Not feeling "Glad All Over"

DC5I recently watched the film, Glad All Over: The Dave Clark Five and Beyond, which was telecast by PBS in its Great Performances series. As a classic rock fan, especially of the British Invasion of the mid-60s, I found it refreshing at first—mainly because there’s been so little DC5 material available to enjoy over the years.

By the end of the program, however, some things were starting to bother me. I realized the film, produced by Dave Clark International, was not your usual fact-based documentary. This was essentially a hagiography of Clark and the band, produced and directed by Clark himself, which PBS showed as a puff piece. There was celebrity after celebrity rhapsodizing about the DC5 as rock revolutionaries. Meanwhile there was not a whiff of the controversies surrounding the band and Clark’s management of it.

But before I continue, I should acknowledge that anytime I criticize fellow musicians, even mega-successful ones, I feel conflicted. So to assuage my guilt I will start with some positives.

The film shows the band performing many of their infectious hits, all delivered with a solid backbeat and large dollops of feel-good energy. In person or on television the Dave Clark Five always performed full-out and never mailed it in. (Ok, they lip-synched on TV, but most bands did then, and not as enthusiastically as the DC5.) They frequently drove fans (mostly teen girls, when I saw them in person) into paroxysms of hysteria, with their “stomping rhythm” driven by drummer Dave Clark himself—a good musician who, as manager and producer, made sure the drums were visually featured on stage and auditorily featured on record. (The snare drum was cranked up so much louder than any other instrument on their records that it got the attention of teenage drummers everywhere—like myself—who wanted to start a band that featured drumming like that.)

Also, they were vocally propelled by charismatic keyboardist Mike Smith, whose gritty singing (e.g., “You Got What It Takes”) earned him plaudits as one of the best rock vocalists of the era. In addition, the band featured a capable sax player, Denis Payton, who evoked the rootsy, raunchy rock & roll sound of the 50s.

But what most fans don't know—and the film didn’t mention—is that the band was never really a band. At least in the sense that their compatriots (The Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, etc.) were. It was Dave Clark plus four hired hands who had little say in the business—and did not have an equal share in the group's royalties. (Now these were good hired hands, musicians well-liked and well-respected in the biz—especially Mike Smith—but contract labor nonetheless.)

One of the attractions for me of rock bands—and one reason I use them as examples of effective business teams—is that nearly all of the great ones have been democratically run, whereby major decisions (like choosing a manager, deciding when to tour, picking what material to record) required a majority if not unanimous vote.

So whenever I come across a band that is/was run as a dictatorship—like the DC5, or to a lesser extent the Eagles—I’m disappointed. And I’m left wondering how much better they could have been if there was collaboration among equals.

There is also the issue that Dave Clark apparently didn’t play drums on their records until 1966. This doesn’t bother me as much as it does some critics, because Clark was in fact a good drummer. He felt, as producer, he wanted to save time in the studio by getting one of the best in the business, Bobby Graham, to play the drums parts. Yet this was a closely guarded secret for years.

But the major problem I have is that many of the DC5 hits (besides the cover ones) were written by the band’s friend, Ron Ryan, who after 1963 was never given songwriting credit or royalties. There are witnesses to the fact that Ryan wrote several of their big hits without credit (including “Bits and Pieces,” “Anyway You Want It,” and the pop classic “Because”) though he was reluctant to take Clark to court over it, for fear of its adverse effect on his other friends in the band. In the end he mistakenly signed away the credits to his hits in exchange for a “settlement” with Clark that did not include royalties.

The fact that Clark was able to get songwriter credit on the DC5 songs that Ryan wrote might be considered by some to be smart business. But as an erstwhile friend—and fellow musician—Clark could at least have given Ryan verbal credit for writing the songs, instead of claiming authorship for himself. (Interestingly, the controlling Clark forbade any of his band members to associate with Ryan after the settlement was made.)

The documentary didn’t mention any of this, because, well, the film was produced by Clark. And I haven’t heard even one reviewer cry foul!

