Main Index Page General Ratings Page Rock Chronology Page Song Search Page New Additions Message Board


"Anyway you want it, that's the way it will be"

Class E

Main Category: Pop Rock
Also applicable: --------
Starting Period: The Early Years
Also active in: The Psychedelic Years




Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of a Dave Clark 5 fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Dave Clark 5 fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

For reading convenience, please open the reader comments section in a parallel browser window.


I'm the first one to admit I may look like this hopelessly stuck-in-the-Sixties nut for some people, and whatever nuttiness of the sort I may possess, I rarely get the urge to fight it, that's true. However, I'll also be the first one to admit that the Sixties - and the early Sixties in particular - also had a lot of crap music (even if I would take crap music from 1962 over crap music from 2002 regardless of pretty much anything). Many of the bands of that epoch were little more than stars-for-a-day; many have long since completely been written out of history as bubblegum rubbish with no lasting value. (Does anyone still listen to Herman's Hermits? And these guys had their share of catchy tunes.).

Nevertheless, the reverse is also true: due to the enormous overshadowing figure of the Beatles, a great lot of bands that are quite worthy in their own limited rights have been forgotten alongside the truly wretched combos. That fate nearly befell the Pretty Things (still revered only in select "secret cult societies" for their unique psychedelic twist in the late Sixties); that fate nearly befell the Hollies; and that fate totally befell the Dave Clark Five, a band that, curiously, used to be one of the main pillars of the British Invasion.

I am not saying that the Dave Clark Five were a great band. In artistic terms, my judgement is that they could never even threaten the Hollies, much less the Fab Four. And then, of course, there is this 'classic' argument about the Dave Clark Five which is always mentioned whenever the band is mentioned: namely, that they were formally the first British band to follow the Beatles' success in the States and actually knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts with 'Glad All Over'. Of course, the argument has to be taken with a grain of salt. Somebody had to knock the Beatles off the top of the charts, right? Particularly if every teenager in Britain and in the States had already bought a copy of 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'. The Beatles were monster hitwriters, but their output wasn't enough to saturate the market. In order to satisfy the demand, in come Dave Clark and his trusty five (four, actually).

Frankly speaking, the Dave Clark Five had a lot of good things going for them. First and foremost, they wrote most of their material themselves - not even the Beatles could boast that around 1963 or 1964. Second, Dave Clark, the band's obvious leader and drummer man, in addition to being the band's own manager, produced their albums all by himself; again, no mean feat for the early Sixties. (Nasty rumours claim, however, that he was barely competent on the drums, and that all the playing on studio recordings was done by session players. Other nasty rumours tell that he never really wrote anything - his name, tacked on beside either Smith, Davidson, or Payton, merely reflected that he, too, wanted his share of the royalties. Away with you, nasty rumours! Scram!)

Third, they made effective use of the saxophone: Denny Payton, the blower, was a full-fledged band member, and who could name me another early Sixties beat band with a sax player? (Oh, right, Manfred Mann. With which the DC5 actually had a lot in common. But they still started out much earlier on this voyage, so you can't confuse me). And fourth, Mike Smith used the keyboards in lots of novel and interesting ways: whereas he was never as technically proficient as, say, Alan Price of the Animals, his array of organ tones is mighty impressive even today, for these demanding little ears of mine. I could swear he was playing Moog synth on a large bunch of DC5 tunes, but no carrot. That's organ, and that's clever.

All of these things collectively came to be known as "the Tottenham sound", and you might as well replace 'Tottenham' with 'London' here, because the important thing was that the DC5 were meant to provide the capital's answer to the scruffy Liverpoodlians. And on a purely factual basis, there was little reason to mock the definition - the Dave Clark Five were bright, upbeat, immediately recognisable, and besides, the Beatles just had two guitar players, and these guys had a guitar player, a piano player, and a sax player, and a pretty good contract, too. If anybody was poised for world domination back in the day, it was this nice clean sweater-clad bunch of Londoners.

But of course, the Dave Clark Five also have a lot of things against them, and if you ask my arrogant (as usual) opinion, it's hardly coincidental that today what few fans of the band there are, in my experience, prefer to speak of them in terms of record sales and organising attitudes, specially emphasizing Dave Clark's personal talents as a businessman. (For instance, he was notorious for securing the copyrights to all of the band's songs from the very beginning, thus making sure that the members would always get their due and not be manipulated by some witty crook like the proverbial Allen Klein or Shel Talmy). It would be wrong to say that the Dave Clark Five sound never evolved with the years - at least on their singles they tried a little bit to follow the times, dabbling ever so slightly in hard rock and psychedelia, but for the most part listening to their LPs reveals their main weakness: they were hopelessly stuck in the sound of the early Sixties. Consequently, the very best output of the DC5 can be found on their earliest and best records, like American Tour. This is, indeed, a terrible flaw, but then it's rather typical of the majority of early British Invasion bands - most just faded away through a sort of natural selection, and the Dave Clark 5, though they managed to last a little longer than others (and even had a couple chart comebacks in the late Sixties), couldn't help but follow suit.

That said, some (much, even) of their output is still worth hearing, even if only for historical reasons, to get a truer perspective on these innocent early Sixties. Those who have no problem with early Beatles, early Hollies, or early Beach Boys, and don't hold any serious biases against that kind of music (a.k.a. "fluff"), but are instead predisposed towards easy-going, catchy, well-written pop melodies, will probably be able to get their kicks out of the Dave Clark 5 as well. It's obvious that, due to all their shortcomings, they can't even aspire to get more than a class status of E on this site, but it's still not that bad. Think of the band as just a typical representative of its generation, chosen and placed here because, well, it was huger than so many of its colleagues and competitors at the time.

All the more tragic is the fact that none of the original Dave Clark Five albums are currently available in CD form as "normal", official releases. There are a few compilations that you can find now and then, but the main catalog remains unissued. On the good side, it turns out that all fourteen or so original DC5 albums have been recently released on CD unofficially - and these 'bootlegs' seem to have a wide circulation. Grab 'em if you see 'em: they all follow a super-duper effective '2-fer' principle, plus, all of them have bonus tracks. Pure Dave Clark Five heaven, if you can find it.

Understandably, I have almost all of of these "twofers", covering the entire period of the DC5's career that can be called 'important' (1964 to early 1966). Note that, as is usual with all British bands of the time, the DC5 original discography is a complete mess. The "twofers" follow the American releases, and these are the releases I'm going to review, since I'm definitely not snub-nosed and I don't really care what discography to follow, as long as the American record industry bosses didn't bother to break up some concept album. What works for the Stones and the Animals should certainly work for the DC5 as well. The only thing to keep in mind is that the US discography of the band is notably huger than the British one - there have been plenty of American-only LP releases consisting of singles, B-sides, rarities and special American-only tracks that weren't intended for the UK market. (A situation not thoroughly unknown to those who have ever ventured to compare the two countries' catalogs of the Stones and the Animals either).

Lineup: Dave Clark - drums; Lenny Davidson - guitar, vocals; Rick Huxley - bass; Denny Payton - saxophone; Mike Smith - keyboards, vocals. As I think I already mentioned, all of the band members contributed more or less equally to the songwriting pool (minor wonder), and the band has lasted throughout the Sixties without any lineup changes (another minor wonder).



Year Of Release: 1964
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 10

Catchy, noisy, and dumb by the pound - that's what we call the Tottenham Sound.

Best song: GLAD ALL OVER

Track listing: 1) Glad All Over; 2) All Of The Time; 3) Stay; 4) Chaquita; 5) Do You Love Me; 6) Bits And Pieces; 7) I Know You; 8) No Time To Lose; 9) Doo Dah; 10) Time; 11) She's All Mine.

Let's begin this with a fragrant flourish - the Dave Clark Five debut album is, for all it is worth, not really a Dave Clark Five debut album! Yes, there are few things in this world that'd be more ungrateful than dedicating time to studying an extended DC5 discography; I'd say that even detailed research on the dynastic lines of the Holy Roman Empire can yield overtly more positive results. However, I did indeed indulge in that kind of activity, and this is what I learned.

