Sunday, 27 July 2014

Sunday Sessions: The Dave Clark Five


One of the forgotten bands of the British Invasion of the 1960s was ironically one of the most popular, for a period - the Dave Clark Five.

The band were apparently part of a music movement that supposedly rivaled Merseybeat, known as the "Tottenham Sound", to delineate that the band were from North London (Were there any other bands part of the Tottenham Scene? No-one seems to remember...). For about five seconds in 1964, they were considered the biggest threat to the Beatles.

The Five were unusual in as much as they had a band leader who was the drummer. As such, Dave Clark would often position himself in front of, or in a straight line alongside, the guitarists. Dave Clark also sang in unison with keyboard player Mike Smith, while the rest of the band sang harmonies. They were also unusual in that Dave Clark also managed the band, produced their records, co-wrote a lot of the hits and owned the rights to the band's master tapes - an unprecedented feat in the 1960s.

Musically the band were tight, with a huge, drum-heavy sound. Dave Clark was a archetypal "caveman" drummer - his playing was extremely simple, on the beat and extremely heavy handed, with very little flourish or embellishment. He was the model of efficiency compared to Keith Moon's frantic whirlwind of arms and hair and sweat.

Musically, the band followed the mold of the Merseybeat bands, churning out short, sharp, punchy pop tunes with the occasional stylistic detour - such as the mild bluebeat/ska feel introduced on "Bits and Pieces" (see below). They had moments when they branched into Cliff Richard-esque syrupy pop on singles like "Everybody Knows", as well as R&B on covers of Chuck Berry's "Reelin' and Rockin'" and the Contours Motown classic "Do You Love Me", the latter a far heavier version than the tepid one done earlier by Brian Poole and the Tremoloes.

The band took a while to go professional. While their first singles and first LP were in the charts, the band members were still working their day jobs. The band only had one #1 hit in the UK, "Glad All Over" in 1964. They has 12 UK top 40 hits. However the band were popular enough to have their own feature film. On the coattails of the Beatles films "Help!" and "A Hard Day's Night" they released a gritty fly-on-the-wall portrayal of the band called "Catch Us If You Can" in 1965.

They were far more popular in the US, playing on US TV more times than any other British band and racking up 17 consecutive top 40 hits. They imploded in 1970 after declining fortunes in the last few years of the 1960s. They failed to both keep up with the new directions in pop music and failed to hold onto their audience. They were also massively inconsistent on LP, failing to produce anything that could be regarded as a classic album. They fell into the standard record company trap of producing LPs simply for the sake of creating product, because they had to. Record companies of the period demanded two LPs a year back then. As such their albums are full of filler. Their British LPs were cannibalised by their US label Epic for a huge series of LPs, issuing as much as four LPs a year in 1965 and 1966.

Still their early singles have a sound that paved the way for the stomping sound of bands like Slade and the Sweet in the next decade. Although, gladly, their cutesy little synchronised dance moves were largely ignored by those who they influenced.

Check out the highlights of the band's work below. Enjoy!

Bits and Pieces:


Glad All Over:


Catch Us If You Can:


Any Way you Want It

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