Gary James' Interview With
Dave Clark

What would the British Invasion have been without the Dave Clark Five, or DC5 for short? You may not realize it, but the DC5 were actually the first British band to tour the US. That was in the Spring of 1964. The Beatles didn't tour American until the Summer of '64.

From early '64 to mid '66, The Dave Clark Five enjoyed 15 consecutive Top 10 hits in America. That is more than anyone with the exception of The Beatles. The Dave Clark Five sold over 50 million records worldwide, appeared in two Royal Variety Shows, topped the bill at the London Palladium, made six sell-out tours of the US, broke the house records at Carnegie Hall in New York with a dozen sold-out shows in three days and appeared 18 times on the Ed Sullivan Show.

And now, they're back! Well, sort of. Hollywood Records has released the History of the Dave Clark Five, which includes 50 of the band's hits, album tracks, B-sides and rarities.

We spoke to Dave (in 1994) about his contribution to the original British Invasion and what he's doing these days.

Q - It wasn't long ago Dave, that you said, "I don't go on TV talk shows or do too many interviews because I don't want to talk about the past. I'm interested in today, tomorrow, next week, next year. The past is great, but I don't want to live there." Is it hard then for you to do interviews such as this when you're asked about the past?

A - No, not at all. When I called it a day with the DC5, I decided not to do any interviews, because once you decide to stop, you should stop. There's too many people who are always doing reunion tours. I refused to do any chat shows. I didn't want to talk about the past, and live in the past. I was quite happy when I did my musical project "Time", to go on and talk about "Time", and talk about the past with great relish. But, at the same time I could talk about something I was doing now. I didn't want to live in the past. I'm not ashamed of the past. I'm very proud of it. Now, bringing out the album on CD of course, I'm happy to talk about it.

Q - You told one author, "After three years of answering the same questions, and people only want to hear the hits, I turned to the other guys and said 'Let's stop while we're ahead.'" What kind of questions were they asking you? They must've been pretty dumb questions.

A - No, no, not at all. After touring the world six times and playing the same songs, you can only extend your repertoire by the new material you record. Every time you go to a city around the world, everybody's gonna ask you how you started. After several years, you begin to turn on automatic and I didn't like that. (laughs) I found it was becoming repetitious. Every city was beginning to look the same. The fun was going out of it. You found that you really had to try. I always give a hundred and ten per cent, whatever I do. It was becoming a job of work and that's when I decided to stop.

Q - Did the DC5 tour a lot?

A - Oh yeah. We toured every country. We'd go to far away places like the Philippines for instance, and play to a quarter of a million people.

Q - Did you ever perform in Syracuse?

A - It doesn't ring a bell. That doesn't mean we didn't. I don't remember.

Q - Is it true that on the first tour of America, all five members of the DC5 were badly injured by the fans?

A - Not badly. I got knocked out, absolutely stone cold when I was playing. Somebody threw something which was wrapped in something that said "I Love You". But, it caught me on the temple. The next thing I remember, I woke up on the floor and somebody thought I'd been shot, 'cause I just had a little trickle of blood coming down my hair. Mike broke three ribs when he was pushed into the orchestra pit. I think it was Rick, who dislocated his arm. It was pretty hairy.

Q - Were you trapped in your hotel rooms as well?

A - Oh yeah, sure. All the time. That was the thing for calling it a day. I went around the world six times. We'd be whisked through kitchens of the hotel. We'd take the top floor and we were sort of locked up. Then, we'd be whisked out to a limousine to the arena. You went on, did the show. Everything was tuned up for you. You'd bow, rush out into the limousines, and be whisked off onto your own private plane. That was your only freedom really, on the plane. It was crazy. In Cleveland, a girl jumped out of the balcony to try to get near me in the middle of a concert, landed in front of my drums and broke both her legs. It was absolutely mad hysteria. It was also very dangerous. Our plane was a prop. It had four engines on it, but there were props on it. When we were in Memphis, they broke the barrier and ran in front of the plane as we were landing. We had to take off very quickly or they'd just chop the fans up. It was a serious time. You felt personally responsible if people got hurt. It then became like a military operation.

