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TV Review: ‘Great Performances – The Dave Clark Five and Beyond’

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For decades, I’ve been saying over and over that the Dave Clark Five is the most neglected, under-appreciated band from the 1960s. Listening to oldies radio, you’d think they were only “Glad All Over,” “Because,” and “Bits and Pieces.” But from 1964 to 1970, they both made and broke a series of significant records. For example, they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show 18 times, more than any other rock band. For a time, they were considered the most serious rivals to The Beatles and were, along with The Rolling Stones, one of the “Big Three” of British Invasion bands.

Dave Clark 5

Back then, The Dave Clark Five sold over 100 million records including 15 consecutive Top 20 U.S. hit singles within a two-year period, a record only topped by The Beatles. They recorded hard-driving stompers like “I Like It Like That,” “At The Scene,” “Any Way You Want It,” “Having A Wild Weekend,” “Reelin’ and Rockin'”, and “Do You Love Me.” There were soft ballads like “Come Home,” “Satisfied With You,” “Because,” and two completely different hits with the same title, “Everybody Knows.” There were Boisterous pop nuggets like “Catch Us If You Can,” “You Got What It Takes,” “Over and Over,” “Try Too Hard,” and “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby.” That but scratches the surface of their presence on AM radio back when Am was king.

It’s not hard to pinpoint why the DC5 fell into a measure of disrepute. After 1967, when the music shifted to the heavier sounds of bands like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Cream, the poppy sounds of Dave Clark (drums), Mike Smith (organ, lead vocals), Lenny Davidson (guitar), Rick Huxley (bass), and Denis Payton (saxophone) didn’t change with the times. As rock became serious, the DC5 became known as relics of an era when it was all about making teenage girls scream. Once, competitor Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits feared the Five as all the guys were good-looking—they were stylish and sharp on stage. That sort of fear was irrelevant by the Summer of Love. To be fair, their output after 1967 just didn’t have quite the umph of what came before. “Nineteen Days,” from that year’s Five by Five, for example, didn’t even crack the two minute mark. There were nuggets to come, as in many tracks on You Got What It Takes when the sound was pumped up with trumpet-heavy horn sections. But U.S. listeners had largely disappeared while the home country got to enjoy new collections never officially released in the states.

In later decades, when you heard about the Dave Clark Five at all, it was drummers debating over whether or not Clark played his own drums on the records or if it was actually session player Bobby Graham. Then, for a time, it was hard for fans to add DC5 music to their libraries in the post-vinyl era as it wasn’t until 1993 that Clark issued a two-disc set on CD. It disappeared after three years, and now iTunes has the only official selections for download. (To the present day, the only way to own full-length DC5 albums is on very good bootlegs produced in, apparently, Russia.) At the same time, there were grumblings the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was typically dragging its feet about inducting them. Sadly, after Paul Shaffer, among others, organized benefits for the ailing Mike Smith, the Dave Clark Five were inducted in 2008 but only after Smiths premature passing ten days earlier. The tragic irony is that Smith’s ballsy, bluesy, belting singing is what most critics point to as being the main reason the DC5 deserve more credit than they get.

Along with the unforgettable Smith vocals, as chronicled in the upcoming The Dave Clark Five and Beyond – Glad All Over, there’s much to remember and celebrate about the legacy of the Five. Honoring the 50th anniversary of the DC5’s place in the British Invasion, the two-hour special will air on PBS stations Tuesday, April 8 at 8 p.m. and Friday, April 11 at 10 p.m. ET. Without question, the heart of the documentary is the music of the Five which is delivered in generous portions from the familiar hits to some more obscure songs, at least for U.S. viewers. The band’s story and impact is told by folks like, of all people, Sir Paul McCartney who discusses the minor rivalry and differences between his band and the Five. We hear from Tom Hanks, who inducted the group into the Hall of Fame, Sir Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Stevie Wonder, Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, Gene Simmons, Whoopi Goldberg, Dionne Warwick, and ’60s fashion icon Twiggy.

Several themes come through on all the commentaries. Those who saw them in concert remember the Dave Clark Five as a powerhouse live band. They thrived when the biggest dangers for musicians were jealous boyfriends who didn’t like their girls swooning over handsome rockers. The Five were distinctive, not sounding like other groups, especially with Payton’s driving saxophone. (While not mentioned in the documentary, Payton was prominent in a number of Five instrumentals, probably the most famous being “Chiquita.”)

