Towards the end of a two-hour hagiography of the Dave Clark Five – The Dave Clark Five And Beyond: Glad All Over – broadcast last Saturday night on BBC2, Elton John stated: “The three giants of rock and roll to come out of the UK in the sixties were The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Dave Clark Five.”
As a general rule Just Backdated tends to adopt a fairly charitable stance towards the music and musicians covered here. That’s the beauty of having your own blog – you need only write about what you like and ignore the rest. Every so often, however, something gets up its goat and a more robust position is necessary. A case in point was this.
The accepted wisdom with regard to the pecking order in the great UK sixties rock group Olympiad is that The Beatles took the gold medal, The Rolling Stones the silver and The Who the bronze. This is arrived at by a combination of single and album sales in the UK and US, chart positions in both territories, concert ticket sales and general acclaim from both critics and fans – with all of these combined for the entire decade and beyond. Also in the final heat were The Kinks, Small Faces and Cream, and arguably a couple of others who arrived in the late sixties, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, who didn’t really fulfil their potential until the seventies. Then there was a second tier that included groups like The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Hollies, Them and The Jeff Beck Group, from which individual members graduated to significance, and further down the order were scores of also-rans, among them The Dave Clark Five who were no better and no worse than dozens of others from the same era. And while it is true that like so many of those others they mounted a brief but futile challenge to The Beatles and Stones – “The Tottenham Sound” (!) – the DC5 fell away pretty quickly, unable to progress after pop morphed into rock, thereafter settling into obscurity like so many of the rest.
Interestingly, sometime in the eighties Dave Clark astutely acquired the rights to what remained of Rediffusion TV’s ground-breaking pop show Ready Steady Go!, scooping up in the process the footage of all those shows that hadn’t been wiped. No one is quite sure how many shows Clark owns but in the late eighties and nineties a series of ‘mash-up’ RSG!s were shown on Channel 4. These included clips of the DC5 from US TV shows like Shindig! and Ed Sullivan in an attempt to mislead viewers into thinking they were actually clips from RSG! Although the DC5 did appear many times on RSG!, the obvious conclusion is that those shows were wiped and therefore not in Clark’s possession. Nevertheless, he felt the need to include his group alongside The Beatles and Stones so as to create the impression they were their equals.
Clark was also savvy enough to secure the rights to everything his group recorded and this may explain why he is so dedicated to such shameless revisionism. Others who lost the rights to their work have neither the means nor incentive to indulge in this kind of thing. However, I'll now let the facts speak for themselves. The DC5 had only one number one hit (‘Glad All Over’ in 1964) and a further seven top ten hits in the UK. They had just two albums in the UK charts during the sixties and one further top ten album in 1978, a compilation called 25 Thumping Great Hits which, of course, contained nothing like 25 hits, thumping or otherwise. Placing them in the same hierarchy as The Beatles (22 top ten hits between 1963 and 1970, including 18 number ones) or Stones (20 top ten hits to 1981, eight number ones) is therefore sacrilege, and let’s not even get into comparisons with the Beatles and Stones’ vastly superior presence on the album charts (or ongoing concert ticket sales over succeeding decades for solo Beatles or still-at-it Stones, Who, Floyd, Zep etc). In the US the DC5 had eight top ten hits, including one number one, and three top ten albums. The Beatles had 21 number one hits from 31 top tenners... need I go on? The DC5 toured America and, like every other UK pop group of the era, were screamed at by excitable young girls. Then again, they screamed at Freddie & The Dreamers too.
The Dave Clark Five And Beyond: Glad All Over, of course, was produced by Big 5 Productions, Dave Clark’s own company, and designed in every way to extol his group, hence the emphasis on their belated induction into the strangely prejudiced Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (see other posts). But quite why BBC2 should allocate two hours of prime time Saturday night television to this kind of non-objective self-promotion is beyond me.
So sorry Elton. You – and all the rest of the rock stars who appeared in this film and ought to have known better – got it very wrong.