 version of “Twist and Shout” (it exists – I’ve heard it) with “No Time To Lose” when Clark was upset the Tremeloes beat him to the punch with the release of the single. Graham played on both BTW.

  7. Bill says:

    It appears that Bjorn and “Chuck” were completely (and depressingly) correct. For more detail on the subject, go to:
    http://asithappens.hubpages.com/hub/CuriousStoryofDC5

    It’s a much darker, nastier tale than I ever suspected. Dave Clark should be ashamed of himself.

    When I attended my 20th high school reunion, I noticed that the gorgeous cheerleaders who were nasty to me in school had that nastiness eventually rise to the surface physically. Twenty years after graduating from high school, they were all disgusting. The plain girls who were sweet to me…well, their inner beauty had finally surfaced. They were no longer plain; they had become beautiful. The football players who delighted in tormenting me had all turned into sloppy drunks — real pigs. I realized that their lives had peaked in high school. Lucky me; after getting out of that horrible high school my life just got better and better…and continues to do so to this day.

    Check out Dave Clark’s “Before & After” photos:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2317732/Ageing-musician-Dave-Clark-looks-unrecognisable-rapidly-changing-face.html

    It supports my 20th reunion observation.

  8. rick harper says:

    I was very disappointed too. Whoopie Goldberg? All it was was everybody talking about Glad All Over. I doubt any of those folks owned the LPs. HOWEVER, it was very refreshing to see them FINALLY play live. “In 19 days”…. until 38:00 into the show I never knew they could really play. They were presented totally different in the UK. Here it was 99.9% mimes. I think they even did some of their live shows miming….

  9. Wayne Scott says:

    I heard the boys do Georgia and a totally fast liver version of YGWIT on some show in 67 and I think Mike tears up GA! He could out sing Steve Winwood any day of the week…his passion is amazing. Ever hear him on The Evita sountrack?? I saw him live twice in 03 with his Rock Engine and he was great plus took time for autographs and photos later…he was a great guy. The records were fine and fand sould care less about a studio musician or tow popping in from time to time.

  10. Paul Toghill says:

    You write some rubbish you do, all of you!

  11. Bill says:

    @Paul:
    Can you be more specific? I stand by my observations.

    @Wayne:
    I just got the Blu-ray of the DC5 TV special. Except for the full live performances of “Nineteen Days” and “Georgia On My Mind”, here’s not much more added that I don’t already have in my laser disc, DVD and video collection — but there is a wonderful Mike Smith story that wasn’t included in the show. The extra footage of Dave with Freddie Mercury reveals Dave at his warmest. They really seem like good, close friends. With two extra hours added to the Blu-ray/DVD, there’s still not one word from surviving DC5 member Lenny Davidson. I think that speaks volumes.

  12. William, I must ask you this . . . . I am also a fan of The DAVE CLARK FIVE . . . . . But I never read anything on the subject matter of – - – - are there any at all film footage with sound that were of LIVE SHOWS….?….I can NOT evver find anything at all…..!….This is UNREAL in that it makes ME think that the band only cut records BUT could NOT play in a live show….SO how did they do those tours…..?>….please – - please tell me what what YOU actually heard back then at the show that YOU were at…..I am 62 years young . . . . I remember them very well….I was there BUT never have seen a video taken from a film footage transfer that ACTUALLY show them sound and video of the show’s performance””’It ALWAYS sounds like the RECORDING that they are lip synced to – - Hollywood Joe

  13. Sigunnia says:

    I still have my first album, yes a record and it was the Dave Clark Five. Bought it for 69 cents. Loved them!!

  14. Bill says:

    @Hollywood Joe:
    Not much. The recent DC5 doc has their live performance for the Queen (“Nineteen Days” and “Georgia On My Mind”). I’ve got an entire laser disc of DC5 TV performances. I checked recently; they’re all lip-synched. In the DC5 doc I believe there’s a song with live vocals from Mike. My ears picked up an alternate take of one song but I’ll have to watch it again to see if it was live or not.

    I saw them play live — but with all the screaming….

    They were probably a decent live band, as they had built quite a base, club and dance hall reputation prior to their recording. Whether or not the rest of the band was great, Mike Smith, without a doubt, was an amazingly versatile singer and a terrific writer and keyboard player.

    @Sigunnia:
    The first LP I ever bought with my own money was The Dave Clark Five Return. And, yes, I’ve still got it.

  15. The PBS station in the Seattle-Tacoma area chose not to air the DC5 “documentary” in April when it was first shown nationally. Today, July 26, was the first showing in a prime time spot and what a huge disappointment! Dave Clark may not be evil but he certainly qualifies as a deceitful rogue. It was comical to see Gene Simmons interviewed in all his Kiss regalia, as if no one would recognize him unless he was costumed-up. I’m hoping one day a real documentary will be made about the Dave Clark Five. It will not be pretty.

  16. Stephanie says:

    I LOVE the Dave Clark Five but there are things about him all over the Internet that reek of selfishness. I saw some of their old picture sleeves and his face is magnified on all of them! I know he was a great businessman but come on lets give Mike Smith some credit. Its a shame money had to be raised for him did Dave give anything I hope so.

    The PBS special was nice and a lot of rare footage but must we hear from Gene Simmons and Whoopi Goldberg! Ian McKellan (are they trying to tell us Dave is gay) I have heard this on the net by the way and all messages point that way. Not that it matters but I thought we would hear from more of his peers at least we had Paul McCartney. Too bad the other band members didnt live longer Im glad they got inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame they should have been in 20 years ago.

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