Glad All Over is, in fact, one of those bastardized American releases that's comprised of (a) British singles, (b) an occasional British LP track or two, and (c) a bunch of songs recorded exclusively for the American market, as a result of barely legal plotting between band members, record company executives, postal services, and an occasional agent of Lucifer. Fie on you, Mr Dave Clark; as the band's manager and all, you had that rare chance of keeping your output in perfect trans-Atlantic order that so many of your (far more creatively gifted) colleagues didn't get until they got fed up with screwing packs of 18-year olds and started paying more attention to all that legal crap. Then again - I understand. It's all about the moolah in the first place, isn't it?

In fact, some of the eleven tracks on this album date back to 1962, and most of them precede the big hit single, not follow it. That big hit single? The title track, of course, which, together with 'Any Way You Want It', still counts among the band's most recognizable tunes. Essentially, 'Glad All Over' follows the formula of a typical early Beatles' "headbanger" like 'She Loves You', but with a few reservations that make it unmistakably Mr Clark and Co.'s. Solid, steady, loud drumming, but with less noise and cymbal-crashing than on Ringo's kit: extra loudness shouldn't hinder the listener. Well-coordinated, catchy vocal harmonies, often drenched in echoes, but always loud and defiant - the public loves screamers. Mike Smith might not be the most unmistakable vocalist on Earth, but there's an almost unusual - for the time and the place - maturity in his singing, as if that were a grizzled 50-year old R'n'B frontman at the mike instead of a young insecure phonie, which gives him some edge over most competition. The rhythmic punch of Denny Payton's saxophone, almost overshadowing all the other instruments - the only other thing you can hear is Lenny Davidson's twanging, equally echoey guitar in the mid-section. Lots of "wild" (actually, quite carefully planned out) drive, catchy vocal melody, "furious" ending. What's not to like?

Perhaps the only true problem of the record is that out of the other ten songs, stylistically an absolute majority sounds like mindless clones of 'Glad All Over', even those that were recorded previously. 'All Of The Time', 'She's All Mine', 'I Know You', all these numbers follow the same formula, and while I have nothing against a couple lightweight two-minute 'I love you you love me' declarations with catchy melodies, I also need extra spice to get me going. That extra spice could have been provided by just about anything - like, for instance, that cool guitar tone that Davidson demonstrates with his 'ploinnnnnk's at the beginning and near the end of 'All Of The Time'. But they keep neglecting it anyway - like, for instance, why the hell is that cool guitar tone offered to us on exactly four chords? Yeah, I know they're big lovers of the saxophone. Already. Get on with it, boys.

The positive aspect of this monotonousness is that you won't find too many ballads on here... come to think of it, you won't find any ballads on here, because in 1964 the Dave Clark Five were a rough, crude, hard-rocking misogynistic combo spewing out venom and bile and distorted garage-rock riffs all over the place, threatening the likes of the Pretty Things and presaging the rule of Motorhead. No, scratch that, bad joke. As we will see a little later, the Dave Clark Five respected a bad little ballad as sincerely as did all their contemporaries; the only reason Glad All Over has none of these is that it was, like I already mentioned, mostly comprised of single material, and in 1964, you didn't put your ballads on singles unless you wrote nothing but ballads, in which case you probably lived in Greenwich Village and were called either Peter, Paul, or Mary. But I digress.

The Dave Clark Five were sissies, yes, but it's almost hard to believe when you get them doing weirdo instrumentals like 'Chaquita', all based on a grim bouncy bassline and highlighted by shrill sax blasts from Denny Payton that sound like nothing else - how they hell did they manage to get that distorted effect in 1962 (this is the earliest track on the album) is beyond me, unless it's something really trite that was used by everybody at the time but escapes my knowledge because, frankly, I haven't heard too much music from 1962. In any case, it's Latin meets surf meets jazz meets... and I suppose the uglier you find that saxophone tone, the more evidence there is that the tune really rocks.

Granted, the band does fall upon serious embarrassments a couple of times. 'No Time To Lose' is pretty energetic until you realize that Clark and Smith simply expropriated the melody of 'Twist And Shout' and wrote some new lyrics (a reader comment below states that the song was written in 1959, but unless I am to believe that it was the Isley Brothers that paid an incognito visit to Tottenham in order to nick a few melodies off unsuspecting British beginners, I will reserve the right to hold that statement under serious suspicion. And no, no chance of a coincidence at all). And 'Doo Dah' overdoes the cheese factor, sounding exactly like all those braindead mainstream pop radio fodder melodies derived from good old nursery rhymes that ABBA later on tried to revitalize on their first two awful albums (and, fortunately, failed, because otherwise they wouldn't go on to create some of the Seventies' most enduring pop music). But two out of eleven ain't that bad, especially considering that the rest of the tunes are all either interesting, or at least fast and punchy; later DC5 records would always be bogged by too many flabby ballads and recycled instrumentals.

Here, though, even the instrumentals cook - apart from 'Chaquita', there's also 'Time', a moody two-minute jazzy pastiche prominently featuring Mr Payton again, a track that radically contrasts with everything else on the record. And when after the plagiarism of 'No Time To Lose', the corniness of 'Doo Dah' and the bizarre surprise of 'Time', the record comes to a close with the powerful 'Glad All Over' clone 'She's All Mine', it's like a perfect ending to an album that will have to be considered one of the band's best in any case, if only due to its freshness and unmatched youthful energy. In terms of diversity and production, Clark and Co. would easily top this "debut" with American Tour, but I suppose that if these guys did happen to have a small share of that 'early unmarred spirit', unmarred, that is, by extra propaganda, commerciality and mainstream attitudes, said small share should definitely be sought in these early singles.

PS. Curious detail: the only two covers on the album, 'Stay' and 'Do You Love Me', are also both encountered on the Hollies' debut that came out the same year. It's actually useful to play all four back to back and feel the difference - the Dave Clark Five are certainly louder, steadier, and more professional than the Hollies, but in terms of harmony arrangement, they're already lagging behind, and besides, with all due respect to Mike Smith, I'll take Allan Clarke's "look-at-me-I'm-so-off-the-edge" snarl over that guy's restrained maturity any time of day. No offense!



Year Of Release: 1964
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 8

Typical "debut album" as opposed to typical "first hit singles collection". In other words, not that good.


Track listing: 1) Can't You See That She's Mine; 2) I Need You I Love You; 3) I Love You No More; 4) Rumble; 5) Funny; 6) Zip-a-dee-doo-dah; 7) Can I Trust You; 8) Forever And A Day; 9) Theme Without A Name; 10) On Broadway; [BONUS TRACKS:] 11) Come Home; 12) Look Before You Leap; 13) Hurtin' Inside; 14) Because; 15) Everybody Knows; 16) Red Balloons; 17) Live In The Sky.

Amazingly, this American LP, so boldly announcing that the Dave Clark Five do indeed return, whether you want it or not, almost completely coincides with the DC5's real debut album in Britain, released several months earlier under the name of A Session With The Dave Clark Five and differing just in a few tracks (the British release included 'She's All Mine' and 'Time', which got onto the US release of Glad All Over). With a grand total of TEN songs, none of whom go over 2:30, this makes up for the shortest ever listening experience you'll listening-ly experience from the band, and thus has to be considered one of the all-time nastiest rip-offs on the part of the American industry. Mercifully, today the record is available on CD paired with Glad All Over and some bonus tracks - imagine it being sold as an independent album for full CD price, when actually some of today's CD "singles" are lengthier than that. (That said, Capitol once did release all the early Beach Boys albums on independent CDs, meaning that yes, some people have no problem imagining such a situation. Let alone making extra money off it).