A final point... In their early days there were lots of comparisons between the Dave Clark Five and The Beatles. They both had big hits and a huge fan base in England in 1963 and the DC5 knocked “I Want to Hold Your Hand” out of the #1 spot in the UK with “Glad All Over.” Both groups went on to have wildly successful tours and chart success in the States.

But what wasn’t so obvious then became obvious within a few years: the DC5 were entertainers while The Beatles were creative artists, who had no interest in toeing the line or playing it safe. The Fab Four (instigated by John Winston Lennon) had a wider appeal over time because of their edge, their defiance, and their unpredictability. (There was also, of course, the songwriting talent of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.)

What gives teams an advantage—teams of any kind in just about any industry—is a willingness to try new things, to shake things up, to trash convention.

It’s called innovation. And it’s a team sport.


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27 Comments

  1. As usual john, your thinking is crisp and clear. I enjoyed the piece, but primarily because I'm sentimental and it felt good to see the DC5 again. It reminded me of the generalized excitement that seemed to permeate almost everything at that time.

    Warm fuzzies aside though, your points and observations are all valid.

    I think the label credits always showed the authors as Clark & Mike Smith, but clark probably did take all of the publishing and he may even have, just speculating here, contracted Mike to write for a lower rate than a customary 50/50 split would've given him.

    On one hand, I say, "Well, that IS good business from Clark's perspective," but on the other, I just feel it's wrong, even if both parries really know all the implications before they sign.

    Some guys, Ozzy is a case in point, still do that today. I was telling a good friend who's worked extensively with both him and Zakk Wylde, that among the later tunes Ozzie's written, one I still like a lot is PERRY MASON. My friend laughed and said, "Zakk wrote that tune. That's what the deal is when you work with Ozzie." It's not technically a ripoff, Zakk's not a dummy and I'm sure he's making all his Writer Royalties, but Ozzie probably does own all the publishing and there's that implication, certainly from the buying public's perspective that the REAL creative force is one person, when in fact the "secondary players" are the ones who supply most of the actual music.

    Sorry for the ramble, John

  2. I loved those times too, Tim. And Dave Clark's (or Bobby Graham's) drumming got me going as a musician. I liked a lot of the tunes, especially the ones Ryan wrote! I wish he had gotten his due. "Because" was a beautifully written pop song.

    I just came across an article that hyped the PBS program as "the untold story of the Dave Clark Five." Riiiight.

    1. Bruce, to his credit, lavishes praise on ALL his rock & roll "ancestors." (He's especially generous to one-hit-wonders. And the DC5 were more than one-hit-wonders.) Paul, as I remember, didn't rave about the band, but just provided some historical context. But Elton and Stevie—and Whoopi Goldberg (?)—were pretty effusive in their acknowledgments. It's possible that none of them knew about the songwriting controversies—or about DC's tight grip on the band. According to everything I've read, Clark's non-compete clauses wouldn't even allow Mike Smith to advertise on his tours that he had played in the DC5! That made it nearly impossible for Smith—supposedly Clark's good friend—to revive his career. If true, that's a damning indictment.

      If I didn't know about any of this I too would be on the band wagon (as it were). The DC5 were a major (and under-appreciated) contributor to rock's comeback in the 60s. But ironically if Clark hadn't withheld DC5 product for decades they could have been bigger.

  3. Fear-driven leadership always has an unpleasant aroma.

    I've always been baffled by the Lennon/McCartney credit. John says, here and there, "That's Paul's song" and others are clearly John all over. I'll have to back up in Jude's series and see why they settled on shared credits all 'round.

    A different take on credit, from David Burkus' super book "The Myths of Creativity" -- the inventors who worked for Edison soon learned that a new invention from Bob Smith landed with a thud in the silence. "Another wonder from Thomas Edison" was widely acclaimed -- and sold.

    Edison didn't badger his workers into giving him credit. Rather, all realized the value of publicly calling them all Edison's inventions, even though the patents were all awarded to the individuals responsible.

    As a songwriter, I've thought much about this. If by some miracle Alan Jackson wanted to record one of my songs, but wanted to buy writing credit as well, it'll never happen. No, I'm not in much danger of having to choose, but for me, artistic acknowledgement trumps financial rewards every single time.

    And any situation where I give up both just ain't gonna happen.

