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It was 1964 and the British Invasion was in full bloom. The Beatles were all the rage, but there was another band who captured the ears and hearts of millions of Americans - The Dave Clark Five.
As a band, their accomplishments were impressive. Between February 1964 and June 1966, the DC5 charted fifteen Top-20 American hit singles... second only to the Fab Four. In all, the band sold some fifty million records worldwide, appeared on the prestigious Ed Sullivan show eighteen times, toured the world constantly (with opening acts that included Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin, Neil Diamond and The Supremes) and released fourteen American albums... all in a time span of approximately four years. By any standard, they were amazingly successful and prolific.
Less publicized but perhaps just as important, Dave Clark was something of a visionary insofar as the business end of music was concerned. From his very first record, he retained the rights to all his material as well as producing and arranging the band himself - no mean feat for a young gentleman of nineteen. For nearly twenty years, the complete Dave Clark Five catalog has been out of print in America and worldwide, though interest in the music never waned. In fact, the Dave Clark Five has often been named by longtime collectors and music fans as "the catalog they'd most like to see released on compact disc." Finally, Clark has fulfilled the wishes of numerous fans everywhere. Lost in the vaults for all these years, The History Of The Dave Clark Five was recently released - an incredibly comprehensive 50-track collection of the band's biggest hits, B-sides and most important album tracks, all painstakingly remastered by Dave himself from the original master tapes.
For the first time in nearly two decades, the music of Dave Clark, Mike Smith, Denis Payton, Rick Huxley and Lenny Davidson - The Dave Clark Five - can be heard in all its magnificent glory. In celebration of the event, Dave granted a few interviews and I'm proud to say I was one of those chosen to chat with this musically historic figure.
Was this a difficult project for you, and were you pleased with the results?
Oh, very pleased. Of course, I was slightly apprehensive, mostly wondering if twenty-five or thirty years later the songs would sound as good, but I was pleasantly surprised. The most difficult part was in finding all the original master tapes, but when I finally located them, I was amazed at how good they sounded and what great condition they were in. It was exciting to remaster them for CD because I heard sounds on the tapes I hadn't heard since we recorded them, simply because of advances in technology. Please keep in mind, though, that even though I was remastering the songs for CD I wanted to make sure they didn't lose their original feel or sound... so even though everything was remastered, nothing was remixed.
In 1964, it was unheard of to retain the rights to your own material. How did the record company react to that back then?
At first they didn't really think anything of it, but after we hit it big, it made it much harder for anybody else to do it. Originally, I insisted on it for creative reasons because the record company wanted to take away all artistic control and mold us into whatever they felt would sell records. You know... tell us what to wear, what songs to do, bring in a producer and a whole crew.
I felt the only way to showcase the band was for us to make our own records. I honestly believe when I went into EMI that they knew we were a hot live band and that we were literally drawing thousands of people to our shows. I also believe they thought we'd be a one or two hit wonder. I simply told them that we had a good groove, that "Do You Love Me" was a good song and so they thought, "Well, what have we got to lose?" I actually got everything I wanted when negotiating a contract.
Well, the record went to #19, our second record ("Glad All Over") went to #1 and sold two and a half million copies in the UK alone. Then "Bits And Pieces" repeated at #1 and by that time I think the record company was going, "Good God, what have we done?"
You did the Ed Sullivan Show only a couple of months after your first record. How did it feel at the age of nineteen to be on American television in front of some seventy million viewers?
I don't think we realized the enormity of it all. By the time we arrived, "Glad All Over" was top five in the States, but we were still listed as second from the bottom of the bill. We did the dress rehearsal in the Sullivan Theatre before a live audience and we did so well we wound up being second from the top of the bill. We also did two songs instead of the one we were originally scheduled for. Then at the end of the show he pulled us back on stage and announced he was holding us over for the following week. I still didn't realize how big it was. We were just playing in a theatre to a live audience, which we were used to. So Sullivan sent us off to Montego Bay for the four or five days between shows. When we arrived back at Kennedy Airport to go do the dress rehearsal, there were over 30,000 people waiting for us. They had to stop the planes from coming in, there were barriers all around the hotel and around the Sullivan Theatre... It was chaos, absolute pandemonium. It was unbelievable, the power of that one show and how much it gave us. That's when everything started to sink in.
It was one thing getting your records played on the radio, but Sullivan really made it for us in the earliest days. By the time we returned to the States in May, we were playing 50,000 seaters in concert and had five records on the charts at once! Really, the Sullivan show got us into practically every American home and made it possible for us to be so big so quickly.
The American press always played things up as "The Beatles versus The Dave Clark Five." Was there ever any competition between the two bands?
No. I was always friendly with The Beatles, and especially with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. We socialized a lot and used to laugh about all the press bits. Really, all it did was sell a lot of magazines, I think. There was nothing we could do about any of it and it was all harmless in the long run.
