Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Glad All Over: The Dave Clark Five and Beyond (Dave Clark Productions/PBS, 1964)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2014 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

The show was the rather awkwardly titled music documentary Glad All Over: The Dave Clark Five and Beyond, about the group that emerged on the British rock scene in early 1964 and was immediately hailed, Great White Hope-style, by the London show business establishment as the London-based group that would finally take down those parvenus from Liverpool who couldn’t even spell their band name right. The Dave Clark Five were five young working-class kids from the Tottenham district of London — Dave Clark, drummer and leader (and manager, and record producer!); Mike Smith, lead vocals, electric organ and piano; Lenny Davidson (the cute blond one who reminded me of the young David McCallum — I’d probably have had a similar crush on him if I’d been more aware of both this music and my sexuality in 1964!), electric and acoustic guitars; Denis Payton, tenor and baritone saxophones, harmonica and occasional second guitar; and Rick Huxley (presumably no relation), electric bass. They’d known each other since childhood and they got an interesting set of gigs at U.S. military bases because the Americans running the bases wanted to be able to treat the servicemembers to a reasonable simulacrum of American rock ’n’ roll. Between sets by the Dave Clark Five, the people in charge of the dances on base would play U.S. records on a jukebox, and Dave Clark recalled learning new songs from these records and often badgering the base staff to sell them to him. The base gigs seem to have been the Dave Clark Five’s equivalent to the grueling apprenticeship the Beatles went through in Hamburg (before another audience that wanted the music to sound as “American” as possible!), and their equivalent to the Cavern Club was the Royal Theatre in Tottenham, where their explosive performances got the audience members (up to 6,000 people in a space whose official capacity was 1,500) bouncing up and down on the floor until it vibrated so much that one night it broke under the strain — all this before the band had a recording deal! When Clark finally did record, he was so explosively popular (and he had the credibility with the London showbiz establishment of being from their city) he was able to sign a deal with Columbia Records that allowed him to produce the band’s records himself and regain control of the masters after five years. Though Clark understandably bristled at comparisons of his band to the Beatles — when they were made in 1964 he pointed out to the interviewers making them that his band wasn’t all guitars; it also included organ and sax (the sax had been a major instrument in the rhythm-and-blues of the 1940’s out of which rock evolved, and aside from the rockabilly acts most 1950’s rock acts had used sax, but by 1964 rock was considered exclusively a guitar sound and the sax was regarded as retrograde — though Payton’s presence in the lineup did allow the Dave Clark Five to cover sax-driven R&B songs like Chris Kenner’s “I Like It Like That” more credibly than the Beatles could have) — in fact their histories track quite closely.

The Dave Clark Five made their record debut in 1964 and “broke” in both the U.K. and the U.S. the same year the Beatles came to America — in fact, though the Beatles did a handful of shows in the U.S. in February 1964, they didn’t do a full-dress tour of America until August, three months after the Dave Clark Five had done it. The Beatles made A Hard Day’s Night, a fast-paced rapidly cut movie with a director who would become a major filmmaking “name,” Richard Lester; the Dave Clark Five made one — called Catch Me if You Can in the U.K. and Having a Wild Weekend in the U.S. — in a similar rapidly-cut style and also used a director who would later become a “name,” John Boorman. The Beatles gave up live performance in 1967; so did the Dave Clark Five. The Beatles made an avant-garde special for British TV, Magical Mystery Tour; so did the Dave Clark Five, Head On. The Beatles broke up in 1970; so did the Dave Clark Five, albeit without the bitterness — Dave Clark simply decided the band’s run had lasted as long as it could be reasonably expected to, and he folded the band and changed careers. Though the Wikipedia page on the band says that Dave Clark had a short-lived band in the early 1970’s called “Dave Clark and Friends” (with only Clark and Mike Smith from the original lineup), his main interest in the early 1970’s was studying acting. Then he decided to become a writer and director for the theatre, and in the late 1970’s he started putting together an elaborate musical called Time, drawing from the movies A Matter of Life and Death and The Story of Mankind for its central premise: a rock star (played in the original London production by Freddie Mercury of Queen and in the short-lived U.S. touring version by David Cassidy) is beamed up to a heavenly court and put on trial for all the terrible things humans have done over the years. Time also became noteworthy as the last theatrical production starring Laurence Olivier, who played the outer-space consciousness in charge of the heavenly judicial system and filmed his role as a hologram that was projected above the live action on stage — which enabled Olivier to continue “playing” the part after he died. Clark also became a show-business entrepreneur; when he heard that the British TV company Rediffusion, which had produced the live rock-music show Ready, Steady, Go! in the 1960’s, had gone out of business, he bought the rights to Ready, Steady, Go! He says in this documentary his initial purpose was just to make sure the shows were preserved — at the time it was routine for both the BBC and commercial British TV to erase and reuse the videotapes of lighter programming (six of the original Monty Python shows were lost this way and the only reason the rest exist was some anonymous bureaucrat at the BBC tagged them and said, “Save those. We might be able to do something with them in the States”) — but eventually he reissued some of the spectacular performances on these shows, which featured not only his own band but also the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Burdon and the Animals and American stars like Otis Redding (who’s shown here on an RSG clip performing his cover of the Stones’ “Satisfaction” and, not surprisingly, outdoing the Stones on their own song; it’s as if Otis were saying, “Even with a song you wrote as a ripoff of us, we still do it better!”).

