Text by Joe Tortelli, 1982
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2018
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This article was published in FFanzeen, issue #9, dated 1982, beginning on page 5. It was written by the Boston-area music historian Joe Tortelli. This was originally reprinted with the permission of Tortelli from his own fanzine, Oh Yeah!, issue No. 1, then and now out of PO Box 370, Arlington, MA 02476, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Joe has written liner notes for such artists as Delaney & Bonnie and the Fifth Estate, has his own music-related television show called “On Topic,” and is currently writing the biography of songwriter and performer Bobby Hebb (“Sunny”).
My own first memory of the Dave Clark Five was seeing the film Having a Wild Weekend at the Benson Theater, in Brooklyn, NY. At the time, I liked it better than A Hard Day’s Night (I was a bit late to the Beatles’ party). There must have been some kind of promotion, because I remember they handed out some black and white 8 x 10 stills from the film. I gave mine away to someone I was trying to impress (yes, a girl), but it didn’t really get me anywhere. Mind you I was 10 at the time… Anyway, I really liked the music in the film, and still enjoy the DC5’s recordings from that period. They seemed a bit different than the other Mersey Beat sounds to my young mind, and I did manage to catch them, if I could (pun intended) when they appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” – Robert Barry Francos, 2018
Mike Smith * Lenny Davidson * Dave Clark * Denny Payton * Rick Huxley
The Dave Clark Five recorded some of the most explosive singles of the mid-1960s. They were a phenomenally popular band during the British Invasion (1964-1965). Their fame and record sales gradually declined over the following two years, until they finally disappeared completely from the American record charts and our teen consciousness.
The DC5’s reputation was hardly enhanced during the ensuing years. The rock values of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s included such things as instrumental virtuosity, lyrical profundity, and musical experimentation – ideas not exactly prevalent on DC5 recordings. The “serious” (i.e., progressive FM) rock fans quickly dismissed the DC5. The DC5 did create pop music; some of the most exciting pop music the rock’n’roll world has ever heard. Their forte was the two-minute single: forceful, pounding rock’n’roll literally bursting forth from those timid vinyl grooves. Guitars, saxophone, drums, organ, voices: all sounding as one, one sounding as all. This was the Dave Clark Five at their best – all the strength, power, and excitement they could muster, squeezed into simple, yet well-crafted two-minute pop songs.
There were (as the more astute among you may already have guessed) five of them: Dave Clark was the drummer and leader of the band. Dave wrote or co-wrote all the group’s original hits. He was also one of the earliest rock stars to produce his own band’s records. Perhaps because Dave was a drummer, the DC5’s earliest recordings have a stronger, fuller drum sound than many other contemporary recordings (cf., the early Beatle LPs). Clark also directed the band’s business affairs and quickly realized the importance of the American audience and market.
Mike Smith was the lead vocalist and organist, as well as Dave Clark’s most prolific songwriting partner. Smith certainly did not have a great vocal range, but he was a great rock’n’roll singer nonetheless. He could wail and scream if necessary, but most importantly, he fit the songs and the songs fit him.
Denny Payton was a British Invasion anomaly – a saxophone player. Payton’s driving sax energized the group’s up-tempo material; he was the secret ingredient in the DC5 “sound.” Lenny Davidson was probably the least-heard guitarist in the British Invasion. The sax, organ, and drums all took precedence over the guitar on DC5 records, so Davidson was more of a rhythm, than lead, guitarist. Rick Huxley was the band’s fifth member and bass guitarist.
Glad All Over
The Beatles had just appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” for three consecutive weeks (twice live and once on tape). Their records were dominating America’s airwaves as no one’s ever had. Things were happening so quickly it almost seemed ridiculous to ask, “What’s next?” A week later, on the same “really big show,” we found out…
The Dave Clark Five were next. They appeared before America’s teenagers with neatly trimmed Beatle haircuts, matching suits, and black boots with the highest Cuban heels ever seen.
The DC5 exuded an enormous amount of energy on stage. Their music was direct, fast, and powerful. Visually, the audience’s attention was riveted to the roguishly cute organist/vocalist and the very handsome drummer. But the image of the band that still remains most clear and distinct from early 1964 is that one of the boys stamping their pointed black boots to the drum beat of “Bits and Pieces.” It was, one supposes, a calculated gimmick of sorts, but it was, at the same time, a genuine gesture demonstrating the band’s commitment to the primal rock beat. That stagemanship set the DC5 apart and guaranteed that they would be recognized in America.