In any case, if ever you happen to encounter The Dave Clark Five Return for the price of a full CD, I'd advise you to keep track of the publisher and, if possible, turn him over to the authorities for high treason against the spirit of the Sixties. Because this is, in fact, one of the weakest DC5 albums I've heard so far. Obviously, being a 'debut', it suffers all the typical strains of a 'debut': the band is pressed into the studio, urged to find enough original material to sound diverse and "independent", yet when it turns out that the original material is sorely lacking in quality, is nevertheless encouraged to do several idiotic covers that spend most of their time beating the shit out of good taste rather than giving the listener a good time.

In other words, Return is somewhat the equivalent of the Kinks' self-titled album - except that the Kinks at least played rock'n'roll, meaning that even when they were incompetent, the material was at least tolerable by its very nature. The Dave Clark Five, on the other hand, play lounge ballads and watered down "poppers", and when they aren't supported with the band's energy and Clark/Smith's massive hooks, they easily epitomize everything that was wrong with pop music in the early Sixties.

You probably won't understand what I'm talking about, though, if you only sit through the album's first few tracks - because the descent into shitland is gradual. In fact, the whole first half of the album ranges from (rarely) excellent to (more often) enjoyable. The one big highlight, 'Can't You See That She's Mine', is vintage single material: fast, but not as noisy and chaotic as 'Glad All Over', making more way for Smith's pulsating organ and the band's coordinated vocal harmonies to be heard, while Payton is given the reins on the brief, catchy sax solo. Plus, that's a title you'd rather expect to be heralding a sappy doo-wop ballad, and that makes up for double excitement when you discover it's really a driving "power pop" song.

Further on up the road, 'I Need You, I Love You' is slower and somewhat more generic - with just a slight touch-up and a change of key, it would soon evolve into the far superior 'Because', but that doesn't mean the melody won't stick to you, nor will you won't to discard a song that gets so close to that fresh innocent Please Please Me vibe. 'I Love You No More' is slightly bluesier in tone and thus more "dangerous-sounding" (bearing the reservation, of course, that all the five band members put together are about as dangerous as Keith Richards' left toe), which makes up for a nice change in the weather, although, to be sure, having the exact same guitar rhythm "tear it up" on three songs in a row arouses a strong suspicion that you're in fact listening to the same song all the way.

Not so with the instrumental 'Rumble' - apparently, in those early days any kind of 'innovation' or 'weirdness' that the bands displayed was exclusively limited to vocalless compositions. 'Rumble', in particular, features a bolero-like rhythm over loud power chords played in unison with distorted sax riffs, resolving in a series of 'chaotic' noisy climaxes. Imagine the Who annihilating their instruments in the studio around 1965, only doing that with extreme care (so as not to actually annihilate anything) and not letting out any extra feedback, and there you go. I'm not saying that the song is an innovative masterpiece of extreme pioneering importance, but I do think that certain avantgarde jazz influences can be visible here, and at any rate, sandwiched in between the bluesy 'I Love You No More' and the poppy 'Funny', the composition just produces a truly puzzling impression.

However, that's just five short songs, only one of them top quality - and we still have the second side, which sucks ass to say the least. To be precise, it ain't even fit to suck ass, whoever the ass in question might belong to. 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' (yes, I hope I typed that title in correctly) is a worthless Disney tune that successfully rivals 'Doo-Dah' as "The Greatest Combination of Embarrassment And Boredom In The DC5 Catalog". Maybe the Beach Boys could have worked out something better with these harmonies... and even then it would still be filler on an album like Surfin' USA. Meanwhile, 'Can I Trust You?' finally marks a first - introducing us to the wonderful (and frightening!) world of DC5 balladry... with an over-sappy piece of melodyless schlock; same with 'Forever And A Day', which sounds straight out of the usual early Sixties' cheese factory. Later on, yes, later on, starting with 'Because', the band would slowly learn how to insert decent hooks into their ballads and how to get rid of the corniest production elements, but not now.

'Theme Without A Name' should have been re-titled 'Theme Without A Care For Taste' - elementary, primitive movie soundtrack pastiche overburdened with sickly sweetened strings and.. you know the score. The arrangement is very close to the one used on 'Ringo's Theme (This Boy)' in the Hard Day's Night soundtrack (moody low-tone guitar), but that was 'This Boy' and this... this is just a theme without a name. 'Nuff said. And to top it off, the boys close the album with their version of 'On Broadway'!!!!!!!?????!!!! NO COMMENT.

It's absolutely obvious that there just wasn't enough material to form a decent LP, but that's no excuse; that's one of the goddamn reasons why the Beatles are still revered and the Dave Clark Five mostly forgotten - filler city, baby, filler city. And.. yes, since I have this album on a two-fer with Glad All Over, there is a bunch of bonus tracks on here, but none strike me as great or memorable, apart from 'Come Home', of course, which is unexplainably carried over from Weekend In London. Some more schlocky ballads, a half-catchy pop rocker ('Look Before You Leap'), and two late period jazz-pop embarrassments (particularly 'Red Balloons', with its hicky French vocals; 'Live In The Sky' is at least bouncy and cheerful). For some reason, they also tacked on 'Because' as a bonus track, although it's also featured on American Tour.



Year Of Release: 1964
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 11

Blistering, shiny happy Brit-pop at its most young and innocent. Inventive, too.

Best song: BECAUSE

Track listing: 1) Because; 2) Who Does He Think He Is; 3) Move On; 4) Whenever You're Around; 5) I Want You Still; 6) Long Ago; 7) Come On Over; 8) Blue Monday; 9) Sometimes; 10) Any Time You Want Love; 11) I Cried Over You; 12) Ol' Sol.

Contrary to its title, this is a studio record; American record industry bosses just liked fooling their audience - remember the Magic Bus: The Who On Tour forgery from 1968, which was actually just another hit collection? Not that the choice of title was arbitrary. Released in August 1964, it came smack dab in the midst of the British Invasion paranoia, and unless I got my music history all muddled worse than the average American discography of an average British band, the DC5 were among the first UK bands, if not the first UK band after the Beatles, to break big in the States. Hence the album cover, with photos of huge crowds meeting the Tottenham ruffians at the airport, hence the whole marketing scheme that doesn't seem to mind if it's Paul McCartney blessing the congregation or if it's merely Lenny Davidson. Let's face it, it didn't matter much for most people in 1964.

And yet, no matter how much time has passed since then, American Tour still remains, for many old fans, the favourite of all DC5 records. It's hard to seriously argue with that statement, considering that out of the twelve songs on here, there ain't even a single complete duffer. In fact, if you forgive the fact that there ain't a single serious rocker on the album (just because the DC5 never did any serious rockers, which is a blessing rather than a curse), American Tour can easily defy, say, Please Please Me in its epoch-defining character. Remember - not every pop band in those days could ever be able to top, or even match, what was the Beatles' weakest offering. The Dave Clark Five could, and that's a bonus.

This time around, the songs are all written by Clark in collaboration with one other band member; only Rick Huxley the bass guy can't be bothered to contribute. Fortunately, once again the band (or, rather, the witty American edition compilers) drop most of the extra sap and concentrate on what they do best - catchy rhythmic teenybopper ballads and slightly more engaging catchy rhythmic pop-rockers (or 'rock-poppers'?). After all, that's what the British Invasion was all about, and that's the kind of material with which the Beatles conquered America; they didn't do it with 'Till There Was You' or even 'And I Love Her'. Too bad you could only conquer America once, if you ask me.

What is really admirable is the crystal clear production of the album: Dave Clark had always been a pro, but this time he truly excels at it - all the instruments are crisp and sharp, and delightfully vibrant and discernible. Take something like 'I Cried Over You', for instance. I have a hard time trying to remember where else in 1964 you could encounter such an imposing, heavy, echoey bassline - nobody cared that much about the bass to bring it so high up in the mix, not even the Rolling Stones, who were probably the most bass-worshipping band of 1964. As a result, you get a very weird feeling, as the song itself is a rather simple, run-of-the-mill ballad, but the monstrous bassline adds an extra dimension to the sound and is sure to stick in your head. Unlike the Beatles, who usually had all their instruments kinda 'meshed in' together on those early records (plus, as long as the selected song had some dang energy, it was sure to be entirely covered by Ringo's thrashing cymbals), the Dave Clark Five carefully 'disjoin' the instruments, and you can just follow any select instrumental pattern you like.

