The Dave Clark Five Biography

One of the most popular British beat groups of the mid-60s, especially in the USA, the Dave Clark Five’s career stretched back as far as 1958. Originally a backing group for north London singer Stan Saxon, the quintet comprised Dave Clark (David Clark, 15 December 1942, Tottenham, London, England; drums/vocals), backed by various musicians, whose ranks included bass player Chris Wells and lead guitarist Mick Ryan. After splitting from Saxon, the DC5 established their own identity and nominated their date and place of formation as the South Grove Youth Club, Tottenham, London in January 1962. The evolving and finally settled line-up featured Mike Smith (b. Michael George Smith, 6 December 1943, Edmonton, Middlesex, England, d. 28 February 2008, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England; organ/vocals), Rick Huxley (b. Richard Huxley, 5 August 1940, Dartford, Kent, England; bass), Lenny Davidson (b. Leonard Arthur Davidson, 30 May 1942, Enfield, Middlesex, England; lead guitar) and Denny Payton (b. Denis West Payton, 11 August 1943, Walthamstow, Essex, England, d. 17 December 2006, Bournemouth, Dorset, England; saxophone, harmonica, guitar).

Smith’s throaty vocals and Clark’s incessant thumping beat were the unit’s most familiar trademarks. After losing out to Brian Poole And The Tremeloes with the much covered Contours classic ‘Do You Love Me?’, the DC5 elected to record their own material. The Clark/Smith composition ‘Glad All Over’ proved one of the most distinctive and recognizable beat songs of its era and reached number 1 in the UK during January 1964. Its timing could not have been more opportune as the record fortuitously removed the Beatles’ ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, after its six-week reign at the top. The national press, ever fixated with Beatles stories, pronounced in large headlines: ‘Has The Five Jive Crushed The Beatles’ Beat?’ The Dave Clark Five took advantage of the publicity by swiftly issuing the less memorable, but even more boot-thumping, ‘Bits And Pieces’, which climbed to number 2.

Over the next couple of years, the group’s chart career in the UK was erratic at best. They essayed a belated and highly successful shift of style with 1964’s cover version of the Barry Mason/ Les Reed ballad, ‘Everybody Knows (I Still Love You)’, and enjoyed a sizeable Top 10 hit in 1965 with ‘Catch Us If You Can’ from the film of the same name in which they starred. Even as their beat group charm in the UK faded, surprisingly new opportunities awaited them in the USA. A series of appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show found them at the forefront of the mid-60s beat invasion and they racked up a string of million-sellers. A remarkable 18 Billboard Top 40 hits between 1963 and 1967 included ‘Can’t You See That She’s Mine’, ‘Because’, ‘I Like It Like That’, and their sole US number 1 ‘Over And Over’. Back in the UK, they slipped into the rock ‘n’ roll revivalist trend of the late 60s and early 70s, charting with the medleys ‘Good Old Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and ‘More Good Old Rock ‘N’ Roll’, before bowing out in 1971.

In reappraising the Dave Clark Five’s work, the flow of singles between 1964 and 1967 was of an incredibly high standard, and such was their output that most of the b-sides were quite excellent. In terms of production Clark employed a kitchen sink approach; throw in everything. The remarkable ‘Anyway You Want It’ is one of the most exciting records of the decade, although many are unaware of its existence. This blockbuster has reverb, echo and treble recorded at number 11 volume, with an ear-shattering result that does not distort. The simultaneous strength and weakness of the Dave Clark Five lay in their no-risk policy and refusal to surrender the hit-making formula for a more ambitious approach. Far from serious rivals to the Beatles, as their initial press implied, they were actually a limited but solid outfit. Smith was the most talented with a huge rasping voice and great songwriting ability. Their astute leader, Clark, had a canny sense of the moment and astute business know-how, which enabled them to enjoy lucrative pickings in the US market long after their beat contemporaries had faded. He subsequently became a successful entrepreneur and multi-millionaire, both in the video market, where he purchased the rights to the pop television show Ready Steady Go!, and onstage where his musical Time (starring Cliff Richard) enjoyed box office success. Smith, who was clearly the most talented member, was paralyzed from the waist down following a fall outside his house in Spain in September 2003. From that time he remained in hospital until December 2007 when he was discharged and moved to a specially adapted home. However, he was readmitted to hospital on 27 February 2008 and died from pneumonia the following day.

Clark retains the rights to all the Dave Clark Five’s material, and by sitting on the catalogue successfully held out for the most lucrative offer to reissue the hits in the age of CD. This was achieved in fine style with the definitive The History Of The Dave Clark Five double CD in 1993. Old fans relished the excellent running order and new fans were astonished to discover how fresh these 60s pop songs still sounded. A highly underrated group, the Dave Clark Five was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in March 2008.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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