Dave Clark’s business acumen enabled him to own his own career and avoid the destructive legal battles the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Elton John went through with their former managers (the Beatles and Stones with Allan Klein and Elton John with Dick James) — Paul McCartney and Elton John filmed interviews for these shows and Paul is incredibly bitter that Dave Clark owns the publishing rights to his songs and Paul lost the Beatles’ catalogue twice (first to Sir Lew Grade and then to Michael Jackson) — but there’s an interesting article on the Huffington Post ( by Harold Bronson, co-founder of Rhino Records, who claims Clark blundered badly by holding on to the catalog for as long as he did and not allowing any legitimate releases of Dave Clark Five material between 1975 and 1993.”Dave hadn’t realized that by keeping the records out of the stores for nearly twenty years, he diminished their value,” Bronson wrote. “Oldies radio programmed less of the hits, as they were not available to the stations. Similarly, the records did not get exposed in other media like movies, TV shows, and commercials. He also was insensitive to music fans who wanted to hear the records: some wore out their vinyl copies, others replaced their turntables with CD players. Whatever residual presence the Dave Clark Five records had, had dissipated, and much of the band’s great music faded from memory.” According to Bronson, the only legitimately issued Dave Clark Five CD in the U.S. was the compilation A History of the Dave Clark Five, a two-disc set released in 1993 on Walt Disney’s Hollywood Records label (a deal Clark cut because Disney was promising to use the Dave Clark Five’s music in their films and TV shows, and put a Dave Clark Five-themed cabaret into the Disney theme parks, none of which happened), though a number of the songs, including the History compilations and a remixed version of the band’s first album, Glad All Over, are available as downloads on iTunes.

