By MIKE HUGHES
A half-century ago, music’s “British invasion” sent careers
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
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, you’ve 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 he’d 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 band’s 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 wasn’t 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.
“The Dave Clark Five: Glad All Over,” 8-10 p.m.
Tuesday, PBS (check local listings), under the “Great Performances” banner.