Great blog topics just don’t fall out of the sky and so it was with great relief that your writer received an e-missive from his ole rock and roll drumming buddy Mr. D from DC suggesting a tribute to that great British Invasion ’60s group the Dave Clark 5 (named after their drummer). Excellent idea, sez I, as it brought up some nice old memories. It was sixth grade and seemingly everybody at Kohl School was under the spell of a new musical group – the Beatles. People were bringing their records and their memorabilia the class – even teachers would put on Beatle wigs and act goofy. Frankly rock and roll hadn’t invaded our Broomfield house and you only heard classical, ragtime and easy listening on our radio.
As 1964 became 1965, however, something strange happened to your future rockin’ Dentist when mom and dad joined the Columbia Record Club and allowed the addition of a few rock and roll records to the haul of ten for a penny or whatever the come-on offer was. I had recently heard a band on KIMN that seemed to leap out of my new transistor radio with a much tougher sound than any other current group – the Dave Clark 5. It happened that one of the options on the club list was the LP Having A Wild Weekend and so, along with new waxings by Freddie & the Dreamers and Paul Revere & the Raiders, they soon hit our mailbox. Whenever mom and dad’s showtunes and organ music weren’t on the old KLH, my three long players were in maximum rotation and to this day are some of my faves. Over time and via additional vinyl, the DC 5 and the Raiders became my bands of choice (the Beatles came much later). Do kids still do that – argue with their friends over which band is better and bring to question their friends’ apparently horrible taste in music? Music talk was THE primo topic. Heck, to this day if I had a chance to talk to Tom Hanks, it wouldn’t be about acting but rather about music since he had the rare priviledge of inducting the DC 5 in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 2008 (gimme a call Tom if you wanna talk about them or That Thing You Do). As you grow up, however, things change and seemingly overnight bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream displaced those older groups for turntable play. It wasn’t till years later that an itch to get back to the old fave rockers caused your Dentist to buy all the DC 5 and Raiders records that had been previously unfairly passed over.
For the purpose of this posting, it was a great excuse to re-listen to every Dave Clark LP and review them which is what this blog will do. Except for the Stones and the Beatles who get the occasional album track, oldies radio will only play the hits and generally then only a few by each group. When we review an LP, then, it seems like a fun idea to include a video for one of the best album tracks you likely never heard on the radio then or now. Billboard Magazine in the U.S. showed 24 top 100 chart hits from early 1964 till late 1967 by Mr. Clark’s band; all but one on the Epic label – 14 hits were top 20 of which 8 made the top 10 and one (“Over & Over”) made it to #1. It is reported that Clark started his combo in 1957 with no previous drumming experience and by 1962 the membership of the band had settled on the classic recording line-up. When you compare the music of the Dave Clark 5 to that of the other British Invasion bands to hit the U.S. in 1964, you see how unique they were as none of the others had sax appeal – find another that had a nasty soprano sax (as played by Denis Payton). Clark beat the skins, Lenny Davidson played guitar, Rick Huxley was on bass, Payton played sax/guitar/harmonica and Mike Smith towered over the Vox Continental organ while singing lead. Smith was one of the best singers in rock and roll history and gets unfairly overlooked (in fact many assumed that Clark was the lead singer).
What made the DC 5 so great was that they flat out rocked. While it is oversimplifying, if when they rocked the Stones wanted to be Chuck Berry, the Beatles Buddy Holly, then the Dave Clark 5 were Little Richard with piano, honkin’ sax and crazed vocals. Even better was that the engineer didn’t mind pushing the VU meters in to the red and distorting the sound which made the records red hot. Producers and engineers weren’t listed alot of the time on records in the ’60s, but the back of the 5’s albums listed Adrian Clark as producer. That was a mix of Dave Clark and Adrian Kerridge who Clark credits with brilliantly putting the live Tottenham Sound of the DC 5 into the mostly monaural grooves. They didn’t screw around too long on album and today three of them would fit on an 80 minute CD with room to spare. Thick echo, bass that rattled the speakers and in-your-face percussion, but played by whom? That became a controversy just as it did with the Monkees, but frankly who really cares as long as the records sounded good. Today bands are proud of who guests on their albums, but for some reason back then it was supposed to be a secret that the same studio guys played for the Beach Boys or Gary Lewis, Herb Alpert or Paul Revere. We know that the great U.K. studio drummer Bobby Graham played on songs like the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and Them’s “Gloria” and frankly if you compare his drum sound there with tracks like “Glad All Over” it proves his assertion that he drummed on a large portion of the DC 5’s hits. If you listen to many of the album tracks, the drumming is not as heavy on the non-hits which makes you wonder if Clark played on all the songs then beefed up the sound with Graham’s overdubs for the hits. Some of their best album cuts were instrumentals and it would stand to reason that the band would have played on those. They appeared on Ed Sullivan 18 times, but mostly lip-synched (later appearances did have live vocals). Another controversy is that Clark’s name is listed as a co-writer on all their group originals yet some have alleged that he didn’t actually write them all. Again who knows, but what we do know is that he has doled out reissues of their music sparingly which is too bad as their time has mostly passed and it would have been nice to buy all their albums on legit CD or buy a boxset with rarities. Sadly, the only members alive at this time are guitarist Davidson and Clark. I was lucky enough to meet the fine gentleman Mike Smith here in Denver after a concert at Fiddlers Green with his Rock Engine band then sadly he went back to the U.K. and fell trying to climb over his fence in 2003. He was paralyzed from then till his passing in 2008 just 11 days before being inducted in the rock hall. Denis Payton died of cancer in late 2006 while Rick Huxley succumbed to emphysema in Feb. 2013. Let’s look at the LPs.
