I 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 decent 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 pretty 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 several of the DC5 biggest hits were apparently written by the band’s friend, Ron Ryan, who after a certain point was never given songwriting credit or royalties. There are witnesses to the fact that Ryan wrote several of their big hits (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 friends in the band. In the end he mistakenly signed away his rights to the songs for a “settlement” with Clark that did not include royalties. And to his surprise he received no other acknowledgment of his authorship of the songs.
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, according to several sources, 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 often a willingness to try new things, to shake things up, to trash convention.
It’s called innovation. And it’s a team sport.