“Glad All Over” was the DC5’s initial hit single on this side of the Atlantic. It arrived in early ’64, along with the “Ed Sullivan” appearance and a wave of hype about the band, which drove the Beatles from the No. 1 spot on the British charts. “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” owned the top of the British Singles charts for weeks on end until the DC5 broke the Fab Four’s string with “Glad All Over.” Now the DC5 seemed destined to do the same thing in America.
Of course, this rivalry led to a flurry of press reports about the Beatles and their “new challengers.” Would the upstarts’ Tottenham Sound outstrip the dominant Mersey Beat? Who was better, the Beatles or the Dave Clark Five? These and other questions would be answered rather emphatically in good time, but in 1964, they did appear to be rather important [there were several Beatles vs. the Dave Cark Five teen-type magazines at the time, a wise corporate move to sell copies to the fans of both of the top bands – RBF, 2018].
“Glad All Over” was quickly followed on the charts by the equally pulsating “Bits and Pieces.” Both songs were Dave Clark-Mike Smith collaborations, and both were Top-10 hits simultaneously. They were joined in the upper regions of the American Charts by a powerful DC5 rendition of the Contour’s classing, “Do You Love Me.”
All three singles came from the band’s first American album on Epic Records, entitled Glad All Over. This LP established a pattern which the DC5 would follow rather closely on all subsequent albums. Glad All Over included 11 songs, all of which were rather short (two to three minutes), even by mid-‘60s standards. The emphasis was on the hit singles. While it might be unfair to characterize the rest of the material as filler, it certainly could not match the hits.
This and future DC5 albums included a couple of instrumentals (“Chaquita” and “Time”). There were also a couple of cover songs: the above-mentioned “Do You Love Me” and Maurice Williams’ “Stay.” Finally, there were several non-hit originals which tended to be patterned after the smashes, but simply were not as compelling (“All of the Time,” “I Know You,” “No Time to Lose,” “She’s All Mine”).
Glad All Over proved to be an extremely popular album, eventually going Gold (over 250,000 units). During the Spring of 1964. It was the only new rock LP which could hold its own on the charts against the three big Beatle records (Meet the Beatles, The Beatles Second Album, Introducing the Beatles).
During the ‘60s, bands remained popular by quickly following up their initial success with new material. The Dave Clark Five became quite adept at the follow-up, as they proved to be one of the prolific groups of the mid-‘60s.
“Can’t You See She’s Mine” was the DC5’s fourth hit single. It had the same rockin’ appeal as the first three smashes and became yet another Top-10 record.
Another album was also released. The Dave Clark Five Return contained the latest hit single, six other originals, plus three cover songs (including Link Wray’s “Rumble” and the [Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil] classic, “On Broadway”). This LP was clearly patterned after their initial album. Unlike Glad All Over, however, Return only produced one hit song, not three.
In August of 1964, Epic records issued the DC5’s fifth single of the year, the ballad “Because.” This song was a major change of pace from the band’s previous booming hits, and it indicated a new level of musical sophistication and lyrical sensitivity for the band (just as “And I Love Her” had done for the Beatles a couple of months earlier). “Because” went on to become a massive hit and one of their best-remembered songs.
An album featuring “Because” was also released. American Tour had a front cover seemingly patterned after the Beatles’ Second Album, and a title aimed straight at the teenage American consumer. As the single “Because” indicated, the DC5 appeared to be trying to widen their musical horizon somewhat on this LP (through the dreadful instrumental version of “Blue Monday” was hardly necessary). Ironically, the most memorable LP cut was a “Glad All Over” sound-alike, “Come On Over.”
The DC5 closed out 1964 with two singles, “Everybody Knows” and “Any Way You Want It” (followed by an album containing both hits, Coast to Coast). Having found success with both rockers and a ballad, the boys tried to combine both styles in the song “Everybody Knows.” Unfortunately, the tune did not possess a clear focus because of its changing tempo and because it lacked a memorable lyrical hook. “Everybody Knows” was the DC5’s least popular single to date, but it still broke the Top-15.
The Dave Clark Five finished their first year of pop stardom with a two-and-one-half minute definition of rock’n’roll. “Any Way You Want It” was the band’s most powerful single since “Bits and Pieces.” Propelled by Denny Payton’s driving saxophone and surrounded by the densest production imaginable, “Any Way You Want It” muscled its way onto the playlist of America’s radio stations.