Do you still see the other guys from the Dave Clark Five?
Oh yeah, I see them all. We were all mates, and we went to school together. We were friends when we didn't have a dime, we were always friends when the band hit it off, we were friends when I called it a day in 1970 and we're still friends today. I still see the boys and they're all knocked out with the new CD.
Any plans to remaster the original Dave Clark Five albums?
I haven't started yet, but I am going to do all that. I gave it a rest because it was such a marathon doing the History Of... CDs. It will be much easier from here on because I've located all the original masters. A greatest hits package will be next, but down the line will come a box set, which will have a lot of unreleased tracks and alternate versions of the hits. That could be interesting because I found a lot of material that I'd completely forgotten we'd recorded. Back then, we'd do a bunch of songs for an album and choose ten or a dozen for the record. A lot of material was unused because I didn't feel it would fit well within whatever the current album was. It got put aside, then we'd come off tour with a bunch of new songs we'd written and ultimately we just forgot about a lot of the stuff we'd already recorded. The box set should be very interesting, and then finally the whole catalog will be remastered.
Do you still write or play?
No. About a year after we'd called it a day, I broke four knuckles in my hand in a toboggan accident. I whiplashed at about forty miles an hour and caught it in the steering mechanism, so I lost the use of my hand for about a year or eighteen months. It was so bad that I couldn't even sign my name on a letter or check or anything. I got full use of my hand back, but it took two years or so. Well, drums aren't like keyboards or guitar where you can play by yourself. Drums were fun to play with all the rest of the guys but difficult to practice by myself. It would have taken a lot of practice to get my timing and all back, so I pretty much just hung up the drumsticks as it were.
In a way, it sort of maintained the dignity of the DC5 that you never played again.
Oh, sure. I never would have played as the Dave Clark Five again anyways. I believe that once you make a conscious decision to stop, you should stop. That's just me, what's right for me. We were very lucky, which I don't say out of modesty, but a lot of it all was luck, being in the right place at the right time. We couldn't have duplicated that feeling so why try?
How different do you find the business today from your days as a performer?
Well, it's much more of a business. There are things I like and things I don't like. What I dislike the most is that it's a lot harder for a new act these days because so much relies on market research, and I just don't think that market research can always be right. As an artist, I think it's very wrong to be manufactured. It's a very organic thing. For all the modern technology available today, I still don't think that you can take all the "right" ingredients and out them into some big, magical multi-billion pound computer and have it write a hit song for you. There is no magic formula, and that's really part of the excitement. A lot of the industry is run by accountants and lawyers now. Accountants and lawyers are good in the right areas, but I think back to my days in the studio. You know, you liked a song and you went in and did it. You didn't have to analyze it and go through so many channels. It was a more raw, earthy time in that respect. Your ears and your basic instinct counted for a lot more, I suppose, than they do now.
How would you like for people to remember Dave Clark and his music?
I simply hope it makes people happy to listen to my music. It might sound corny, but I did music for enjoyment and entertainment. I never thought that in 1993 I'd be talking about my first records that were released in the U.S. in 1964... not in my wildest, wildest dreams did I ever think that would happen. Just tell everybody that it's a great feeling to bring some pleasure into people's lives.
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When I mentioned in the introduction that I got this interview with Dave Clark shortly after the release of the History Of... album, that's quite the understatement. We received a promotional copy of the CD at the magazine where I was working. I grabbed it quickly, having been a longtime fan of the band, and wondered out loud if Dave Clark might be doing any interviews to support the release of the set. My editor gave his blessing for me to chase the interview, so I called the record company's offices in Los Angeles. The (very young) lady who answered the phone had literally never even heard of the band and had no idea if there would be press support, but she took my name and number and promised to call me back. I remember thinking "that won't ever happen" as I hung up the phone. Ten minutes later, she DID call back... and surprised me with, "Dave will call you from his home in England in about fifteen minutes." YIPES!!! Literally a half hour after first holding the CD, I was talking to Dave Clark himself... and this was in the days when offices did NOT have internet or anything. Totally had to wing this one from my own knowledge and admiration of the man and his music. • When the interview was over, my editor asked how it went and if he was nice. I remember telling him that the interview went amazingly well - "it was like talking to your favorite uncle who used to have a really cool job!" was my comment, and that's an accurate assessment. • I was dealing with space limitations in the magazine, so I couldn't run as many questions and answers as I wanted to. One of the answers I remember very fondly that wound up on the "cutting room floor," so to speak, was when Dave elaborated more on his decision to not tour again after the band retired. "I hung a pair of my touring trousers on a peg on the closet door when we called it a day, and I always said I would never tour again if I couldn't fit into those trousers. I have to tell you... it's not looking good for another tour any time soon!"