When I was a little kid in the '60s, I loved the Dave Clark Five. I didn't dislike the Beatles. In fact, I had all of their singles. The DC5 (as they were known) were just a great change-up, like a different spaghetti sauce over wagon wheels (my favorite back then). What made the DC5 special was their high energy level and gritty imperfections. The Beatles' material was polished and impossibly perfect, leaving you awed. The DC5's singles sounded breathless and garage—there was a coarseness and passion that pushed the envelope, a result of the band's sax and organ, which gave them a raunchiness.
In 1964, there were only two credible British Invasion bands—the Beatles and the DC5. The Rolling Stones didn't really make a difference until the summer of 1965, when they kicked their blues habit and began releasing songs they wrote, like Satisfaction. Even after the Stones' arrival, the DC5 seemed more squarely American, with their open smiles and white turtlenecks. They didn't crack smart or go out of their way to be bad boys. They were just nice guys who could wail.
By the late 1960s, I shifted into jazz and soul and left rock behind for a spell. But in the early 1980s, when I wanted to revisit the DC5, there was a problem. Their albums weren't available for some reason, and one had to rummage used record stores for scratchy copies. The word was that Dave Clark controlled the music and he was some sort of eccentric figure who preferred to be off the grid. Which only built up the mystique. In 2008, iTunes finally was allowed to release the entire DC5 catalog as downloads. I'm holding out for the complete CD box, which may be coming soon.
Last Thursday night, I flew over to London to interview Dave at his home on Saturday for The Wall Street Journal's Leisure & Arts page (go here or please buy the paper). Dave doesnt' give many interviews and he has never done one in his living room. He's fairly reclusive. But he made an exception and the two hours we spent together were pure joy. [Pictured above, from left, Dave Clark and Tom Hanks in 2008]
Dave was dressed casually in a lime-yellow Ralph Lauren polo shirt, black jeans, a black Versace belt and black Nike Frees. He's trim and in great shape. But the first thing you notice are those Jack Nicholson eyebrows that arch high and swoop down. That is, until he starts to talk. Then, his voice sweeps you away. It's a soft, gentle, melodic sound that takes you back to when the DC5 and Beatles were slugging it out on the charts. It's a speaking voice you could listen to all day.
I found Dave to be highly sensitive and still keenly aware of how drama and passion can win hearts. I also found him grounded and hardly full of himself. Quite the opposite, actually. He certainly is aware he was part of a huge movement 50 years ago, but the experience hasn't become his brand. It's almost as if he looks at it in the third person instead of a participant. He isn't running from it. His attitude is more humble, more been-there-done-that than "I'm that guy." Which makes him all the more charming. And he's generous. When I told him I had spent years looking for a particular double CD—The History of the Dave Clark Five—he took me up to his office space and produced a copy. It's been on my speakers ever since. All that's missing is a plate of those wagon wheels.
Oh, the big news is that Dave is considering releasing The Complete Dave Clark Five in a CD box set, which would be a first. When I asked about it, Dave said he had allowed all of the band's albums to be available on iTunes in 2008 because he figured with all the record stores gone, there wasn't really a need for CDs, only downloads. "But I think you're right about a CD box set and I'll seriously consider it."
JazzWax notes: On April 8 and 11, PBS will air a two-hour documentary on the Dave Clark Five as part of its "Great Performances" series. For more information, go here.
Here's the trailer...
Wait, there's more! Also in today's Wall Street Journal, my "Anatomy of a Song" column for the Arena section on the Hues Corporation's Rock the Boat, one of the first pure disco songs released on the group's first album in 1973 and then as a single in '74 [go here]. As long-time readers of this blog know, I love disco and spent a good portion of the '70s digging it and collecting the genre's best offerings. So today's column was personal—payback for all the great times.
And for jazz fans who think disco was alien music (remember, there's good and bad of everything), the jazz musicians driving the rhythm section on Rock the Boat consisted of the Jazz Crusaders' Joe Sample, Wilton Felder and Larry Carlton. Just sayin'.
Here's Rock the Boat with Joe Samples hard piano chords filled out by Larry Carlton's rhythm guitar, Wilton Felder's bass and Jim Gordon's drums...