Likewise, I could care less if the instrumental 'jams' 'Move On' and 'Ol' Sol' are both based on the same melodic pattern. If you compare this stuff with something, like, by the Beach Boys, for example, the DC5 win again, in terms of production and, well, involvement. Listen to Clark's frantic drumming on 'Ol' Sol'. It's like he's actually driven by the one true rock'n'roll spirit, for once in his life! Listen - once more - to the ominous booming bass on 'Move On'. What is this, the beginnings of heavy metal? (Okay, I'm not even sure whether I'm kidding or not on this one). Listen to the harmonica - what a strange and funny sound. Listen to all the tiny little organ bleeps and beeps along the way. Listen to the boys actually soloing. Pretty good chops for 1964. Pretty cool, all of it.

That said, the record would never have garnered an eleven (about the highest that such a lightweight album could rise) if it weren't distinguished by at least a bunch of ultra-memorable pop anthems. 'Because' is certainly no Beatles song of the same name, but they don't have anything in common bar the name anyway, and how can you resist the inescapable catchiness of the verses further punctuated by magnificent organ work? You certainly can't. And it's not just the catchiness - it's the subtle mood of the song, completely devoid of fake sentimentalism and at the same time almost stately in its simplicity. Sure they fell upon this vibe by accident - it's not tremendously typical of their work, but accident or not, it's the best ballad, if not the best song ever, to have been released by these guys, and fully deserves its biggest American hit status. Hey! It's so damn good the Ramones even ripped off its bridge for their own ideal pop song, 'She's The One', a whoppin' fourteen years later!

In the same way there's no escaping the frantic pace and the groovy sax outbursts of 'I Want You Still' (I guess that's what they call "Tottenham sound" - emphatically marked Merseybeat decorated with a saxophone part?). Or the upbeat punch of 'Come On Over' - wasn't that the kind of song the Kinks were so painfully trying to record at the time, but always failing just because they didn't really have that kind of pop sensibility? (I mean, they had lots of pop sensibility, but not that sensibility...). And you can't count out the beautiful 'Sometimes', co-written by Clark with the band's first lead guitarist Mike Ryan (he was already out of the band by the time) and featuring some mind-blowing vocal harmonies. And did I mention that bassline in 'I Cried Over You'? Oh, wait, not a second time.

Even the 'minor' songs are enjoyable. 'Who Does He Think He Is' has this really cute acoustic Latin-tinged guitar line underpinning the main melody; the instrumental 'Blue Monday' has some ace organ/sax interplay; 'Any Time You Want Love' is glorious in its own way, with more excellent bass and sax work. Perhaps a couple of tunes, like 'Whenever You're Around' or 'Long Ago', do tend to be a little overslow and oversaccharine, with sappy harmonies and dorky sentimental lyrics, but even the Beatles had had their 'Ask Me Why', didn't they? Such things have to be gotten over.

Of course, I can't understate the fact that it really pains to have these little stinkers lurking in their relative holes and spoiling the whole excitement. It's almost as if Dave Clark himself just wanted to have one foot in the Merseybeat movement and one foot firmly stuck in the 'teen rock' of the late Fifties/earliest Sixties, in order to please both the 'correct' and the 'rebellious' audiences. Well, for a short period of time he might have done that, but ultimately that worked against him - for now, most people are just willing to see the correct foot and close their eyes on the rebellious foot. But if you ask me, American Tour is the perfect proof that the Dave Clark Five were not just a real band, but a real talented band as well. Not enormously talented, but... enough for somebody to get up his ass and try locate this little disc somewhere. It's more or less worth it.



Year Of Release: 1965
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 9

Retro-pop in 1965... a bit too early for conservatism, isn't it?


Track listing: 1) Any Way You Want It; 2) I Can't Stop Loving You; 3) I Can't Stand It; 4) What Is There To Say; 5) Everybody Knows; 6) Crying Over You; 7) Say You Want Me; 8) When; 9) Don't You Know; 10) To Me; 11) It's Not True; [BONUS TRACKS:] 12) I Knew It All The Time; 13) Concentration Baby; 14) Man In A Pin-Striped Suit; 15) Children; 16) Always Me; 17) Southern Man.

This immediate follow-up to American Tour seems rather rushed to me, or - a more probable case - somewhat poorly sewn together by worthy representatives of the American musical industry. First of all, it's even shorter (eleven songs this time, instead of the typical American dozen, always opposed to the somewhat stuffier British fourteen), which probably symbolizes that they were scraping the bottom of the barrel at the time, while the band itself was busy writing new material for a more "real" LP.

So the album's primary bait is definitely the lead-in track, the band's contemporary hit single 'Any Way You Want It', which, together with 'Glad All Over', still remains as the DC5 defining tune - good enough to have later been "glorified" by being covered by KISS and the Ramones, two bands symbolizing the "brutally simplistic" approach to music (albeit in two radically different ways). It's got all it takes, of course: maddeningly catchy melody, a pompous, thunderous beat, emphasized by a nagging sax pattern, groovy echoey vocals, twisted harmonies, and a genuine feel of joy and excitement. Just the thing to set your average dance club raving and reeling. However, as good as the song is, its glaring weakness cannot be omitted - that breathtaking buildup in the chorus is essentially a re-write of 'Please Please Me' (cf. "come on (come on), come on (come on)" - "it's all right (it's all right), it's all right (it's all right)". And as great as 'Please Please Me' was, it certainly is a bit unsettling to realize that in late '64/early '65 the Dave Clark 5 were so stubbornly stuck in the rut of early '63. 'Glad All Over' is still comparable with 'I Want To Hold Your Hand', which it is said to have originally dislodged off the charts; but put side by side with 'Ticket To Ride' or 'Help!', 'Anywhere You Want Me' acquires a decidedly caveman character.

Plus, none of the other songs on Coast To Coast come close to matching its power anyway. The band's overall style hasn't changed much since American Tour, but the album is definitely less diverse. I miss all the cute little vaguely experimental instrumentals, for one. Where's that 'hoarse harmonica' thing? Where are the groovy basslines? Where's the occasionally "odd" saxophone part? How come I'm deprived of even the tiniest bit of "risk" associated with the "Tottenham sound"? The risk is gone, replaced with a bunch of teenybopper ballads that are about as much fun to listen to as the Wall Street Journal is fun for a non-businessman. 'What Is There To Say' is the closest to "decent" out of these, but really, this quasi-Shadows guitar droning is soooo past as well... and this particular arrangement brings on definite Beatles associations as well, namely, the instrumental reworking of 'This Boy' for A Hard Day's Night. (And the "passionate" singing in the middle-eight once again reminds me just how unique John Lennon's vocal delivery was for the epoch).

Of the rest, 'Crying Over You' is a poorboy's 'Sometimes', a tune that could have been penned in two minutes. 'When' opens with a piano line that seems to have been the primary object of hate for the Residents, as they kept inserting similar 'parodic' two-three-note phrases in so many of their records. And 'To Me' is a song that the Beatles wouldn't have touched with a ten-foot pole even in their earliest days. (Okay, that's slobberingly exaggerated. Ever took a thorough listen to their BBC Sessions? 'Honeymoon Song'? The Beatles were falling victims of similar lapses of taste just as well, except that those BBC recordings date back to 1963 - and were never intended for official release until thirty years later - and this is early 1965 we're speaking of).