Q - Did you ever think, what's the matter with these girls - are they crazy?

A - Not really. When they're on their own, they're fine. Within a mob, it's crazy.

Q - Suppose one of these girls had gotten through to you, what would they have done? Tear your hair out?

A - The funniest thing is, when they actually get you, they normally go white and don't know what to do. (laughs) I've had lots of hair pulled out, where your scalp bleeds. I had that happen once. Somebody's got a hold of your hair, and the police are pulling you one way and the girl's pulling you the other, and you get minus a piece of hair. That was that crazy time, but it was very exciting.

Q - Is it true that when you returned to the US six months later, for a concert tour, that your contract stipulated you were to be given protection by 100 security guards in addition to local police?

A - That's right, yeah! We had someone from the F.B.I., Captain Jimmy James. He was from Washington. He co-ordinated everything. We'd have two limousines. When we came off the plane, we had six policemen and a cycle escort. I always remember when we left the concert at Chicago, just before we were gonna take off at O'Hara Airport, there was a whole commotion. Some plainclothes policemen came on the plane and showed me their warrants. It was C.I.A. and F.B.I. They asked me to get off the plane. I said "What's wrong?" They said "Just get in the car." And they put me in this car. I said "What have I done wrong?" They said "You've done nothing wrong. Just stay calm." They drove me to the other side of the airport and there was Air Force One. It was President Johnson onboard and he wanted to say "Hi" and get me to sign an autograph for his daughter. (laughs) I mean it was an absolute crazy time.

Q - I've never heard that story before.

A - I just remembered it. I've never told anybody.

Q - Did the Dave Clark 5 have "groupies?"

A - Oh sure.

Q - How come the public never really heard about "groupies" until probably the late 60s?

A - I don't know, but I mean they were around. You had some weird things happen. (laughs) Some weird and some funny. I always remember one of our security men, Captain Sherman, who passed away a few years ago. We landed somewhere and we'd take the whole floor of the hotel. Apparently this young fan had booked into the hotel the night before and hid in the shower for 24 hours. But, it wasn't my room. It was Captain Sherman's. He must've been in his 60s then. He was quite on the big side. So, he went into the bathroom, undressed, took his teeth out, pulled the curtain back and the girl collapsed. (laughs) It was funny when you think about it. The poor kid must've had a seizure. They did crazy things. They'd pay the police. I was asleep and I felt the thick covers come back. I looked around and it was a naked girl. What had happened was, she'd paid off the guards. And, the whole thing was a set-up.

Q - What do you mean a set-up? Was it her idea to try and get money out of you?

A - No, to be in bed with me and then there was a friend with a camera.

Q - What would they have done with any picture?

A - I don't know, but they'd paid off the guards, and I was asleep and they had the keys to the room.

Q - What did you do?

A - We had the girl taken out. She went out screaming, and then we got the guard fired.

Q - How aware were you of what The Beatles were doing when you put the DC5 together?

A -I was aware of The Beatles, but they came from the North of England and most of the group's successes at that time was from the Liverpool sound. I mean, I was wearing Cuban heel boots about the same time as them, maybe before. There were two vogues of fashion in England at the time. One was called Mods and one was called Rockers. The Rockers were more into the heavy metal type of look now, I suppose. It's like the leather jacket motorcycle type things. Mods were very much what The Beatles and the DC5 were. That was a trend in fashion. It wasn't created by The Beatles or by us. It was just a trend at the time. When you hit off in other countries, especially America, they tag onto those trends. That was the general trend of the fashion called Mods during the early 60s. But, there was no personal rivalry between the DC5 and The Beatles.

Q - You did not play drums before putting the Dave Clark Five together. Is that correct?

A - That's correct.

Q - How did you know drums were your thing?

A - I dunno. When I was a kid, my parents tried to get me to learn the piano, 'cause we had a piano at home. My brother was the pianist. I wasn't. I never really got into it. It never really appealed to me. I saw a drum kit that was up for sale for ten pounds, which is about fifteen dollars. The bass drum was bigger than me. It just happened. I can't tell you why. There was nobody in my family that was a drummer.

