Songwriter Interviews

Dave Clark

by Roger Catlin

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Fifty years ago - January 18, 1964 to be precise - The Dave Clark Five's first million-selling single "Glad All Over" knocked The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" out of the #1 spot on the UK chart. Part of the British Invasion, the group followed The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and ended up appearing there 11 more times. In America, The Dave Clark Five amassed 17 Top 40 hits, eight of which hit the Top 10.

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.
Roger Catlin (Songfacts): I wanted to ask you about the beginnings of the band, what kind of music you were playing before people started to really know you.

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.

While his British Invasion peers were among the first to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it wasn't until 2008 that The Dave Clark Five got in. By then, they had a big fan in the actor Tom Hanks, who based his film That Thing That You Do! (with a title song written by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains Of Wayne) in part on the DC5. He was the one who did the induction speech, incorporating titles of their many hits, which included "Over and Over," "Because," "Bits and Pieces," "Can't You See that She's Mine," and "Catch Us If You Can."

Then I got a call back a week later from Ed Sullivan's son-in-law Bob Precht, who is a producer. They said "Look, we'd like you on the show," and they offered us quite a lot of money.

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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Comments: 13

  • Jack Cerone from ChicagoDave Clark could play drums. He played live all over America in 1964. Will you shut up about him not being able to play drums! Stop it!!!!
  • Gary from ArizonaIn 1965 I saw the Dave Clark Five in concert in Phoenix, AZ. To say Dave Clark didn't play the drums is the dummist thing I ever heard. The band was great! Recordings might have been a little diffrent because Dave produced and sound, smart man. The DC5 went out in style while other older bands are out there for the money. The Stones there lead singer Mic can't sing has no voice and the Stones charge way to much when they went on there last tour. Like I said out for the money!!!
  • Gerald from OklahomaDave was on ed sullivan 18 times and whatever he is a very rich man.
  • TomDC5 simply couldn't compete with The Beatles OR their contemporaries, on an intellectual level..not that I didn't like a lot of their songs. But virtually ALL of them were: " you broke my heart, and now we're through, it was just a game, an made me blue, etc." Same theme, just recycled lyrics-no real depth to them. Clark, himself, admitted he hated live TV appearances, in that they couldn't match the "sound" they got on record-but they did, however, sing along to the recordings. They had a good sound, but it didn't mature well.
  • Beth from MoI'm sick of reading comments about Dave Clark not playing drums on their records, making it sound like he's not a real drummer. Who played drums on their concerts - it's Dave. He was the one who engineered the DC5 sound, he was responsible for the band's success because he worked really hard on it and pushed the band members towards success. Dave Clark deserves all the credit and accolades due him. He may not have written some of their hits but he certainly contributed to making those songs become hits.
  • Gene O from Cicero, New YorkWhether your a fan of Dave Clark or not, there would not have been a DC5 if not for him. Outstanding rock voice of Mike Smith with killer keyboard, Denny's Sax, Rick's bass and Lenny's guitar work. I became a drummer in a garage Band influenced by Dave's Drumming, doesn't matter if he played on all the tracks or not, He did produce and did sound quality in the studio that helped make those records hits. Too bad he declined doing what ended up being TV's "The Monkees" Show. The Monkee's Theme song came from "Catch Us If You Can". GENE from Cicero, N.Y.
  • Bony Bones Mcgeeyour column is called "songwriter interviews" !!! So why are you interviewing Dave Clark who never wrote a song in his life? The other members of the group wrote the songs, Clark's name was applied as co-writer due to contractual reasons even though he never wrote one word or one note. Songs like "Because" and "Any way you want it" which have Clark's name on as writer were written by English songwriter Ron Ryan. As another person said earlier Clark didn't even play on the records. It all adds up to Clark being the biggest phoney in 60's pop music.
  • Jack Griffin from NycThe drums on the albums were played by Bobby Graham. DC never wrote a song, even though his name is on all of them. Because was written by Ron Ryan. Everything DC says has to be taken with a grain(or a ton) of salt. And try to imagine a dance hall that holds 6,000 people.
  • Bjorn Shigg from UkClark still sprouting the same old rubbish and lies. He's 74 not 71. They never ever got 6,000 a night at the Royal or Basildon.They never played for 3 abd a half hours a night at Mecca. They only appeared on the Sullivan show 13 times.They never won an award for being the best band in England, it was best band on the Mecca circuit.If Clark is going to say the same old lies on PBS it will be a waste of time.
  • Booda Sooda from Over ThereJust to set the record straight, this interview makes it seem as if the DC5 broke up in 1967. They actually parted ways in 1970 with many releases in between. After that, DC and Mike Smith went on as "Dave Clark And Friends" which lasted until 1973.
  • Sam Williams from Sherman Oaks, CaIs it true that Dave Clark Actually didn't play on the majority of DC5's hit records (Didn't he take the producer's chair in the studio and hired ace British session drummer Bobby Graham to play on most of the band's hits?).
  • Jeff Adler from Utica, NebraksaThose driving drums and blaring baritone sax at the start of "Glad All Over" are a natural force of RNR Over and Over again until the music dies! Why? BECAUSE. It was all so great!
  • Jim from North Billerica, MaOutstanding interview! I have to give it to Dave Clark, he had the stones to leave on his own terms. Great band, great sound, and I wish they produced more cuts, but I respect the desire to not grind yourself to a nub.
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