Whichever drummer (Clark or Graham) played on the records—and we see evidence Clark was certainly capable of hammering out the beats and fills on his own merits—he earns praise from the likes of Max Weinberg and the legendary Buddy Rich for how Clark influenced the place of drum kits in rock. Summing it all up, the two most repeated adjectives the commentators repeat are “joy” and “fun.” In the words of Clark himself and other members, this was a group that had a good time, obviously liked each other, and played music for the best of reasons—they worked very hard to produce the best quality music they could.

To illustrate the saga, Clark shares many rare DC5 appearances from his archives, including TV specials with Lucille Ball, Dean Martin, and Hold On-It’s the Dave Clark Five, a British special where the band shared the stage with American actor Richard Chamberlain and British songstress Lulu. Briefly, we see scenes from the odd movie, Catch Us If You Can, known as Having A Wild Weekend in the states, in which Clark wanders around the English countryside meeting early hippies before the term had been coined. Much of this material hasn’t been seen in nearly 50 years.

The “. . . and Beyond” portion of the documentary’s title refers to footage covering Clark’s work after the break-up of the band in 1970. From the beginning Clark showed unusual business acumen by managing the band himself, producing the group’s music, pioneering the use of videos to stay in the public eye without touring, and owning all the masters of the songs. After they went their separate ways, Clark saw all the broadcasts of the British music series, Ready Steady Go were in danger of being lost. In a savvy move, he bought the tapes and held on to them to preserve an important part of music history. Additionally he was Executive Producer and co-writer for the 1986 London stage performance of TIME – The Musical which featured Freddie Mercury, Julian Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Cliff Richard, Ashford & Simpson, and the last performance by Sir Laurence Olivier. We hear from several participants, most notably Wonder who co-wrote many of the songs with Clark.

Watching The Dave Clark Five and Beyond, viewers will be taken back to a time when “joy” and “fun” were what rock was meant to be and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when delivered by foot-stomping, exuberant, often aggressive songs with melodies full of hooks that were instant sing-alongs. the only sad note is that only two surviving members will see their legacy honored. In addition to the loss of Smith, Denis Payton died in2006 and Rick Huxley in 2013. To be fair, The Dave Clark Five and Beyond is not a critical analysis of the band. That’s no surprise as it is a production of Dave Clark International and THIRTEEN Productions LLC in association with WNET. Then again, the DC5 weren’t the sort of ensemble that would bear that sort of scrutiny. Instead, the two hours are a fast-paced, hard-driving, engaging, and entertaining flashback to innocent times when good songs and a polished style were all anyone could ask for.

If the DC5 are your cuppa tea, The Dave Clark Five and Beyond – Glad All Over will be released on DVD and Blu-ray by PBS Home Video in conjunction with the broadcast. I really shouldn’t say you’ll be glad all over if you check this out, but, well, you probably will. If this special doesn’t get your head bobbing, your feet tapping, and your appreciation of the Dave Clark Five re-awakened, you’re probably too old and grumpy to groove again to the joyous sounds of the ’60s. Cha-boom.

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About Wesley Britton

  • mktsmith

    Thank you for this article. The DC5 was my favorite group after the Beatles in the mid ’60s. I’ve wondered (and still do) why their music has essentially vanished. I’ll be certain to catch the PBS program in April. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Twanger12

    I’ve heard lots of things about them … and I heard them myself; and as a musician, I was quite amazed at how great they sounded live. I only hope that what I heard was real.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

    I really like the DC5. They had a different sound than the Beatles, I always thought!

  • Charles Vergados

    While growing up,like others,I danced to the DC 5 . However never really liked them as much as the Beatles. You could tell from early releases that the Beatles were capable of hard rock and beautiful ballads. There was subtlety in their playing. Watching them in Germany in 1966,EVERYONE was a capable musician who cared about what they were playing. McCartney’s bass playing was revolutionary, and paved the way for Jack Bruce,Jack Casady and even Jaco Pastorius. The DC% was like a blunt instrument. Bashing,Bashing,bashing! I later moved from the Beatles to Cream,Hendrix,Pentangle,Mahavishnu and on to jazz.I can’t understand the legacy of a pop group that was so simplistic. There were tons of incredibly talented bands from London,Liverpool.Manchester that probably deserve this type of documentary.I’m sure they were all nice blokes, but they didn’t resonate with me at all.