Any way you want it, things only get better with the faster "poppers". 'It's Not True' (not to be confused with the superior Who song of the same name) stomps along gleefully and could have easily passed round as a Beatles song (a good Beatles song). Just cut out that organ and replace it with some Harrison guitar around the edges. And stuff like 'I Can't Stop Loving You' or 'I Can't Stand It', while it does all sound the same as far as instrumentation, harmonizing and everything goes, is still peppered with solid hooks that are bound to grow on you. Although here as well I would like to etch a complaint - just how many of their songs have to have the same bombastic introduction as 'Any Way You Want It'? I know the 'Tottenham sound' is a rather limited concept, but come on, not that limited. Not even blues songs all begin with the 'I woke up this morning' line, you know.

A rather curious, if altogether subjective, tendency typical of the DC5 was to alternate a good (enjoyable) album with a bad (intolerable) one, which more or less represented the difference between albums the band really cared about and "post-production" phenomena, scrapped from leftovers and garbage. But Coast To Coast is more than just leftovers; it's the first true sign hinting at the band's unreadiness, in fact, the band's complete inability to fit in with the times that are a-changin'. I could make a vile nationalistic remark here about it hardly being a coincidence that the same album happens to feature the band against a huge map of the good old USA on the front cover, but I won't. Although I guess it is true that by early 1965, the Dave Clark Five were far better marketable in the States than in their own country. You know how it goes - once you've cracked them Yanks, they just won't let you go!

As for the insulting (salvaging?) shortness of the album, on the 2-fer CD edition I have it is somehow compensated for with the addition of six bonus tracks. Good bonus tracks? Well... probably interesting rather than good, and it's certainly a mixed bag, since each of them dates to a different year. As if in response to my accusations, these tracks do show how the DC5 actually were painfully trying to keep up with the times at least in some respects - blew it in practically all of them. The earliest tune, 'I Knew It All The Time', is a rather weird jazzy pastiche with vocals somewhat of a cross between Louis Armstrong and Elvis, accompanied by cheesy female vocals. 'Concentration Baby', from 1965, is probably the grittiest song on the entire CD, with some particularly fuzzy tones from both the sax and the organ and the lead vocal. For the record, that title actually misses a comma, so if you're thinking the guys are singing about the brutal fate of a female prisoner in Buchenwald, well they are not. I dare say, though, that what with all the fuzzy tones, the song was supposed to be DC5's response to 'Satisfaction', or, at the very least, an attempt to try their hands at garage rock with a little injection of James Brown-like soulfulness. Not very convincing.

'Man In A Pin-Striped Suit', then, from 1966, is the DC5 answer to the Kinks - with a typical Britpop melody and a typical Ray Davies' style social commentary. Cute, but forgettable - apparently, it was hard for the DC5 to put social commentary and pop hooks together. It's either one or the other. 'Children', from 1967, is supposedly the guys' response to flower power? But it sounds more like a generic orchestrated pop ballad. 'Always Me', from 1968, shows that the boys are losing it completely (generic orchestrated ballad again), but...

...but the 1970 bonus track is hilarious! And completely unexpected! It's the Dave Clark 5 covering Neil Young's 'Southern Man'! Who couldathunk...? With rip-roaring organs and guitars, tremendous pathos and some real energy! I still don't know if I should laugh or cry over that anomaly. You gotta admit, it's worth picking up this 2-fer if only to get to the last track. I'm still puzzled over it. Anyway, since this is a 2-fer, the overall rating of 9 refers to just the original eleven tracks of Coast To Coast; you can add on one more point for the bonus tracks, if only to celebrate the disc's novel value.



Year Of Release: 1965
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 11

Hey, good melodies galore! My guess is, someone had to break into the Brill Building at night.


Track listing: 1) Come Home; 2) We'll Be Running; 3) Blue Suede Shoes; 4) Hurting Inside; 5) I'll Never Know; 6) Til The Right One Comes Along; 7) I'm Thinking; 8) Your Turn To Cry; 9) Little Bitty Pretty One; 10) Remember It's Me; 11) Mighty Good Loving.

You don't say! Well, I guess spending a weekend in London does get one's creative juices flowing better than traveling from coast to coast. And, regardless of any bland, spur-of-the-moment puns that this so-called "reviewer" has in store, Weekend In London is one of the few (two?) better LPs by the District Columbia Five. By early 1965 it was absolutely obvious that the American industry would insist on having the Dave Clark 5 as one of their most 'respectable' British Invasion imports, and, in fact, the Dave Clark 5 were already more of an 'import production' even back at home. I can only imagine how all those British fans of the band had to hunt for imported American copies of their LPs. Weekend In London is the band's fifth American release, while at home they were still content with one (the one from last year). And as usual, it's not more than twenty-five minutes long, with just eleven short numbers.

Technical-aesthetical recommendation of the day: since, being one of the band's 'best' albums, Weekend In London is currently being packaged together with one of the band's 'better' albums, Having A Wild Weekend, this twofer CD easily makes for the best average DC5 buy. See, most of these discs I'm reviewing usually have one 'good' album coupled with one 'awful' or 'mediocre' one, and that's not even because of a special packaging policy, but rather because the standard policy of the American issuers was to put out a 'solid' DC5 album and then, while the band was assembling and recording material for its next 'solid' album, to put out one 'odds-and-ends' album made out of B-sides, rejects and what-not to keep the wheel turning. This principle doesn't exactly work with the first twofer, where the situation was reverse (Glad All Over was a strong compilation of the band's first, and freshest, singles, while Return was a weaker effort to make a patchy LP), but it certainly worked with the second. Well, you'll be glad to hear that Weekend In London doesn't let you down - all the songs are pretty good.

Did I say 'all'? Well, okay, all but one or two. And funny as it is, these are the only covers. First, there's a perfunctory version of 'Blue Suede Shoes' - I frankly don't know how in the world it made it onto this LP. Did the band want to establish a kind of 'link' with the rock'n'roll world? Didn't anybody tell 'em they're even worse at wreckless rock'n'roll than their contemporaries the Searchers, who were pretty good at ballads and folkish tunes, but couldn't wrestle even an inch of credibility when it came to rockin' out? Like the Searchers, the Dave Clark Five are way too professional and restricted to know how to play rock'n'roll in the best way possible. The only other breed of rock performers who's gotta steer clear from simplistic rock'n'roll and rockabilly at all costs are prog-rockers (yep, I'm speakin' to you, Uriah Heep! What the hell made you end all your live shows with a 'rock'n'roll medley'?). Besides, 'Blue Suede Shoes'? Spare me the snide comments.

The other disgraceful cover is Charlie Byrd's 'Little Bitty Pretty One'. Am I the only one who hates these nursery rhymes? Am I the only one who hates how Mike Smith sings them? Look, I have nothing against kiddies, being in the process of raising one myself, and I dig all the uncool stuff like 'The Itsy Bitsy Spider' as much as any other uncool person, but I sure have something about grown-ups singing kiddie material disguised as grown-up material. 'Sha La La La Lee', 'Doo Wah Diddy', 'Little Bitty Pretty One'... you get the drift. (And don't hit upon me for diggin' 'Surfin' Bird' and 'Papa Oom Mow Mow' - that stuff is self-consciously mocking these songs, which is why it's so great).

This leaves us with nine originals - none of which are stunners, but all of which are typically well-written Clark/Smith, Clark/Payton, or Clark/Davidson material. In other words, it all sounds the same, but not quite the same. If I might be allowed to be given a little excourse, might I just mention that the other day I was relistening to American Tour and I thought, 'hey, I did give it a good grade, but dammit, I don't remember any of the songs anyway, and I'll probably won't even recognize them now', but boy was I wrong - these melodies were just leaping back out of my brain like mad, so I suppose that repeated and repeated and repeated listenings actually can endear these songs to your heart just like some of the Beatles' classics on their 1963-64 albums. (Of course, repeated listenings can also forever glue you to Ricky Martin or Christina Aguilera, but who the heck would want to repeatedly listen to that stuff in the first place?).