1.Glad All Over (March 1964)
With “Do You Love Me” plus the Smith/Clark originals “Bits & Pieces” plus the title track, you had a pretty solid debut U.S. album that hit #3 on the charts. There were some rockin’ LP tracks as well including the “Tequila” sounding instrumental “Chaquita” and the nasty rocker by Clark and Davidson “I Know You”.
2.Return! (June 1964)
Out of ten songs, four are covers including this cool Link Wray instrumental showing the tough side of the guys, but without the trademark popping drums so you wonder if this was the band without outside help. With the Clark/Smith hit “Can’t You See That She’s Mine” it did chart at #5, but wasn’t as strong as their debut platter.
3.American Tour (Aug. 1964)
The #3 ballad “Because” was the lead single written by Clark and pushed the LP to #11. At the time, my fave track here was “Come On Over” written by Clark and Davidson which had the classic galloping drum sound. The rest of the band was writing more and so for the first time there were no covers with an equal mix of Clark/Smith, Clark/Payton and Clark/Davidson songs. The sound was drier and there were too many ballads for this young rocker back in the day (but I liked the cover).
4.Coast To Coast (Dec. 1964)
Holy cow, this was their fourth album in 1964. This classic sounding drum stomper was the only song written by Clark/Smith on the LP. The hits were Clark’s “Any Way You Want It” and the Clark/Davidson song “Everybody Knows (I Still Love You)” which helped the LP to #6 in Billboard. Four of the songs were ballads which always meant ‘track-to-skip’ to the young Dentist.
5.Weekend In London (March 1965)
This is one of the LPs that the young me skipped back in the day as the only minor hit on it was the Clark/Smith ballad “Come Home”. After buying it, there were some redeeming rockers including “We’ll Be Running” with someone other than Smith singing the solo bits (since Payton wrote it, you have to wonder if he sang). The other great track was also a Clark/Payton original – “I’m Thinking”. All in all, however it wasn’t one of their best and only hit #24 on the charts.
6.Having A Wild Weekend (July 1965)
Oh man, this is where it all started for your young Dentist and is still my second favorite album from the 5. The title track (the U.S. title of the movie this was from) by Clark/Smith is my all-time favorite song by the guys and flat out rocks in a very ’50s vein. There are some outstanding instrumentals as well -the Clark/Davidson penned “No Stopping” plus Clark and Payton’s “On The Move” and the Duane Eddy styled “Dum Dee Dee Dum”. The hit off the record was one of their best – “Catch Us If You Can” whose finger snapping hook propelled the LP to #15. That was also the title of the British title of the movie this was the soundtrack for (though at least on the U.S. LP only 4 of the 12 tracks were in the movie). The movie was not a lighthearted romp, but one in which the band played roles with Clark being a stuntman which was a job he had worked at previously. This was the first film directed by John Boorman (Deliverance, Excalibur, Zardoz, etc.).
7.I Like It Like That (Nov. 1965)
The band looked great on the cover of this LP in shirts with starched white collars and black coats plus you can see what instruments they each played including Smith’s distinctive Vox Continental organ. The lead track was a hot cover of the old Chris Kenner song and at 1 minute 38 seconds left you wanting more. That pushed the LP to #32 in the charts which is probably better than it deserved musically save for a few good rockers like “Pumping”, an instrumental credited to Clark/Payton. “I Need Love” by Clark and Smith was a good rocker as well, but most of the rest were not so great ballads – very disappointing to your’s truly back in the day.
8.The Dave Clark Five’s Greatest Hits (Feb. 1966)
Ten tracks of nothing but hits and thus it was manna from above for the cash starved young me. This and their first album are the only long players they released to be awarded a gold record for sales. It charted at #9 which was by far the highest they would ever get again. It had their only #1 “Over & Over” that was previously only available on 45.
9.Try Too Hard (June 1966)
Even with two so-so ballads, this is still your Dentist’s all-time fave DC 5 album. Songs like “Looking In” (Clark/Davidson), “Ever Since You’ve Been Away” (Clark/Payton) and “Somebody Find A New Love” (Clark/Smith) were drenched in echo with nice harmonies. The melodies were simple, but catchy. Despite the rockin’ title track charting at #12, the LP could only get to #77 which is a pity as the songs were good showing a heavier guitar sound on “I Really Love You” (Clark/Davidson) and “It Don’t Feel Good” (Clark/Payton). Nice car on the cover.
