The Dave Clark Five on stage. / Courtesy photo
A half-century ago, musics British invasion sent careers into hyper-speed.
Forget about agents and such. Dave Clark, then a 22-year-old former movie extra, was negotiating with the heads of Warner Brothers, The Ed Sullivan Show and EMI records. He got great deals:
EMI said he could own the records after three years. In those days, there was no such thing as longevity, Clark said. They thought you would be one-, two-, three-hit wonders.
Sullivan flew the Dave Clark Five to New York, where they did his show two days after at least one of them was still doing his British factory job. They appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show 18 times, more than any other act except for Topo Gigio, said Stephen Segaller, programming director for WNET, which produced a rambunctious new Clark special airing Tuesday on PBS.
And even Jack Warner, movie master, made concessions.
This was when most rock movies were universally awful. It was a bit like when I met Elvis, Clark, 72, recalled. He said, You see one of my films, youve seem then all.
Now, Clark recalled, Warner was sitting at one end of a giant table. He said, My daughter loves you. I want to do a movie with you.
Clark insisted on a real story music only in the background and wanted to choose the director. Warner agreed, he said, providing the film was out there for the drive-ins next summer.
Then Clark chose director John Boorman, whose work hed seen in a TV documentary. Their movie called Having a Wild Weekend in the U.S. made no box-office splash, but drew a rave from demanding critic Pauline Kael and some others.
Boorman would go on to a long career, directing Deliverance, Excalibur and more. The bands life would be hot it recorded 13 albums in four years, Segaller said and brief, breaking up in 1970.
It had the right preparation, Clark said; here were five blue-collar mates who savored soccer and did long shows in tiny English places. You played at the dives where they would throw things at you.
Then came big dance halls and American air bases. There were lots of records on the jukebox that were never played in England, like Do You Love Me, Twist and Shout, Over and Over.
Clark built his band in the style of the American rhythm-and-blues groups, complete with keyboards and saxophone. I wasnt that good a drummer, he said. I drummed for the fun of it.
It was a vigorous, kinetic style; in the PBS film, Springsteen drummer Max Weinberg talks about copying Dave Clark moves. And amid those high-energy, high-decibel instruments, there was Mike Smith. He was one of the most underrated singers, Clark said.
This was a band that could switch to a gentle ballad Because or (during a royal charity concert) Georgia. Then the drums would pound again and the Dave Clark Five boomed, over and over.