Back to the album in question; some of the relative highlights include (FLASH! FLASH! SONG-BY-SONG REVIEW ENSUING BELOW!):

'Come Home', the hit single and lead-off track of the album that's distinguished by an interesting minimalistic bass line and inspiring vocal harmonies, a nice, slightly less sappy, follow-up to 'Because';

'We'll Be Running', a clever and radical re-write of 'Glad All Over', also bordering on the kiddie-oriented line, but never really crossing it;

'Hurting Inside', a song that could honestly fit perfectly on Please Please Me with no-one noticing the incompatibility in style (except maybe on the guitar solo, but even that one has a few chords which it almost seems to have lifted off George Harrison's solo on 'Till There Was You');

'I'll Never Know', distinguished by an excellent Lennon-like harp riff and excellent thrash-bashing drumming (the 'you're in the picture on my shelf' vocal line during the bridge is pure Lennon as well; it's interesting, by the way, how the most "Lennon-like" material of the period always has the Payton name in the credits, even if he's just the saxophone player);

'Til The Right One Comes Along', one of the rare cases when a DC5 song is primarily underpinned by a prettily strummed acoustic guitar, not to mention the charming vocal delivery;

'I'm Thinking', a slightly restrained rocker that nevertheless shows the DC5 were willing to extend an ear to contemporary influences - the track reeks of 'I can't Explain' and 'You Really Got Me';

'Your Turn To Cry', which shamelessly steals the haunting organ line from 'Because'... and puts it to different use; and

'Remember It's Me', which is a pretty strange track - I still don't quite understand how they get that weird echoey sound on the piano. And why did they wish to get it in the first place. Experimentation not only was never one of the band's fortes, it rarely was anything for these guys.

That was eight songs. The ninth one is pretty good, too, but I've run out of things to say. Anyway, I seriously wish I were able to compose something like that myself - a serious, good-willed listen to these songs shows that they are all quite substantial. Note, too, that this is a very 'neutral' album - it is almost entirely devoid of sappy orchestrated ballads as well as loud cymbal-heavy pop rockers, so the melodies just lie there for everyone to see 'em and touch 'em and sniff 'em and... ah well, you get the drift. You can't say 'Song so-and-so is overrated because it is pompous and thrashing' or 'Song so-and-so is overrated because it is way too cheap and sentimental', because they're not. So if I like this album, it's either because it's good or because I'm none other than Dave Clark in disguise. Yes! Who else but a retired, rich, and (after all these years) raunchy Mr Dave Clark would spend so much time on a record review site? WHO ELSE?

For the record, I'm not Mr Dave Clark. Just a few days ago I got an E-mail from a guy who mistook me for Dave Clark, though. No kidding. Wanted me to send him an autographed version of something. I felt kinda flattered. Now if only somebody mistook me for Pete Townshend...



Year Of Release: 1965
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 9

Surf guitar in movie soundtracks? Doesn't that sound oh so nineteen sixty-fourish to you?

Best song: NO STOPPING

Track listing: 1) Having A Wild Weekend; 2) New Kind Of Love; 3) Dum-Dee-Dee-Dum; 4) I Said I Was Sorry; 5) No Stopping; 6) Don't Be Taken In; 7) Catch Us If You Can; 8) When I'm Alone; 9) If You Come Back; 10) Sweet Memories; 11) Don't You Realize; 12) On The Move.

How proper is it to have two albums in a row that have the word 'weekend' in the title? Probably not any more proper than releasing one LP in January 1965... then in April 1965... then in August 1965... then in November 1965. But then the Dave Clark Five are that kind of "weekend special" music that has little reason to exist outside of a sunny Saturday or a solar Sunday, and the more weekends there are that get their own special Dave Clark Five albums, the better for the customer. The American music industry strikes again.

Anyway, in my previous review I said that the twofer of Weekend In London/Having A Wild Weekend was slightly more consistent than most of the others because both albums were pretty good. I have to stand a little bit corrected. The second album could be pretty good, but it isn't. The backstory: some time in mid-1965 the Dave Clark 5 decided to finally take on the Beatles on the cinema front and went on to star in a movie called... well, it was called either Having A Wild Weekend or Catch Us If You Can, whichever you prefer. Supposedly the first name was the American one and the second was the British one; at least, this much is obvious from comparing the corresponding names of the soundtrack LPs.

The movie itself, from what I've read about it, was decidedly Hard Day's Night-ish, with the band members playing as themselves and lots and lots of British realities that were even harder for the US public to assimilate than the ones on Night; on the other hand, it was dumber and far more formulaic, vaguely trying to innovate with a few flimsy concepts of its own but mostly staying true to the idea of what a "pop star movie" should look like. Due to these reasons and possibly others that I'm completely unaware of (and wouldn't want to be aware of), the movie bombed, and even diehard DC5 fans are usually not too hot about it. At the very least they didn't embarrass themselves by making that kind of movie in 1967 or something.

Consequently, the soundtrack to the movie suffers exactly because it is a soundtrack. Remember how the British versions of Hard Day's Night and Help! had one side of movie songs and one side of independent material, so that they counted as true "self-sustained" albums, whereas the US industry put out albums with half of the material original songs and the other half lame/expendable instrumental versions featured (or not featured) in the movies? Well, the same thing took place here. The British version, Catch Us If You Can, had twelve songs which were actual songs. The American version has six or seven songs and a bunch of instrumentals; the songs on the British edition that didn't make it onto the American one were scattered among the other US releases, both earlier and later ones.

Predictably, some of the instrumentals are generic romantic movie fodder, cliched poppy shuffles that don't have anything distinctive about them, except that they're all credited to Clark and company. 'When I'm Alone' and 'Sweet Memories' just drag along with nothing to say; they are arranged the same way as 'Ringo's Theme' (the instrumental re-working of 'This Boy'), but have zero percent of that tune's steady "pop-rocking" rhythm or non-trivial hooks. And 'Dum-Dee-Dee-Dum' makes about as much sense as its title, a nursery rhyme surf melody that suffers from serious delusions of grandeur, considering itself a frantic rocker - a true terminal case verdict if there ever was one.

That said, the other two instrumentals are decent. 'No Stopping', in particular, might just be the best instrumental these guys ever did. We will forget for a moment that its main melody is a direct lift from the 'Batman Theme' (at least the Who were honest about appropriating the tune for their own needs), and just concentrate on the sheer drive and power of that bass riff as well as the sax parts, rapidly approaching "apocalyptic" by the standards of 1965. Essentially, the arrangement picks up from where 'Chaquita' had left off and is quite sufficient to convince me that these guys could have really made an excellent, unmatched avantgarde jazz combo if, just for one day, they'd have stopped dwelling on the issues of fame and fortune and considered a target audience of boring thirty-year old intellectuals instead of hot fourteen-year old girls. (Forgive me if I'm starting to sound a little Catholic here). Dave's drumming alone is worth one extra punch - the little stop-and-start fills bookmarking the song really grab attention, don't they?

And 'On The Move', closing the album, takes one further step in the Punkville direction, although formally and technically it's still an exercise in musical surfing, with 'Misirlou'-like bass cascades and crap. But the atmosphere is unusually gritty for a surf instrumental, and there's so much dirty feedback flying out of Paxton's sax that you almost start thinking these guys are really wanting to rock out, not just faking a rock sound because it's the hip thing to do. Unfortunately, I am in no condition to really buy it - once a scheming faker, always a scheming faker. But I can pretend to buy it; after all, I do have a bit of a scheming faker in me myself. So let's just all pretend we're having a wild weekend.

Besides, you're gonna need that attitude if you ever plan to enjoy the "rockier" bits of the actual song material. The title track, in particular. Imagine a group of stone cold sober, raffinated, high-brow Ivy League Students gathered together in one room for a friendly discussion. Then imagine, all out of nowhere, a Nazi officer threatening them with a gun and yelling "Mach Schau, du Schweinhund!" at each of them. Then imagine these guys picking up a bunch of instruments and doing their best Little Richard impression. Then throw in a wee bit of professionalism and a vague feeling that 'we might just be doing it right, you know' and what you get is 'Having A Wild Weekend'. There's so little personality in that track and so little actual "rock'n'roll menace" it's almost suffocating. But on a purely technical level, it somehow manages to rock, and if cheap entertainment with not one extra layer is all right for you, go ahead, join the wildness.