10.Satisfied With You (Sept. 1966)
Once again a pretty darn good LP that didn’t get the notice it deserved only making #127 in the album charts. “It’ll Only Hurt For A Little While” had a VERY hot bass and drum groove on a ’50s sort of rocker but heavier. The countryish title track by Clark and Payton didn’t make much headway on the charts only getting to #50. The other single from the record was a great two-sided pairing with the ooh-pa-pa A-side “Please Tell Me Why” (Clark/Smith) getting to #28 and the superior flip “Look Before You Leap” only getting to “101. After no covers, they turn in a decent version of “Good Lovin'” but not up to the Young Rascals.
11.More Greatest Hits (Nov. 1966)
It certainly showed desperation on the part of Epic to put out a second hits package in one year – especially in that three songs were not chart hits. That being said, the B-sides “All Night Long” and the great ’50s style rocker “Don’t Let Me Down” were worth owning on vinyl. Not surprisingly the chart action was not great with a peak of #103.
12.5 X 5 (March 1967)
With only the low charting (#48) heavy fuzz guitar single “Nineteen Days” (Clark/Payton) to sell the record, a placement on the charts of #119 wasn’t a surprise. A bit of heavier guitar on “Pick Up Your Phone” (Clark/Smith) couldn’t disguise that the harmonica and Vox organ sounded great in 1964, but in the face of groups like Cream was out of step. Not really one of their best records.
13.You Got What It Takes (July 1967)
Even with the huge comeback title track hit, this fine album only hit #149 which would have been a shock two years earlier. 1967 was the summer of love with Sgt. Pepper, the Jefferson Airplane, etc. Old style rockers like “Lovin’ So Good” (Clark/Davidson) and the excellent B-side “Doctor Rhythm” (Clark/Smith) simply weren’t the sound of groups like Moby Grape. There were two nods to the new psychedelia in “Tabatha Twitchit” (sorta like the Tremeloes) and “Play With Me” a bubblegummy double entendre song.
14.Everybody Knows (Dec. 1967)
Even with four minor chart singles, this LP couldn’t break into the Billboard album charts against records by Jimi Hendrix Experience (Axis: Bold As Love) and the Beatles (Magical Mystery Tour). The cover of “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby” plus “A Little Bit Now” were less successful attempts to recreate the horn-laden success of “You Got What It Takes”. The ballad “Red & Blue” had a strong Walker Brothers vibe and while their last chart single “Everybody Knows” (#43) shared a title with an old hit, it was actually a string-laden ballad sung by Lenny Davidson as a change-up.
15. 5 X 5 = Go! (1969)
Interestingly after the U.S. Clark chart run ended, they still had 8 more in the U.K. This 14 track LP featured the singles “No One Can Break A Heart Like You” (a weak ballad sung by Lenny that might have fit Engelbert Humperdinck – ugh) and the Dave Clark sung martial sounding “The Red Balloon”. Oddly Epic in the U.S. continued to release singles till 1972 to zero interest showing misguided tenacity. This U.K. album wasn’t bad, but didn’t trouble the charts their in spite of the hits.
16.If Somebody Loves You (1970)
This U.K. album was heavily laden with singles including covers of U.S. hits “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” (Jackie DeShannon) and “Everybody Get Together” (Youngbloods). They did a group vocal version of the oldie “Here Comes Summer (1959 – Jerry Keller) as well.
17.Play Good Old Rock & Roll (1971)
This record contains the last non-reissue Dave Clark 5 singles to reach the U.K. charts with a #7 – 1969 cover of the Cat Mother & The All-Night Newsboys oldies medley “Good Old Rock ‘N’ Roll” and another medley “More Gold Old Rock ‘N’ Roll” (#34 – 1970). It was fleshed out with other covers including “Lucille”, “One Night” and a really nice Buddy Holly track “Raining In My Heart”. I recall being excited back in the day to find an import of this for sale at Independent Records in the JCRS Shopping Center near Casa Bonita.
18.Dave Clark & Friends (1972)
By this time the only classic members left were Dave Clark and Mike Smith so they dropped the Dave Clark 5 name and issued one last album as Dave Clark & Friends with help from Alan Parker and Eric Ford on guitar and bass. This album was again made up of mostly singles that were covers including Neil Young’s “Southern Man” and “Signs” by the 5 Man Electrical Band. They did a pretty good version of the Tommy James single “Draggin’ The Line” as well. After one more single (“Rub It In”) Clark put together a sci-fi musical Time that was successful in the U.K. starring Cliff Richard. He was very close to Freddie Mercury when he passed after which not much was heard from him. Smith released a U.K. album in 1976 with Mike D’Abo of Manfred Mann then concentrated on commercial jingles till re-emerging with a fine solo album in 1990 (It’s Only Rock N Roll) and concert success before his untimely accident in 2003.