1963 had seen the charts dominated by Liverpudlian acts once The Beatles hit the big time, but there were exceptions. London-based Brian Poole and The Tremeloes went to number 1 with a cover of Do You Love Me?, and another group from the capital also released a version. The Dave Clark Five’s single barely scraped into the charts that October, but their follow-up, Glad All Over, usurped I Want to Hold Your Hand and became the first new number 1 of 1964. Here was a warning shot to the Merseybeat acts – the Tottenham Sound was here.
Unusually, this group revolved around its drummer. Dave Clark, born 15 December 1935 in Tottenham, formed the skiffle group Dave Clark Quintet in 1957. He had left school at 15 to become a stuntman, appearing in many films, and formed the group as a way to raise funds so his football team could travel to the Netherlands. They became the Dave Clark Five because people were confused by the original name…
By 1962 the line-up had settled down, consisting of Clark on drums (as well as manager), Rick Huxley on bass, Mike Smith on organ and vocals, Lenny Davidson on lead guitar and multi-instrumentalist Denny Payton on saxophone, harmonica and guitar.
Clark quickly showed a flair for business acumen. He struck a deal that enabled him to be the band’s producer, and he also became the chief songwriter, both unusual at the time. Having missed the boat with Do You Love Me?, Clark was determined the band come up with something original – ideally something that made his drumming the spotlight, as the audiences loved them for it (of course, this is how Clark remembers it – and as there’s lots of evidence suggesting he has a bit of an ego problem, this might not necessarily be the case). Mike Smith found an old Carl Perkins record called Glad All Over and wrote a new song around the title, possibly assisted by Clark, perhaps not, but he gets a credit anyway…
So how did the Tottenham Sound compare to Merseybeat? Well, using Glad All Over as a case study, there’s little difference. The backing vocals are very Beatlesque, and the lyrics are youthful, direct and simplistic, but this is a punchier, more primitive take on pop – and that’s no bad thing. The production is raw and powerful, with the drums and saxophone making it stand out from much of the pack at the time. Clark may have been self-obsessed, but you can’t knock him for turning the drums up here. This is a fun single, and must have sounded great in a live setting.
Fresh off the success of Glad All Over, the quintet released their best-remembered track, Bits and Pieces, which repeated the same formula, but was even catchier. However, it stalled at number two.
Early 1964 was the peak period for the Dave Clark Five in the UK, but they became one of our top imports during the British Invasion of the US, and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show 18 times.
1965 saw the release of their film Catch Us if You Can, the directorial debut of John Boorman. According to Bob Stanley in his brilliant book Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Pop, the film featured Clark and the gang as ‘they literally sold meat, encountered middle-aged swingers, smack heads and army brutality, and ended up in a derelict seaside hotel, their dreams all over’ Sounds very different to A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, doesn’t it?
The Dave Clark Five barely bothered to move with the times, having only the briefest dalliance with psychedelia, and disbanded in 1970.
In the 80s, Dave Clark bought up the rights to all existing editions of Ready, Steady, Go!, the influential ITV music show that had ran from 1963 to 1966. He barely did anything with them other than release some videos that decade, in which unrelated clips of the band were inserted into the show (the band actually rarely appeared on the series).
Since then he has lived a rather reclusive life – according to Stanley, one of his few public appearances was at Freddie Mercury’s funeral, and there are rumours of failed plastic surgery.
The group were entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Sadly singer Mike Smith had died shortly beforehand. His later years had been tragic – in 2003 he tried to climb a gate at his villa in Spain after accidentally locking himself out. The subsequent fall left him permanently paralysed after being laid undiscovered for several days. and complications from this incident eventually contributed to his death from pneumonia.
Payton died in 2006 of cancer, and Huxley from emphysema in 2013, leaving only Clark and Davidson. Glad All Over was adopted by Crystal Palace FC as their anthem, and remains so to this day.
Written by: Dave Clark & Mike Smith
Producer: Dave Clark
Weeks at number 1: 2 (16-29 January)
Novelist TH White – 17 January