Entertainment

DC5 should be remembered ‘for the fun’ says Dave Clark

Dace Clark on her run on DC5

There was no strong message, says Dave Clark (Image: Bettmann/Getty)

The Pennies that hit the Dave Clark Five didn’t come from the sky but from a mob of hostile Teddy Boys. “They didn’t like it because their girlfriends liked us, so they started throwing pennies at us,” recalls Dave Clark.

“They were old coins, big and heavy. I was a black belt and I shouldn’t have done it, but I jumped off the stage and faced them.

“I was taught to go for the one with the biggest mouth, so I said, ‘Who threw that?’ One guy said, ‘I did it’ and that was it. The chairs flew, the public got involved…”

David shakes his head. “I told that story to Paul McCartney and he said, ‘It happened to us, I used to put change in my pocket, you can always use loose change…'”

That night, in the ballroom of London’s Manor House pub, was nothing compared to the storm to come. In Los Angeles in November 1964, the band was trapped in a limousine by a stampede of fans after headlining the Long Beach Arena.

“People would get on the roof of the Cadillac,” Dave, 79, tells me. “We were on the ground with our feet pressed under the ceiling. He fell about a foot.”

Other times, the weight of the fans shattered the windshields.

The craze began shortly after the DC5 first played live on American television variety series The Ed Sullivan Show in March. They flew back to New York days later to perform again.

“There were 30,000 people waiting for us at Kennedy Airport,” says Dave. “They couldn’t get us out, so they took us out by helicopter. We were working class boys from Tottenham. He felt unreal”.

The DC5 sold 100 million records between 1963 and 1970 as their “Tottenham Sound” (North London’s answer to Merseybeat) conquered the charts and hearts around the world.

Dave Clarks talks about the band's career

Teenage girls loved them. Even now, Dave is hit with bogus paternity claims. (Image: GAB Archive/Getty)

Weeks after that first television appearance, they headlined the billboard on a US tour, months before the Beatles. “In Cleveland, a girl jumped off the balcony onto the stage, broke both her legs, and all she said was, ‘Can she give me her autograph?’…” says Dave.

“Another threw me a love letter… unfortunately, tied to a rock. He hit me in the head, I fell and there was a trickle of blood, they thought I had been shot.”

The more hits they had, the wilder their fans grew. In the mass hysteria as they tried to leave the Washington Coliseum, bassist Rick Huxley was knocked unconscious.

“The police said he had never had a riot like that before, not even with Elvis…”

In Greensboro, North Carolina, officials advised the gang to take the first plane out as they couldn’t keep the teens in their hotel.

“In Baltimore they made us stay in a hotel thirty miles from the city, and even that was surrounded by police with dogs.”

But, says Dave, his runaway career happened entirely by chance. Clark, the son of a postal worker, left school at 15 with no grades and worked as a movie extra and stuntman (using his judo skills).

An avid Spurs fan, he played soccer for a youth club team. “We were invited to play a Dutch team in Holland, so I started a skiffle band to raise money for the trip. My battery cost £10 at a Salvation Army store. He made business cards and we won £200 playing dances.

“We went to Holland, we won the game and that was it. I was going to finish, but our friend Margot worked at Buckingham Palace and left my letters lying around. When we got back, there was a letter inviting us to play the annual Buckingham Palace staff ball.”

Laughing, he adds: “We were skinny, so we went there by subway, with the battery, and then we took a taxi to travel the last few hundred meters to see each other well…”.

Hooked, the nascent DC5, featuring bassist Rick, singer/pianist Mike Smith, guitarist Lenny Davidson and saxophonist Denis Payton, polished their teeth in pubs and dance halls and on US bases.

At his home venue, Tottenham Royal, his audience grew from 800 to 6,000 stuffed with sardines a night. “The police license was canceled every time we played,” recalls Dave.

They had no manager. Clark made all of the band’s decisions, including turning down a deal with Decca to record his own music and get the license.

His first hit was 1963’s Do You Love Me. His next, Glad All Over, written by Clark and Smith, sold two and a half million copies when they were still playing the Royal for £25 a week.

By sheer chance, American TV star Ed Sullivan saw them headline Sunday Night At The London Palladium in February 1964 from a Heathrow departure lounge.

Clark, who had never heard of Sullivan, turned down his first attempt to hire them. “He called back a week later and offered us $10,000 plus our flights and hotels.”

The band went down so well in dress rehearsal that they rocketed to second place from the top of the bill. Ed promised on air that they would be back the following week and paid for them to stay in Montego Bay, Jamaica as a sweetener.

“The power of television! Ed Sullivan had 70 million viewers, he made us…”

David Clark in 2014

Dave in 2014 (Image: Getty)

From 1964 to 1967 they were barely out of the US charts. Twenty of his hits, including Number One Glad All Over, Bits & Pieces and Catch Us If You Can, are about to be re-released on a 7-inch vinyl box set.

Teenage girls loved them. Even now, Dave is plagued by false claims of paternity. “The last one was three years ago. He had never heard of her.

But the biggest drawbacks were not the false heirs, but the aerial scares. Flying back from Hong Kong, his plane was struck by lightning and forced to make an emergency landing.

In San Francisco, they got clearance to take off when another plane landed. “He hit us and took our wing off. There was fuel everywhere. But the TV news reported it as a mid-air collision with us on board.

“I had to call my brother and ask him to go to Mike’s mom and tell her we were okay. By the time he got there, she had collapsed…”

I ask him if his boisterous and instantly catchy songs were aimed at the terraces of White Hart Lane. David smiles.

“I’ve always been a Spurs fan, I tried to buy them once, and we used to play futsal there with Jimmy Greaves and a few others from the team. When they had a game at home, they would come to the Royal to see us.”

His unique meaty drum sound, developed by Dave and engineer Adrian Kerridge, influenced glam rock. Freddie Mercury, later a close friend, said that Queen got the idea for We Will Rock You from Bits & Pieces from him.

Fans include Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen. In 1965, Warner Brothers made the DC5 movie Catch Us If You Can, directed by John Boorman, because Jack Warner’s daughter loved them.

In 1970, the band went offline. “We always said we’d call it quits once the pleasure started to wear off. Everything seemed the same. You get off the plane, you go to the hotel, you take the top floor and you don’t come out until you go to the TV studio or the venue.

“I felt that we should go out while we were at the top. I wanted to be a normal person; I didn’t want to live in that bubble. It was mutual.”

Dave was criticized for keeping his songs off the market for decades, but his business acumen shone through when he bought the rights to Ready, Steady, Go!

His 1986 musical Time, starring Laurence Olivier as a hologram, was a West End hit. The soundtrack sold 12 million copies.

Clark’s anecdotes and memories could fill this entire newspaper. But how do you want the Dave Clark Five to be remembered? “For fun,” he says. “There was no heavy message.” Just boundless optimism.

  • *All The Hits – The 7” Collection by The Dave Clark Five is out Friday (Oct 28) on BMG



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