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The Dave Clark Five: Dave Clark's Miscalculation

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The 50th anniversary of the Beatles' debut in America has occasioned a number of other anniversary TV specials linked to the British Invasion. With a new documentary airing this month on PBS, The Dave Clark Five and Beyond--Glad All Over, it's clear we're not done revisiting this rich musical period.

To a younger pop music fan, familiar postwar newsreel footage of hysterically screaming girls and a beaming boy band lip synching to a soundtrack of unfamiliar songs might lead one to suspect that the program is a spoof documentary of a fake group like the Rutles. Although the Dave Clark Five were a real group that had more hits than bands like the Kinks, the Animals and the Yardbirds, why are they less-well remembered? The documentary doesn't even pose that question. The answer is, it was a gross miscalculation of the group's mastermind, Dave Clark.

The DC5, as they were referred to, made great records, and were second to the Beatles in popularity with Americans before the rise of Herman's Hermits and the Rolling Stones. Dave on drums, Lenny Davidson on guitar, Rick Huxley on bass, and Denis Payton on saxophone were certainly competent, but keyboardist Mike Smith was a musical genius and superb vocalist who co-wrote many of the songs with Dave. The Dave Clark Five had their own sound, forged by Dave and his engineer, Adrian Kerridge, utilizing echo, compression and uncommonly loud drums. From having been a film extra -- occasionally a stunt man -- Dave acquired a unique theatrical sensibility that resulted in the group's stage show having more production value than that of any other rock act of the period.

Because they failed to progress musically in the manner of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, they were later dismissed as being lightweight. It took so long for the group to be voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that it was almost an embarrassment when they were finally inducted in 2008. Joel Stein, writing in the Los Angeles Times, made a joke at their expense when he reasoned that they failed to get enough votes the previous year "for allegations of totally sucking. Even the sluttiest '60s groupie didn't want Dave Clark getting glad all over her."

At Rhino Records, the company I co-founded with Richard Foos, they were always at the top of my list to reissue. In a prescient move, Dave had retained ownership of the group's master recordings, but he hadn't made a deal in the U.S. since the mid-1970s. He thought that by keeping them off the market, especially when interest was heightened with the advent of CDs, he could command a bigger royalty advance. Starting in 1984, I wrote him a yearly letter expressing our interest. He didn't respond until my fifth and last letter, seemingly bothered by my once-a-year query in declining. With the DC5 having been released on an imprint of a giant company, CBS, it was almost as if our small operation was like a buzzing fly to be flicked away.

In 1989, Dave made a deal with the Disney Channel to program the 1960s English music show Ready, Steady, Go! during evenings to attract adult viewers to the kids cable channel. Dave had purchased the surviving shows -- only a small percentage of those that were produced. With a relationship with Disney now established, in 1992 he made a deal with Disney's Hollywood Records to issue his group's masters. At this point the record company was not a success, so it was with some desperation that they gave Dave the large advance he held out for. Because the record company needed us to be involved -- we had three DC5 experts, Hollywood had none -- they sold us the marketing rights for mail order. Dave knew this. What he didn't know was that we were pulling the creative strings.

Dave hadn't realized that by keeping the records out of the stores for nearly twenty years, he diminished their value. 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. Record fans might still remember "Glad All Over" and maybe "Catch Us If You Can," but how many can recall the top ten hits "Because," "Can't You See That She's Mine" and "Over and Over"?

Ultimately, sales of The History of the Dave Clark Five were disappointing and the project lost money. Because of Disney's unfulfilled enticements -- among them, getting the group's songs into Disney movies and installing a DC5-themed cafe in the United Kingdom Pavilion at Disney World's Epcot, Dave told me -- he was able to extricate himself from the deal with five years left in the contract. I met with Dave when he tried to come to grips with Rhino's inventory of unsold mail order CDs. It was during these discussions that I revealed our behind-the-scenes involvement, and our desire to produce an elaborate box set, hits collections and reissues of the original albums. Dave admitted that he should have made the deal with Rhino, but he was reluctant to grant us any further rights. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, the Kinks, the Animals and the Yardbirds have all benefitted from extensive reissue programs, but not so the Dave Clark Five, whose only issued CD in the U.S. remains that one double album on Hollywood Records.

Harold Bronson is the co-founder of Rhino Records. His memoir THE RHINO RECORDS STORY: REVENGE OF THE MUSIC NERDS was recently published.