The Dave Clark Five…British Big Beat

When the British Invasion started, some of their rock music was described as having a “big beat”.  It was mainly in comparison with the more anemic pop/rock that was being made in the U.S. in the early 1960’s.  Some of the British bands had a tougher rock sound, like The Dave Clark Five’s uptempo drum rock.

Mike Smith, Lenny Davidson, Dave Clark, Rick Huxley, Denis Payton

The Dave Clark Five (from London) was the second British band to have a song chart in America in 1964.  No American bands were performing anything that included a big beat like “Bits And Pieces” and “Glad All Over”.  Dave Clark was the drummer, and lead singer Mike Smith had one of the best rock voices ever.  It certainly wasn’t “hard rock”, but it was a step in that direction.

Groups like The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five were heavily influenced by 1950’s American rock & roll, and especially Chuck Berry.  Both bands covered his songs.  Compare The Beatles’ “Rock & Roll Music” or The Dave Clark Five’s “Reelin’ And Rockin'” with Chuck Berry’s versions.  The British versions have a much more muscular and energetic feel…they rock!

Speaking of comparisons.

Publishers figured fans of both bands would buy their magazines if they portrayed the two as competitors.  Early on, The Beatles might have even been slightly worried that they would be replaced or eclipsed, because in 1964 it was all new.  No one knew the future for these two groups.

It wasn’t all uptempo rock songs for The Dave Clark Five.

The first single I ever bought at a record store is the ballad “Because”.  Above is my 1964 record sleeve from that song.  It’s still one of my favorites.

The DC5 was mostly a singles band.  Their albums sold well, but were not musical landmarks like those of some other groups.  I enjoyed their hits, but it seemed like there was too big of a quality gap between those and many of the album cuts.  Most of the songs were about 2-minutes long, which worked well musically, but it also meant with 11 songs per album, all of the songs could have fit on one side of the record (would have saved flipping it over!).

The Dave Clark Five populated the Top-40 with seven hit singles in 1964…”Glad All Over” (#6), “Bits And Pieces” (#4), “Do You Love Me” (#11), “Can’t You See That She’s Mine” (#4), “Because” (#3), “Everybody Knows (I Still Love You) [#15], and “Any Way You Want It” (#14).  The songwriting on all but one of these songs was credited to Dave Clark, often with Mike Smith or one of the other band members as co-writers.  Some articles about the band suggest that an English songwriter named Ron Ryan wrote or co-wrote some of the band’s hits, including “Bits And Pieces”, “Because” and “Any Way You Want It”, and allowed his friend Dave Clark to be credited as the songwriter.  I have no way of independently verifying the story, but thought it should be mentioned.

You could have seen The DC5 perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.  He booked them consistently during their hit-making years.

The Dave Clark Five had five Top-40 hits in 1965, with three of them making the top 10, “I Like It Like That” (#7 and just 1:38 long), “Catch Us If You Can” (#4), and “Over And Over” (their only #1).

By 1966, they were losing some of their momentum.  They only had three Top-40 singles, and none reached the top-10.

In 1967, The DC5 had just two hits, and those were the last hits for them in the United States.

In retrospect, it’s easy to see what happened.  When they started out, their music was similar to The Beatles and other British Invasion groups.  They continued to make the same kind of music from 1964 to 1967.  During that time, The Beatles’ songwriting and innovation progressed rapidly with Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper.  The two hits for The Dave Clark Five in 1967 were “You Got What It Takes” and “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby”.  Songs that were remakes of old songs that didn’t fit in with the growth of rock music.

The Dave Clark Five continued to have some hits in England, but disbanded in 1970.

The good news for Dave Clark…unlike most musicians, he owned his own recordings, which made him very wealthy.  The bad news for fans…Dave Clark owned his own recordings, and decided to lock them away.  For 25 years, from 1978 until 1993, fans couldn’t even buy any of The DC5’s recordings.  Why?

Harold Bronson, the co-founder of Rhino Records (which has done some great work with reissued music), says Dave Clark mistakenly thought the longer he held out for a deal to release the music on CD, the greater the desire, and the greater the payday in terms of a royalty advance.  Instead, Bronson says, the band missed out on being played on oldies stations, because good copies weren’t available, and the songs weren’t exposed in films or on TV shows.  Plus, music fans were mostly playing CD’s, not their old worn out records.  Basically, The DC5 had been fading from memory.

Finally, in 1993, came The History of The Dave Clark Five.

It was a two-CD set that did a nice job of covering their career.  Unfortunately, it came a bit late, and probably should have been a single disc, because sales were disappointing.  I tried to help, and bought my copy as soon as it was available.  There’s one other thing that bugs fans.  They’d like to have stereo recordings, instead of mono, which is how almost all of the songs are released.

Above is my playlist for the best of The Dave Clark Five (clicking on it will make it larger).  Over the years, I’ve acquired stereo versions of many of their songs, in fact 19 out of 25 of these versions are real stereo (not re-channeled stereo).  One collection of DC5 songs released on vinyl in America (just after their popular years) had stereo versions.  Some of their other albums also contained a few real stereo versions.  However, it should be noted that the stereo versions are not always better.  “Glad All Over” is more powerful in mono, and the stereo version of “Catch Us If You Can” is a terrible mix.  It doesn’t seem likely that we die-hard fans will get a quality stereo remix from master tapes anytime soon.

The best collection currently available through iTunes is 2008’s The Dave Clark Five: The Hits ($11.99).  It’s in living mono, but the songs sound good.

The Dave Clark Five added the “big beat” and a lot of fun to the British Invasion.  They made it into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, but it should have been a lot sooner.  Lead singer Mike Smith died just eleven days before the group was inducted by DC5 fan Tom Hanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *