As part of the British Invasion golden anniversary, the band will be recalled in the documentary Glad All Over - The Dave Clark Five and Beyond, airing on PBS April 8. To promote the film, Clark came to Los Angeles to do press.
At 71, Clark is one of only two surviving members of the best-known lineup of the band (guitarist Lenny Davis is the other - bassist Rick Huxley died in February 2013; singer and keyboardist Mike Smith died in 2008; saxophonist Denis Payton died in 2006). Clark told us how he wrangled an island vacation out of Sullivan, and why the band called it quits while they were still on top.
Dave Clark: Well, when we first started I think our biggest influence in the UK was that we played the American air bases. You had lots of air bases there, and that really inspired me because there were lots of records on the jukebox that were never played in England, like, "You Got What It Takes," "Do You Love Me?," "Twist and Shout," "Over and Over." They asked us if we would learn them. They gave us copies of the records and we went around London.
But also the music. When we first started, we were a bit like all the groups: you play whatever's popular at the time, and then gradually you develop your own style. And I always wanted a saxophone and keyboard.
I was influenced at the beginning, like everybody else, because of Elvis and Fats Domino, believe it or not, because he had that sort of lovely, easygoing sound. And that's how we started.
Then we built up a following. We played at a dance hall circuit in England called the Mecca Ballroom Circuit, where they catered to over a million people a week. We started from nothing, and then we were very fortunate.
We used to get 6,000 people a night, four nights a week. We would play three-and-a-half hours and never repeat a song, which was great grounding. We were very blessed when we got awarded the Gold Cup for being the best live band in the UK.
And through that, we got our record contracts. I always said to the boys, "We'll only go professional if we get two Top 5 records. If not, we just carry on and play for the fun of it." Well, fortunately "Glad All Over" took off, and it was selling like 180,000 a day.
We had to sell well over a million-and-a-half-records to knock The Beatles off the #1 spot, and I think that's what caused all of the fuss. We ended up, with that record alone, selling two-and-a-half million copies.
Then I got a call from Ed Sullivan while all the boys were still working in factories and offices. I'd never heard of Ed Sullivan. We never got it in England, never got his show, so I turned it down.
But the thing that really inspired us was that we were going to go professional for the first time. We had a sold-out tour of England a week later. I said to the guys, "Now, what have we got to lose? They're going to fly us over, all expenses paid."
We went over, did "The Sullivan Show." I didn't realize in those days that you had a dress rehearsal before a live audience on the Saturday, and if he didn't like you, you didn't necessarily appear.
Anyway, we went down so well that we then went from bottom-of-the-barrel to second, to top of the bill. We went down so well on the live performance, he called us back on, which cut into the top act's last song. He said, "I'm holding them over in America for next Sunday. They're getting top of the bill."
We were already booked in England, so I said, "I'm sorry, I can't do it." And he said, "But this is Mr. Sullivan," and I said, "Well, I'm very flattered." So I went into his office. He said, "Dave, I thought you'd be thrilled; there are 70 million people watching the show." And I said, "I am thrilled, but if you would have asked me first, I wouldn't have put you in the embarrassing position." So he said, "Well, look, I'll buy out the show in England," and I said "Wow, what can I say?"
At that stage we were really huge in the UK, and we were exhausted. So I said, "I couldn't stay in New York for a week." He said, "Well, where do you want to go?"
On the way from Kennedy Airport there were these billboards that said "Montego Bay, Island Paradise." Well, coming from London, it could have been anywhere. It could have been the South Pole, for what I knew. So when he said, "Where do you want to go?" I said, "Montego Bay."
So he flew us all there, and it was amazing - we'd never been to anywhere like that. We came back to Kennedy Airport, and there were 30,000 people there - they had to fly us out on a helicopter to get us into New York. That's how we hit America. It was amazing.
Songfacts: You had 17 charted Top 40 hits in the US through to "You Got What It Takes" in 1967. By that time The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were branching into experimentation and psychedelia while The Dave Clark Five stayed true to its original sound. Did not making that change lead to the end of the band?
Clark: Just as I said at the beginning, we wouldn't go professional until we had two Top 5 records. I also said to the guys, "as soon as the fun goes out of it, it's over."
But it was in the days of that mad mob hysteria, so you were locked away. You really went to every state. Apart from Greenland, we went all around the world, and about all you saw was the hotel and the arena.
You're playing the same songs; not like where you play three-and-a-half hours and not repeat a song. We started to lose our own identity, and I thought it was best to stop while we were still selling out.
So we stopped on our last million-selling record, and that was the reason why. It was nothing to do with psychedelia.
But there was a very funny story that was in a filmed interview by Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick. He did a film interview a couple years ago and he said, "Seeing The Dave Clark Five at the McCormick Place in Chicago, with all the flashing lights and Dave's drums and the UV lights and the strobe lights, it was like being on drugs before drugs were invented."
So that's psychedelia for you.
January 24, 2014
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