Much better is 'Catch Us If You Can' - which might have actually served as inspiration for 'The Monkees Theme' - a slightly less revved up and therefore much more believable power-pop excourse, with a harmonica solo that's somewhere in between 'Little Child' and 'I'm A Loser' and a vocal melody that audaciously and slyly invites us to catch up with these guys, which may be offensive but is certainly a much more understandable request than that of having a wild weekend with them. (Don't even ask me what the actual Dave Clark is actually busy with on his weekends; I'll probably fall asleep just thinking of it). It's a good tune, although I would have preferred sax over harmonica.

The few "power-pop ballads" that are present aren't no sappy monsters either - 'New Kind Of Love' has an interesting time signature, among other things, and the vocal harmonies in 'Don't Be Taken In' deserve to be mentioned, I guess. But soundtrack demands are soundtrack demands: too many of these tunes follow the obligatory "impress-that-girl" routine, with trite lyrics being almost as important, if not more important, than the melodies, and if Having A Wild Weekend, to you, happens to sound seriously more "artificial" than any of the surrounding records, this is hardly an innocent coincidence. The real bad news is that, despite the overall consistency, there isn't a single song here that I would rate as even a minor classic, first time on a Dave Clark Five album ever. Ironic, isn't it, considering that the Beatles' first soundtrack managed to be their best overall album up to that point - and their second soundtrack initiated their transformation from teenage idols to timeless musical giants?



Year Of Release: 1965
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 10

Sure you like it like that - it's your seventh album in a row that sounds the same, after all.


Track listing: 1) I Like It Like That; 2) Pumping; 3) I Need Love; 4) Maybe It's You; 5) That's How Long Our Love Will Last; 6) A Little Bit Of Love; 7) I'll Be Yours My Love; 8) Please Love Me; 9) Goodbye My Friends; 10) I Am On My Own; 11) She's Loving Girl; 12) You Know You're Lying.

The end of the year 1965 brings little news. It is not excluded, actually, that the Dave Clark Five, and others as well, despite being well aware of the times "a-changin'", seriously hoped that the times wouldn't change too much. In a way, they were right. All that psychedelia, seriousness, Eastern influences, ragas, artsiness, it can be cool for a certain period, but at the bottom of it all there's always the common man and his strife for simple, cheerful, catchy pop material. Who the heck is gonna sing along to a sitar, of all things? As Ringo Starr would remark exactly forty years from then on, "gimme back the beat and let's rock on". At least the Dave Clark Five knew exactly what their fans wanted from them, and gave them exactly that.

Still, if you listen to the album in the context of its immediate surroundings, I don't think you'd disagree that it's the first time the Dave Clark Five sound drastically behind the times. And it shows even in minor details. The song 'You Know You're Lying', for instance, lies flat in the Beatles For Sale area - in particular, the 'and you're making a fool out of me' has the word "me" chanted exactly the same trickily modulated way the Beatles twisted it on 'What You're Doing' (and the two songs have other lyrical and melodic elements in common). It doesn't matter whether this was a direct rip-off or a subconscious borrowing; the fact is that the Beatles sang that way one year ago. And that ain't all: 'I Am On My Own' shamelessly steals the guitar riff of 'Baby's In Black'! Just LISTEN! It's the EXACT same riff. The only reason the Fab Four didn't sue the Tottenham out of the band, I guess, is they might have thought it too low to punch out the jaw after the knockout.

Not that I really mind - they aren't really stealing, just quoting ideas within the context of creations all their own. But then neither of the two songs strikes me as being able to occupy a permanent position on my brainshelf, much less compete with the tunes that inspired them. And the whole idea seems a bit strange. A little bit of Beatle-borrowing was typical of the band from the very beginning, but still, most of the time they tried to flesh out their own sound - you know, drums, saxes, the whole shiznit. Now this almost ends up reading like: "Okay, ladies and gentlemen, and now you're probably sad and lonely because your favourite band of yesteryear, the Beatles, is no longer content with their sweet, simple sound of yesteryear and has embarked upon a journey rife with flutes and feedback and day trippers and whatnot. Fear not! As demanding as it is of us, we are willing to sacrifice our elaborate, deeply intricate Tottenham sound that you have been enjoying for years and become the Beatles as they were yesteryear. (Hey, as long as you continue giving us your money, we don't even mind playing a bunch of President Kennedys)."

Some songs, however, still retain the old sound, and unsurprisingly, they're the best ones. The title track, a hit single for the band from as early as June '65, sounds like a drunken bar rocker rather than one of those innocent boy-meets-girl pop ditties that the band had previously preferred for single material; nevertheless, they seemed to have hit the right spot with it. Mike Smith is the hero - too professional and slick to be really taken for a drunk hellraiser, but a hundred percent entertaining all the same. Granted, the only state in which this one is supposed to really hit the spot is the "little green elephant" one, but all those long years of reviewing have really boosted my capacities for simulating, so welcome here to stay, "Kenner-Toussaint", whoever you are and for whatever reason you donated this juicy little bit to a band who's always so stone cold sober it's pretty amazing to hear them pretend they're not.

There's also 'Pumping', another instrumental - sometimes I like them so much I secretly wish they'd only do instrumentals and instead of becoming the Tottenham Beatles, became the British Ventures. It's amazing how fresh they sound even today: never complicated, always invigorating. 'Pumping' begins as if it were 'When The Saints' for electric guitar & organ, then changes its mind and begins to copy-paste the Stones' 'Now I've Got A Witness' (which, in turn, was based on Marvin Gaye's 'Can I Get A Witness'), but everything is handled in a respectable way, and since Dave Clark's drumming style has nothing in common with that of Charlie Watts in the first place, the similarities never become annoying.

Finally, the hilarious rave-up 'I Need Love', seriously influenced by the Yardbirds' version of 'For Your Love' (to say the least), features a heavy amount of noise and clocks in at a jaw-dropping 3:41, all because the boys need extra time to prove they can do steam-raising r'n'b just as tough as anybody. And you know what, I think it works, especially if you take it out of context and manage to forget that this band's main specialty is bubblegum pop and sappy balladry.

Which, I guess, is a little hard to do considering that after these first three songs, there's nothing on here but bubblegum pop and especially sappy balladry. You know something is wrong - even if you might not be quite able to put a decisive finger on it - when four songs in a row feature the word "love" in the title; maybe there can never be enough porn, but there definitely can be too much love, if you pardon my cynicism for a moment. Especially when it's primarily love for obsolete Beatlesque cliches. Still, all quibbles aside, I don't feel any remorse for giving the album an overall ten, because many of the ballads are boring rather than offensive, and some are well-written rather than boring.

The best one is arguably 'I'll Be Yours My Love', one of those sneaky tunes that seem cheesy and blush-inducing upon first listen, but eventually force some sort of transmutation upon you, so that through the intricate structure of the melody a real emotional punch is delivered. Hey, the feeling is not that unusual - any Bee Gees fans out there? I used to have the same reaction to records like Trafalgar, only to have repented of it afterwards. Today, I only bite my nails because the song sounds so drastically unfinished: Mike Smith's operatic vocals are completely worthy of the Annual Roy Orbison prize (and I'm not even the world's hugest Roy Orbison fan!), but they are stuck on vocal harmony arrangements that wouldn't even begin to aspire to the Weekly Junior High "I Wanna Be A Beach Boy, Too" contest consolation premium.