Thus, an incredible year ended for the Dave Clark Five. They began the year as newcomers, challenging the Beatles in England, yet totally unknown in the USA. An appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” made them overnight sensations and the most prominent rivals of the Fab Four in the States. They toured the US extensively and were accorded the same frenzied approval from screaming fans as the Beatles. Their seven hit singles and three best-selling albums demonstrated their wide appeal to teenagers in no uncertain terms. In any normal year, the phenomenal rise of this British band would have been the music story of the year. However, 1964 was not a normal year; it was the year of the Beatles.
The DC5 had to “settle” for No. 2. They easily outdistanced the rest of the First Wave of British Invasion groups: the Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Swinging Blue Jeans, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Peter and Gordon, etc. In fact, their only real “rivals,” besides the Beatles, were two American groups who first charted in 1962: those blond, sun-tanned surfers from the West Coast, the Beach Boys, and those falsettoed Philadelphians, the Four Seasons.
The DC5 could say goodbye to 1964 with a good deal of pride and self-satisfaction, but they must have looked forward to 1965 with just a touch of trepidation and uncertainty. After all, their last two singles, while popular, were not as big as their earlier records. Moreover, they were now an “established” act, gazing backwards at newer and trendier stars. And in the ‘60s, there was no shortage of fresh faces.
Two of the hottest new properties emerging in late 1964 had quite different images. There was the “cuter than cute and nicer than nice” Peter Noone, singing with an appealingly exaggerated British accent. His band, Herman’s Hermits, had a hit in late ’64 with “I’m Into Something Good,” and was preparing a major assault on the American record charts with a series of sugar-coated tunes. At the same time, a group of brooding, unkempt Blues enthusiasts had just scored with their first Top-10 smash in the US, “Time is On My Side.” The Rolling Stones, with their carefully cultivated “bad boy” image, were getting ready to give teenagers satisfaction. And what of the Dave Clark Five…
Catch Us If You Can
The DC5 needed a strong single to maintain their enormous popularity in the highly-charged musical atmosphere of 1965. “Come Home,” their first release of the year, proved equal to the task. A sensitive and complex ballad in “Because” tradition, “Come Home” demonstrated the band’s ability to transcend the bounds of basic rock’n’roll. Despite the success of this record, “Come Home” was the final hit ballad of their halcyon period.
The obligatory album followed in the Spring of ’65. Like the other DC5 LPs, Weekend in London contained the hit (“Come Home”), the covers (“Blue Suede Shoes,” “Little Bitty Pretty One”), and the fillers (too many to mention, though one song, “Til the Right One Comes Along,” indicated that the Clark-Smith writing team were familiar with the recent “I’ll Follow the Sun” by another famous duo).
Weekend in London was the last in a series of DC5 albums whose liner notes referred to their ongoing rivalry with the Fab Four. These liner notes ask the intriguing question, “Is the Dave Clark Five the Number One group in the world today?” The answer is predictable, if unrealistic. It is significant to note that this “rivalry,” which once seemed so real, had become little more than record company hype.
The DC5’s second single of ’65 was a cover version of the Chuck Berry chestnut, “Reelin’ and Rockin’.” The Boys gave Berry’s rocker a powerful, straight-ahead interpretation with absolutely frantic Mike Smith vocals. “Reelin’” was the band’s first non-original single in over a year, and it was probably their weakest selling to date.
Yet another remake followed in June, when the DC5 released, “I Like It Like That.” This Chris Kenner original attracted widespread attention and airplay, which translated into another Top-10 hit for our heroes.
In the dead of Summer, the DC5’s long-awaited movie appeared. Originally called Catch Us If You Can, the film was released under the title, Having a Wild Weekend. While the movie didn’t exactly make people forget A Hard Day’s Night or Help!, the soundtrack originals and the song quality was consistently high. This album included a good mixture of rockers, ballads, and mid-tempo tunes, and even the instrumentals were more appealing than usual. The title song, “Don’t Be Taken In,” the atypical “If You Come Back,” and “I Said I Was Sorry” are among the best cuts from the LP.
Remarkably, only one single was taken from the soundtrack, but what a single it was: “Catch Us If You Can” is not as frenzied as some other DC5 classics, but is just as catchy and hook-laden, and even features a surprising harmonica lead. “Catch Us If You Can” was a smash; the band’s biggest hit in a solid year.
The DC5 were in the midst of their hottest streak since early ’64, and their final single of the year was not about to change that. “Over and Over” was a consecutive Top-10 hit, and their only song ever to reach the coveted Number One position on Billboard’s weekly record charts. The arrangement for “Over and Over” seemed to copy that for “Catch Us If You Can” right down to the harmonica interlude, despite the fact that is was yet another cover tune.