Q - How'd you get the Ed Sullivan booking?

A - What happened was, the Sullivan office called me in London because we had a top five record in America with "Glad All Over". I actually turned it down, 'cause I had never heard of Ed Sullivan. We didn't get the Ed Sullivan Show in England.

Q - That's understandable. That was well before the communication satellites in space.

Q - I don't think it had anything to do with that, because I had a friend in Australia, and they got Sullivan in Australia. But, we had a show in England called Sunday Night at the London Palladium, that was a similar thing to Sullivan, that went out every Sunday night, so maybe that's why I really turned it down. Then I got a second call from him. They offered to throw in airfares, hotels and everything. We were semi-pro, so I said to the guys, "It could be a good experience," still not knowing really what the Ed Sullivan Show was and how big it was. I mean, that was purely by accident. It wasn't planned.

Q - You said that the DC5 failed a lot of record auditions. Did every major label pass on the group?

A - No. What happened was the DC5, for about 18 months before we ever made records, was a very popular "live" band. We got a Gold Cup for being the "Best Live Band in Britain." We were packing in 6,000 people a night, 5 nights a week, for about 18 months solid. Through that, there was a lot of national press coverage. We got offered a recording test to the major companies. We went in, and did the first test. What they wanted to do was take away anything that you had that was original. They brought in an in-house producer. They called him A&R men in those days. They gave you song to record and told you how they wanted you to record it. Really what they were doing was modeling you into whatever was the flavor of the month. There was no looking on long term or trying to get a new sound. After the second test I said to the guy, "We're a popular live band. We should actually make our own record and either succeed or fall on our face." If you're gonna be successful in any form of art, you try to be original. I was doing stunt work at the time and film extra work. It sounds brave, but it wasn't. Everything was well controlled and I'd studied martial arts and karate since the age of 8. So, I got this job crashing a car in a movie. It was three nights, so I got triple money. So, I got 300 pounds (equivalent of $1000 then) and with that, I made the first record. That's how it all started.

Q - How long did it take to record an album back in '64, '65 and was there pressure on you to come up with a hit single?

A - Always, although as an independent, I was very aware that a hit single made a hit album. There was no question about it. Everybody was aware of that. The first album I recorded with the DC5 was recorded in one day. That was the whole album! And strings on a couple of tracks as well. The string players came in, 'cause it was a four-track and you couldn't overdub them. They had to play "live" with the band. There were limits to what you could do, 'cause it was four track. It was actually what you put down in the studio. With the DC5, I went with more of a "live" sound. The way it was milked was to make it a "live" sound.

Q - Did you write "Glad All Over"?

A - Yes. I wrote it with Mike (Smith - DC5's lead singer).

Q - How long did it take you to write that song?

A - Minutes. When I say minutes, I mean well under an hour. I always felt that the really good songs were written very quickly. An inspiration would come and you'd finish it very quickly. I'm talking about the actual writing of the song, not the production. The songs that you actually spent days or weeks on, never ended up being the album tracks.

Q - One critic described the DC5 as a "basic noise machine." Did that kind of review bother you?

A - Nah. Little things did at the beginning, but not a comment like that. The more successful you are, the more open you are to get criticized. A lot of criticism very sadly, is caused by jealousy, envy, greed. I always felt that competition was good. The better the competition, the better it was for us. If you've got no competition, you become complacent and you've got nothing to strive for. If somebody's better than you, then you gotta get your ass off the ground and catch up.

Q - How did you keep Mike Smith happy? He could've left and formed the Mike Smith Five.

A - Mike could have done that. The thing is, Mike didn't want it to be the Mike Smith Five. It wasn't my idea to call it the Dave Clark Five. That was just a general thing when we started to play for the fun of it. Everybody else made up names like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and we thought it would make it different to have the drummer as the front person. There was nothing stopping Mike or any of the other boys from going out on their own. I don't think you can run any successful band or any successful unit if somebody's not happy. I never restricted the boys in what they did creatively, and if they wanted to do things on their own, I would've encouraged it. I've always felt that Mike should've gone on recording. A year before I decided to close the DC5, I said to Mike "you should start doing Mike Smith singles and albums, and I'll space 'em out between the DC5 tracks." He had no ambition to perform on his own. I think Mike was one of the greatest rock 'n roll singers of the 60s, and the most under-rated. But, he never wanted to perform on his own.