Elsewhere, to use the band's own expression, it's all "bits and pieces". 'A Little Bit Of Love' has pretty little piano fills battling the strange idea that the expression "just a little bit of love goes a long long way" gets more and more touching every next time it is being repeated. 'Please Love Me', again, brings us back to the good old days of late '62 when a heavy echo on your vocals and instruments was as far as studio technology got us and everybody was happy with it and the grass was decidedly greener. 'Maybe It's You' puts loads of fuzz into the bass and is practically guitar-less, just a pounding rhythm and a buzz-buzz-buzz. Twenty years later, they'd call it "industrial", but here, since it has a pop rhythm, it's still bubblegum, and there's no escaping it. And at the end of the day, only 'That's How Long Our Love Will Last' is left without a paycheck, due to unreasonable inclusion of unhealthy amounts of saccharine in the customers' drinks.

The bottomword is that if you're looking for 'later' DC5 albums - at the period when they were clearly beginning to be buried by the new waves of innovation - this is probably one of the better candidates. For a bit 'rougher' sound, you should check out Try Too Hard, but the songwriting seems like a serious letdown to me on that one, so you'll just have to choose. But wait! Actually, you don't have to choose, because the half-legal CD edition of this album (the only one existing at the moment, as usual) places both on the same disc! Hence the wise saying worthy of a Confucius: "The only way to own a Dave Clark Five album is to own two of them". And another one, worthy of a Socrates: "The only reason to own two Dave Clark Five albums is to have wanted one of them."



Year Of Release: 1966
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 9

But they don't! Okay, come to think of it, they do, and that's their biggest problem.


Track listing: 1) Try Too Hard; 2) Today; 3) I Never Will; 4) Looking In; 5) Ever Since You've Been Away; 6) Somebody Find A New Love; 7) I Really Love You; 8) It Don't Feel Good; 9) Scared Of Falling In Love; 10) I Know; [BONUS TRACKS:] 11) If You Come Back; 12) I Cried Over You; 13) Over And Over; 14) At The Scene; 15) I Miss You; 16) All Night Long.

You know, maybe if they had laid low for a while and released this album in, say, 1969 instead of early 1966, that'd have been an entire happening altogether. Could even call that "post-modern" - sounding so ridiculously out of place and time that you couldn't help but interpret the whole thing as a conscious anachronistic, quotation-like throwback to a random stylistic epoch. Not following me? Well, imagine an album like that released today. It'd be a cult classic among the neo-mod crowd, something that'd sell like five hundred copies and become a personal anthem to a small, but proud group of worshippers of the mysterious Sixties. And the dumber it sounded, the more effective it would be.

But unfortunately in mid-1966 Try Too Hard could have only sounded like a stale, cripple effort from a band ridiculously out of touch with their surroundings. Not even consciously out of touch, like the Kinks, for instance, who made an audacious point of rebelling against the rebellion - a point that ultimately paid off huge dividends in the future. Just simply out of touch because they lacked the wit, the talent, the technical ability to get in touch. If there's any good news, it's that Try Too Hard really sounds even more retro than its predecessor, which at least means that they're not sucking up to the Beatles the way they did half a year earlier. On the other hand, the songs just aren't good enough to safely land them on the quality scale of, say, American Tour.

Let's start with the bonus tracks. A couple of these, as usual, are taken directly from one of the previous albums (which you can see for yourself), but a whoppin' four are single-only releases. First, there's 'Over And Over', planted on the American market in October 1965 and - surprise surprise - climbing as high as #1 on the charts, their one and only top position on the Yankee scale. Need it be mentioned that it just so happens the song is among the band's most obnoxious, trivial, kiddie-widdie, poopoo-pop creations? I'd just as soon have a re-run of Mary Poppins than spend my time listening to this crap that's stuck somewhere in between the chamber pot age and teenage lobotomy. You think the fall of '65 was the era of Highway 61 Revisited, Help!, and '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'? You got another one o' them coming. It was the era of 'All at once it happened/The prettiest in the world/I said a-won't you come over and a-talk to me/And be my girl'. And I like catchy tunes, but I've said it "over and over": mixing Mother Goose with rock'n'roll music is just as bad as mixing rock'n'roll music with Pavarotti, and maybe worse.

Second, Mike Smith's "I'm not really drunk, but drunk is cool in this world of breaking down traditional values, so I'll pretend I'm drunk" vocals are starting to get on my nerves as the second single, 'At The Scene', comes along. Geez, just how do you get through the difference between artistic and phoney? How do you get this feeling that someone like, say, Noddy Holder is real drunk - even if objectively he might be more sober than a doornail - whereas Mike Smith is only pretending to - even if objectively he might be a beer-guzzler like all the rest of 'em? I don't really know. Sort of a gut thing. Maybe it has something to do with Holder always sounding that way and Smith only sounding that way at certain times when he feels like it. More probably, maybe it has to do with Noddy Holder being backed by the rest of Slade, who all sound like they're playing drunk, and Smith is backed by the glossy, polished DC5 sound where making a single playing mistake could get you banned from the Tottenham Paradise for an unstated period of time. In any case, 'At The Scene' is stylistically reminiscent of 'I Like It Like That' (reminiscent? heck, it's a goddamn rewrite!), but the melody is dumber and they don't get to do the "party atmosphere" properly, so I'd dub it a failure. And the B-side, 'I Miss You', is still a subconscious Beatles send-up, trying to say the exact same things that the Fab Four did with 'This Boy' and thus having no reason to exist whatsoever.

So, as you can see, they didn't have a very good start position, and it is, in fact, a wonder that Try Too Hard is, for the most part, free of either inane Beatles imitations or Mother Goose sendups. It tries to be loud, chuggy, and bombastic in the quintessential DC5 style, and out of ten songs, only two are ballads, with only 'Scared Of Falling In Love' a major stinker (rhythmless lethargy becomes even worse when it gets augmented with church bells); 'Today' is much better, because its moody, echoey sound, that is really 1963 all along (think something like the Beatles' take on 'Anna (Go With Him)' on their first album) somehow actually fits in with the dark folksy vibe of late '65/early '66 (think the first Jefferson Airplane album).

The rest is straightforward pop-rock, with nothing standing out in particular. And that's just the problem: the whole experience, short as it is, is extremely monotonous. The harmonies, the fat guitars which they power with feedback (technically an update of their old sound, but only technically, because it was so fat and bulky to begin with you don't even notice the guitar tones have changed), the general saxophone din, the overpowering drumbeat, it's all there and it's getting boring as heck. A few spots do contain deviations from the formula. For instance, on 'It Don't Feel Good' they see it fit to spice the song up with some falsetto harmonies, and they turn out to work nicely against the grunty distortion. And on the title track there's this sly little swirling guitar line - yes, it's that clever thin guitar pattern that drives the song, not the overall mammoth assault - and it makes the song more memorable than the rest.

And I won't be denying there are some clever pop hooks on the other tracks as well, no. Whatever craft these guys started out with, the barrel was not depleted yet. But apparently there is a big difference between handling catchy pop hooks and, say, dirty guitar riffs a la AC/DC. In the case of the latter, it's just a matter of headbanging, and if the riff is great to headbang to, you can't really pressure the boys into playing it on a ukulele instead of a brand new Gibson because it'll only hurt you in the headbanging department. But with a band like the DC5, monotonousness is a big cause - I'm kinda waiting for an exciting musical journey, and they can't even make me leave the station.

In fact, the train only gives out its lonely whistle at the very end, with the Bo Diddleyesque 'I Know', and the song is only exciting inasmuch as you realize it's the band's first attempt at putting their own seal on the classic Diddley beat. And you know what? It's actually successful. I'm not a big fan of the occasionally mind-numbing 'bom, bombom, bombom' paradigm; I don't find it neither sweet and funny enough nor aggressive enough, but then that's the same way I feel about the DC5, which makes it an ideal match. Who knows, maybe these guys would make a better name for themselves just doing McDaniels covers for a living.

Still, the title track, 'It Don't Feel Good' and maybe a couple more of the livelier numbers on here are well worth tucking away in a compilation of your choice, I guess, and, come to think of it, the album is not quite as weak as I used to think - it's just its being so grossly misplaced and obsolete that'd set me up against it so vehemently in the past. But it certainly does not make me wanna jump up and wander in search of the band's remaining output.


Return to the main index page