    1. Damn. Another book I've got to get.

      Yeah, artistic acknowledgment trumps financial rewards for me too. (That's why we're both independently wealthy, eh?)

      1. David's book is an easy read. Not simple, but so well-written (like Jude's books) that it flows faster than some chuggers I've mined my way through.

        Let's have that money conversation 18 months from now, when I have a dozen mysteries published and even an album or two of my music.

        Or, we'll go for "rich in spirit" or, my preference, Rolf Potts' method of measuring wealth, by measuring the time we spend doing what we choose rather than what we're obligated to.

    2. As a fellow songwriter, Joel, I hear you. I remember being told years ago, "No deal is always better than a bad deal." If more writers...and all musicians for that matter took more of a firm stand, the bottom feeders [and we know the biz has many] would have a harder time ripping people off.

      I think it was Warner/Reprise who thirty something years ago offered Joni Mitchell a couple of hundred thousand for all her publishing, but she's a smart lady and even back then she stood firm and now of course the catalog is worth many millions.

      For me is even more about basic right and wrong than it is about dollars. That whole Situational Ethics kind of thinking sickens me: "If it's not technically illegal, I can get away with it and I gain from it, then it's okay.

      But then, many would say, "If you want honesty you're in the wrong business."

  4. Hi !
    just a question, if Clark didn't play drums , who played the drums on live gigs? I mean, in these days is pretty easy play pre-recorded segments/instruments on stage (and it sounds pretty real, for example: The Who and their John Entwistle duet with Zak Starkey),but back in the 60s?
    Love your view about the dvd!!!!

    kind regards

    1. Dave Clark played drums live, and quite capably. That's what's so interesting about this. He hired a studio drummer but he was an above average drummer himself. Apparently he realized that as a producer he'd save a lot of time — and get a better result — if he hired the best musicians. (I learned the same thing in the studio. For my own tracks I hired drummer Dave Mattacks — who's played on albums by McCartney, Elton John, etc. — to save time and money even though I could have played drums.)

  5. It was pointed out to me that the "contracted" members of the DC5 (Smith, Davidson, Payton, Huxley) did take the lead creatively in some ways—writing and arranging many of their hits (as well as singing and playing on them of course)—so I deleted "four hired hands who had little creative say—or stake—in the product" and replaced it with "four hired hands who had little say in the business—and did not have an equal share in the group's royalties." If it's true that the four made more of a creative contribution than Clark himself—as some allege—it's even MORE troubling that they didn't fully share in the royalties. It might be a smart business move on Clark's part, but an exploitative one.

  6. Your story is interesting, and it is a shame that Dave Clark has withheld writing credits from Ron Ryan. Dave Clark has been called a smart businessman, but in my eyes, his behavior has left an astounding gap in the meaning of friendship. Everyone must decide for themselves how to define success. So, when I hear that beautiful song "Because," and the other Ryan compositions, I will only see a writer, who succeeded, not a phony businessman. The truth shall set you free, but only if you are strong enough to face it.

    1. I often go to hear RON sing and prompt him to sing his OWN compositions, and say to him TELL them they are YOUR songs, he writes some brilliant songs, and puts them accross lovely, & sound great when backed by the KNIGHTS, but hopefully he will be recognised for his god given TALENT, all the best RON DEN

  7. It's horrible the way that writers and performers were treated by record companies, I.e., John Fogerty, however, when your ripped off by a friend, as Clarke supposedly was, that's the bottom of the bottom. The guy is a control freak and a cheat!

  8. There are references throughout here regarding the DC 5 playing live, but I find it curious that nothing truly live has ever been posted to YouTube except for the Royal Command Performance and one badly recorded audio. I did come across a Sullivan video where there was a backing track failure (twice) and Mike Smith looked a bit disgusted once the tape started rolling for them to sing to. You can fall over and come across a live Beatle performance (TV show, concert or home movie) but nothing on the DC5. Did Dave have THAT much control??

  9. I wonder why it's so hard to reach Lenny via social media. The guitarist probably has a lot to say on the subject.

  10. I suspect that Lenny and the others each signed non-disclosure agreements in favor of our boy Dave.

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