Nineteen sixty-five ended for the DC5 with the release of a “throwaway” LP, I Like It Like That. Apparently distributed to belatedly cash in on the Summer success of the title song, this was not one of the group’s stronger efforts. Even the front cover picture appears to be an outtake from the Glad All Over sessions.
Despite the final LP, the Dave Clark Five truly finished the year 1965 with a flourish. Their final single, “Over and Over,” was sitting comfortably at the top of the charts and their popularity was still intact. Despite intense competition from a variety of British bands and from a revitalized American scene (the Byrds, Sonny and Cher, etc.), the DC5 had every right to be pleased with their surge in the Summer and Fall. They must have been somewhat troubled, however, by the fact that three of their last four singles were non-original cover tunes at the time when Dylan, Lennon-McCartney, and Jagger-Richards were gaining more and more attention for their songwriting talents. Also, their last LP of the year, I Like It Like That, could not have looked or sounded very promising beside the Beatles’ Rubber Soul or the Stones’ December Children, two other contemporary albums.
The problem facing the DC5 as 1965 passed was quite simple, yet quite fundamental: rock music was changing, but they were not. While the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys and others were experimenting with new sounds and techniques, sophisticated arrangements, and varied instrumentation, the Dave Clark Five were sticking with a tried-and-true rock’n’roll formula. The DC5 had achieved what they wanted (pop-rock stardom) and were not interested in changing or “progressing” to please others.
The DC5’s satisfaction with the status quo can, perhaps, be appreciated visually. During a period when pop styles were changing even faster than rock music itself, the DC5 looked the same as always, right down to their “Beatle” boots and haircuts, matching suits, and clean-shaven faces. In an era when other pop stars were breaking the old rules and making up new ones, the DC5 were still playing the game according to the 1964 rule book. By 1966, this just was not good enough.
At the Scene
Since the Dave Clark Five had charted a dozen hit singles in just 24 months, Epic Records decided it was high time for a compilation album. The Dave Clark Five’s Greatest Hits was issued in early 1966 and soon became their biggest selling LP. This “hits” package contained all their singles to date, except “Come Home” and “Reelin’ and Rockin’.” It also sported liner notes by Gloria Stavers of 16 Magazine.
The DC5’s Greatest Hits sums up the band’s major contributions to the mid-‘60s music scene: It includes 10 great songs from the blistering “Bits and Pieces” to the sensitive “Because,” from the uninhibited “Glad All Over” to the enthusiastic “Over and Over.” Typically, the four songs are less than two minutes long, and none is more than three. The DC5’s ability to produce powerful, succinct singles is well-documented in this fine album.
A new single was also released in early ’66. “At the Scene” was an attempt to recapture the energy, beat, and drive of the “Bits and Pieces” era. And it really does succeed as an energetic rocker with mildly “hip” lyrics (“Everyone who is lonely / I’ve got a place for you / Where the music pla-a-ays… / Till way past 2”). The problem, of course, was that the music world had changed since “Bits and Pieces,” and what may once have been a smash, was simply a solid, but unspectacular, hit in ’66.
“Try Too Hard” followed “At the Scene” in the Spring. With its piano and guitar frills and relatively sophisticated arrangement, “Try Too Hard” sounded more contemporary than its forerunner. It did not, however, set the record charts on fire. The B-side of this single was a three-minute drum and harmonica solo accompanied by vocal screams and moans, suggestively titled “All Night Long.” It may not have been the last word in avant-garde music, but it certainly was not standard DC5 fare either.
Two more singles were issued in the Summer of 1966. Neither the moderately paced rocker, “Look Before You Leap,” nor the ballad “Satisfied,” is noteworthy because it was the first ballad to be released as a single since “Come Home” in early ’65.
Two uninteresting albums were produced during this period. Try Too Hard contained the title hit plus nine other new, but uninspired, originals. Satisfied With You included “Look Before You Leap,” the title song, more originals, and a superfluous version of the Rascals’ “Good Lovin’.” These two LPs indicated that the DC5 had finally ended the habit of placing instrumentals and golden oldies on each album. Following the lead of the Beatles and Stones, the DC5 were increasingly relying on their own writing skills. Unfortunately, the DC5’s songwriting abilities did not match those of their more respected countrymen.
Dave Clark continued to co-write all the group’s original material. Mike Smith was playing less of a role in the musical collaborations, while Lenny Davidson and Denny Payton were becoming more important. None of the various writing teams tried to guide the band in a new direction so this condemned the DC5 to apparent mediocrity in a year of great musical change and experimentation.