The other problem with the Dave Clark Five is that, in a period of tumultuous change in music, their style remained pretty much the same at the end as it had at the beginning; they recorded a few songs with vaguely psychedelic effects and at least one, “Inside and Out,” with a veiled antiwar message, but they basically sounded the same in 1970 as they had in 1964 (though they let Mike Smith sing solo more towards the end and thereby showed off what a really good voice he had), and even their sound in 1964 didn’t have the variety of the Beatles’ (largely because Mike Smith, as good as he was, sang lead on virtually everything and therefore you didn’t get the contrasts between singers you got with the Beatles. The Rolling Stones only had one lead singer, but they didn’t suffer therefrom because Mick Jagger had a much more distinctive voice than Mike Smith, and while his stage moves were a pale (in more ways than one) copy of those of Redding, James Brown and the other spectacular Black performers he was ripping off, at least he could appear front and center instead of being stuck behind an organ keyboard. Also their music, like the Beatles’ and unlike the Dave Clark Five’s, grew and changed with the times; among the clips from Ready, Steady, Go! included here is one of the Stones doing “Paint It Black,” with Brian Jones playing sitar (trying to keep up with the Harrisons), and the song has a life and vibrancy missing from the Dave Clark Five’s music at that point. (The Hollywood Records CD includes one attempt to change their sound, “Satisifed with You,” a tear-in-my-beer country ballad at a time when the rock audience regarded country music as almost totally useless — something that changed only when Bob Dylan started recording in Nashville and hanging out with Johnny Cash.) The Glad All Over documentary was produced, directed and written by Dave Clark himself, and as such is an “official” history with all the vicissitudes attendant thereto; Clark claims his band played the Ed Sullivan Show 18 times, more than any other British act, while other online sources say it was only 13 (still considerably more than the Beatles’ four!) and apparently repeats some inflated numbers of just how many members his fan club had. As music, the Dave Clark Five holds up pretty well, but even in 1964 the Beatles had it all over them in terms of both musical and emotional complexity; the show contains an interesting interview with Bruce Springsteen in which he said in the 1960’s he liked the Dave Clark Five’s records better than the Beatles’ because they had a “bigger” sound, but I suspect the only reason for that was that Clark was both the band’s drummer and its record producer, and so naturally he mixed the drums quite a bit louder than anyone else dared. Springsteen also said he related more to the Dave Clark Five than the Beatles because, like his own future bands, they included keyboards and sax — and his drummer, Max Weinberg, is shown on the program saying that he ripped off a lot of Clark’s licks and used them on between 80 and 90 percent of Springsteen’s material.

Clark himself says his idol as a drummer was Buddy Rich, and though he admits Rich could have played rings around him technically (one of the paradoxes of rock is that, even though it’s such a rhythmically driven music, there’ve been surprisingly few really great rock drummers — I suspect because rock rhythms are so simple and basic there’s little room for the kind of ornamentation the great jazz drummers could do — though there have been standout drummers who pushed the limits of the form: J. I. Allison with Buddy Holly and Jimmy Van Eaton with the Sun studio band in the 1950’s, and Mitch Mitchell with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, John Densmore with the Doors and Keith Moon with the Who in the 1960’s) he was trying for a similarly driving sound. He achieved it — at times the Dave Clark Five sound like the sort of band Pete Best should have formed after the Beatles fired him (if Best had taken an I’ll-show-them attitude to his firing instead of slinking back into Liverpudlian obscurity and doing almost nothing musically for the next two years, it’s at least faintly possible that he could have put together a Pete Best Five that would have pounded the Beatles into commercial oblivion, and the mid-1960’s fan magazines that did faux contests between the Beatles and the Dave Clark Five would instead have been asking, “Who’s the greatest drummer-leader of a British band — Dave Clark from London or Pete Best from Liverpool?” There’s a weird bit of alternative music history for you: the Beatles as a trivia item, that obscure little band Pete Best, superstar, started out with) — but at the cost of monotony; the Dave Clark-Mike Smith originals sound pretty much like each other and the Black R&B covers are quite capable but hardly in the same league as the originals. I remember having the Glad All Over album and quite liking their version of “Do You Love Me?” — until I heard the original by Motown’s one-hit wonders, the Contours, and backed by the incredible Motown studio band the Contours blew them away, as did Chris Kenner on “I Like It Like That” and the little-known (because, though Berry Gordy produced his records, he licensed them to United Artists instead of saving them for Motown) Marv Johnson on “You Got What It Takes.” The Dave Clark Five got a career boost early on from the London showbiz establishment, who as soon as “Glad All Over” knocked “I Want to Hold Your Hand” off the top of the British charts proclaimed, “The Mersey Beat is over — the Tottenham Sound rules!” In his interview here, Paul McCartney inevitably recalls being told over and over (also the title of a later Dave Clark Five song) that the Beatles were through when “Glad All Over” went to U.K. number one — though he probably wasn’t really worried about it, nor should he have been; the moment the Beatles released their next single, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” it went to number one in both the U.K. and the U.S. (where the next four songs in the charts were also Beatles records!) and the right and proper order of the universe was restored.