04/13/2008 05:10 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Case Of The Missing Dave Clark Five CDs

Dave Clark has always had a lot of chutzpah. It takes cojones, after all, to name a band after yourself when you're just the drummer. To be fair, though, when you hear most of the Dave Clark Five's mid-'60s boatload of hits, the first thing you remember is the drumming. Not that he was particularly good, but Dave Clark took his limited skills and created beats so catchy they were hooks unto themselves. Who can forget the "whomp-whomp CRASH!" of "Glad All Over" or the "thump thump thump thump rat-a-tat tat-a-tat tat-a-tat tat-a-tat" of "Bits And Pieces?"

Clark was also a business genius decades before savvy musicians started negotiating their own contracts (or at least hiring competent lawyers to do so). At a time when it wasn't uncommon for artists to earn fractions of a cent per record sold, Clark not only got a substantially higher royalty rate than the Beatles or the Stones, but he leased the Dave Clark Five's master tapes to the record labels rather than selling the rights outright. Prince made a big deal of doing the same thing 30 years later, but Dave was there first, and didn't even have to change his name to an unpronounceable glyph to do it.

The Dave Clark Five notched up a couple dozen hit singles both in the States and Europe, and for a time they were second only to the Beatles in the Most Popular British Invasion Band Sweepstakes. But good as they were at cranking out pounding rockers and smooth pop ballads, they didn't have a Sgt. Pepper in them, and by the end of the '60s the band had run its course. Clark disbanded the band, took his master tapes and went home to count his money.

Throughout the '70s and '80s, the only Dave Clark Five records you could find in the racks were a couple of greatest hits compilations that quickly went out of print, as Clark sat on most of the band's recordings waiting for an offer he couldn't refuse. In the early '90s, that offer finally came, from Hollywood Records. In 1993, a 2 CD compilation, The History Of The Dave Clark Five, was released. It hit the charts in the US and made the Top Ten in England. Clark talked excitedly of reissuing the DC5's original albums and a box set with unreleased material.

And then ... nothing. Maybe the CD didn't sell well enough for his liking. Maybe the record company didn't shell out enough additional bucks. Maybe the strain of promoting the damn thing got to him. Maybe he had so much money that he didn't care. The History Of The Dave Clark Five went out of print after a few years and now commands upwards of $100 on the Internet, while the original Dave Clark Five LPs kept trading at higher and higher prices, thanks to baby boomers' nostalgia combined with their disposable income.

By the turn of the millennium, it looked like Dave Clark had overplayed his hand. Illegal downloading, online file sharing and CD-Rs brought the original DC5 albums back on the market, even if they were bootlegs with less-than-perfect sound. Pretty soon it became possible to download virtually everything the band had ever recorded, including album cover art, within a few hours. In the meantime, the DC5's audience got older and smaller, as the original fans began to die off and fewer radio stations were around to play the old hits. As CD sales began their downslide, it no longer seemed so important to re-release Having A Wild Weekend or Coast To Coast. The Dave Clark Five became one of the biggest forgotten acts in rock n' roll history.

When I burned copies of my friend's bootleg Dave Clark Five CDs a few years ago, I gloated. Dave got too greedy, I thought, and now the fans who waited for this music for so long are getting revenge. Who does Dave Clark think he is, anyway? Beethoven? What does he want to put this music out on CD? A billion dollars? A trillion? Greedy bastard. The genius has turned out to be a fool.

Or had he? In the wake of the DC5's recent induction into the Rock N' Roll Hall Of Fame, Dave Clark has put his band's greatest hits out there yet again - only this time, it's in the form of a downloadable album available exclusively on iTunes. No need to license masters or work with a record company this time. No expenses, no fuss, no muss. Just put the music out there online and watch the money roll in. The fool has turned out to be a genius.

Or has he? Most of the remaining baby boomers who are still waiting for those original albums to come out don't want downloads, they want CDs. Precious little advertising or publicity means that most people don't even know the iTunes album is available. And those who already have bootlegged CDs won't be chomping at the bit to pay for compressed MP3 files.

At this point, though, it doesn't matter. Given Dave Clark's track record with this stuff, the music may not be out there for too long, so grab it while you can. 26 of the best pop singles of the '60s, plus two horrible previously unreleased songs which sound of suspiciously recent vintage, all for 12 bucks. Even if you're not into downloading, it's a much better deal than shelling out a Benjamin for those out-of-print CDs.

As for the original DC5 albums, don't hold your breath. Maybe Clark has known all along that this was a singles band. If an album of theirs ran more than half an hour, I've never seen it. And while the LPs have a few hidden gems here and there, they're mostly packed with filler. If you're a British Invasion fanatic or simply curious, the music is out there, if you know where to look. Just don't ask me to tell you. I'm guessing Dave Clark still rakes in enough royalties from "Glad All Over" to retain a good lawyer.