The Dave Clark Five’s second “greatest hits” compilation in less than a year emerged as 1966 came to a close. More Greatest Hits contained two more hits from early ’65 (“Come Home” and “Reelin’ and Rockin’”), as well as four more recent singles (“At the Scene,” “Try Too Hard,” “Satisfied With You,” and “Look Before You Leap”). The quality of this LP could not compare with that of their first “hits” set, and its sales slipped likewise.
By this time, the Dave Clark Five had clearly fallen from the front lines of contemporary rock’n’roll, both creatively and commercially. While they still managed to tour and make television appearances (they appeared on “Ed Sullivan” quite often), their record sales were declining sharply. In a year which witnessed the release of such seminal albums as the Beatles’ Revolver, the Rolling Stones’ Aftermath, and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, DC5 fans had to be content with Try Too Hard and Satisfied With You. Unquestionably, 1966 was a disappointing year for the Dave Clark Five.
At the turn of the year, a new single, “Nineteen Days,” was issued. Neither this rocking single, nor the follow-up LP, 5 X 5, managed to restore the band’s sagging popularity.
You Got What It Takes
Finally, in early 1967, a Dave Clark-Lenny Davidson composition revived the group’s fortunes. “I’ve Got to Have a Reason” had a bit of a “Catch Us If You Can” sound and a catchy chorus. While not exactly a chart-topper, “I’ve Got to…” was the band’s best effort in close to a year.
Then, in the spring of ’67, the DC5 struck pay dirt. “You Got What It Takes” had been a sizable rhythm and blues hit in 1960 for Marv Johnson, an early Berry Gordy discovery. The DC5 remake featured surging horn lines and an effusive Mike Smith vocal. The upfront horn section represented a new direction for the band, while Smith’s vocal was one of his best ever. “You Got What it Takes” gave the DC5’s popularity and record sales a much-needed boost. The vital question fans asked was whether this was a fluke single or an overall resurgence for the band.
The next album was titled, cleverly enough, You Got What it Takes. This proved to be their most convincing 12-incher since the Having a Wild Weekend soundtrack. The new LP included the title song, “I’ve Got to Have a Reason,” and some strong new originals (“Play with Me,” “Dr. Rhythm”). “Tabatha Twitchit” was not a DC5 composition, but their version of the turn was pure contemporary pop. Unfortunately, it was not released as a single in the States.
“You Got What it Takes” did not usher in a new era of chart supremacy for the DC5, though they did manage to score again. Digging back even further into musical antiquity, the group released a single version of “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” the Summer of Love. “Baby…” was a “big” production number with plenty of horns, a brassy lead vocal by Mike Smith, and just a touch of “Winchester Cathedral”-style nostalgia. The flip side of the single, “Man in the Pin Stripe Suit,” is a delightful, Beatle-influenced composition, which features fairly adventurous (for the DC5, anyway) instrumentation (harpsichord) and production.
The final DC5 single to chart in the USA was issued in late ’67; it was called “Everybody Knows.” For trivia buffs, it should be noted that this made the DC5 the only rock act to ever chart with two different songs, each of which possessed the same title. The DC5 closed out their album-making careers with one final American LP, also called Everybody Knows.
Thus, as the year 1967 ended, so did a remarkable chapter in the history of rock’n’roll music. Like 1964, 1967 was a watershed year in rock history. The artists who dominated the mid-‘60s were supplanted by new acts (Cream, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Jefferson Airplane) with a more serious message and a heavier, more contemporary sound.
The Dave Clark Five, evidently, accepted their fate philosophically: the band returned to England, where they continued to record both as the DC5 and Dave Clark and Friends. And though some of these were released in America, none found any real success.
Epic Records did issue two more DC5 albums. The first was a double album of old material called, simply, The Dave Cark Five. Oddly, it contained only a few of the band’s hit singles. The second was released in the Spring of 1975 and titled, appropriately, Glad All Over Again / The Dave Clark Five’s Greatest Hits. This two-record set captures all the exuberance and excitement of the DC5 at their single-making best. It contains all their biggest, most memorable songs (“Glad All Over,” “Bits and Pieces,” “Because,” “Catch Us if You Can,” “You Got What it Takes”), a few obscure gems (“Good Time Woman,” “Forget,” “Here Comes Summer”), and thoughtful liner notes by Ken Barnes.
Interest in and appreciation of the Dave Clark Five has grown somewhat in the past couple of years, largely as a result of the emergence of the New Wave scene. And that seems appropriate, for the Dave Clark Five deserve to be remembered fondly by all those who enjoy driving pop and energetic rock’n’roll.