Q - Did everyone have a say in how the group was run, or were you the boss?

A - I was the boss. It's like a football team. You have to have a Captain. You listen to everybody's ideas and you work as a team. You can have five people and five decisions and never get anywhere. You've got to have a very definite direction. But, you mustn't have a closed line because sometimes somebody will have an idea that you can embellish on that's even better than your original idea. Basically, we were very much in harmony as a group and we got on great together. But, I was the one that made the decisions. That's the way it went and it worked well for us.

Q - Did you know how special the DC5 were when you put the group together?

A - No. It's like everything, you do your best and you aim for the stars. If you aim for the moon, you stand a chance of reaching the stars. I never in a million years would've dreamed it would still be popular 30 years on. I mean, that's amazing. I never thought when I made the first record in 1963 that we'd be talking about it in 1993. It's like when I was 19, 25 was old. (Laughs) I never believed we would be as big, deep down inside, as we were. I believed we'd get a hit record, but I would've been happy with one hit. I was lucky. I was surrounded by four other guys, where we all went to school together, and were all friends before we ever had a dime. And then we were friends all through the whole experience and success, and we're friends today. That kept us sort of fairly grounded. We enjoyed what we did. We loved every moment of it.

Q - Had you found a way to enjoy everything past 1970, the DC5 could have continued, couldn't they?

A - Oh definitely. But, there were other things I wanted to do in life. I like new challenges. The DC5 was bigger than I ever dreamed of. We started at the top, and we finished at the top. We were very blessed and very lucky to be able to do that. I have no regrets. I look back with nothing but fond memories.

Q - None of the other members of the DC5 are involved in music anymore are they?

A - No they're not. When we called it a day, they were already involved in various businesses and they were all very successful. I still see them. In fact, I saw Mike Smith about 2 days ago.

Q - Dave, how did you get so smart when it came to the business side of music?

A - I don't know. There was nothing to go on. Nobody had done it before. We had a "live" reputation, big enough where I could actually go in and see somebody at E.M.I. Records. I found out what the top rate was for an independent and asked for three times that, thinking that it left you room for maneuver, and to my amazement, they agreed. I said I'd also like a revision of the rights and they said "Why?" I said "because if it's successful, great. And, after all, I'm gonna pay for the sessions. I don't want any money up front. If you pay me three times the royalty, I'll take the chance." And that's how it all happened. It's a nice compliment to have everybody say I was a shrewd businessman. How many people would have three big hit records, "Do You Love Me", "Glad All Over" and "Bit and Pieces" and not go professional? I did the Sullivan Show as a semi-pro. And then to take the catalogue off the market for 20 years...everybody says "oh, it's a shrewd move, to bring it back." But, that's luck. The timing happened to be right. But anybody that's a really sharp businessman wouldn't have taken the catalogue off because, as long as it's earning a few dollars, leave it out there. I've always done what I believe is right for creative reasons and then if it works out, you reap the rewards.

Q - Before your involvement with the release of "The History Of The Dave Clark Five", what were you doing?

A - I wrote a musical called "Time", which I had the privilege of directing the late Laurence Olivier. The show was an enormous success in the UK. It played to over a million people. I wrote and produced a concept album for the show. I wrote and produced tracks for Stevie Wonder, Julian Lennon, Freddie Mercury, Cliff Richard, Ashford and Simpson, Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach and Laurence Olivier. So, I keep fairly busy on things that intrigue me and where I feel is a challenge.

Q - So, what's next for you?

A - Maybe take a year off, I'm not sure. But, I want to do another theatrical project, or I might bring "Time", the musical I wrote, to the States.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.

The Dave Clark Five
The Dave Clark Five