I used to love The Dave Clark Five when I was a kid in the 60s. They were a Tottenham group, clean cut, in strange uber-modern sci-fi suits and collars, and for a short time they rivalled The Beatles at the top of the charts, with hits like Glad All Over and Bits and Pieces. They were my band: they started in the Tottenham Royal ballroom. I bought every single of theirs on the day of its release, taking the bus on a Friday afternoon to Tally Ho Corner in North Finchley, where a gleaming record shop nestled inside a small arcade. I handed over my six shillings and eightpence – exactly one third of a pound, and I took away a slice of heaven.
Reelin' and a Rockin' - Dave Clark at the Royal in 1964
I would buy all the fanzines, many of which pitted them in a friendly ‘rivalry’ with The Beatles. On the cover of one, Dave shouted ‘We don’t play in the dark, like those Northern lads. We like the light!’ and Ringo retorted ‘Five against four isn’t fair!’.
They invaded the US, like The Beatles, appearing on Ed Sullivan, and were the darlings of the media there. There’s even one of those BBC4 music documentaries about them, where Bruce Springsteen’s drummer, Max Weinberg, talks about the genius of Dave’s drumming and his seminal influence on the young New Yorker. Really? I mean why, really? How much did they pay him to say this, we ask? Did he enjoy the joke?
There was one track on their first British album that I do still love – an instrumental featuring the sax of Dennis Payton, a vaguely swinging jazz tune called Time. I can still hear it, note for note. It takes me back to our suburban house in Woodside Park, with the snow falling on our large garden, enveloping the weeping willow we all adored. And the sound of the slightly syncopated tenor beating out against the tick of Time’s clock, crackling like winter ice.
In September I listened to an album by them to rekindle this old love. It is – without a smear of a doubt - absolutely terrible - imho of course. The songcraft is so poor, the playing so weak, such humdrum arrangements – it just made me squirm. The lyrics are trite (of course!), the melodies clunky, the beat insistent and unvarying, the harmonic movement non-existent. How did I ever prefer this to The Beatles? Why? I suppose it’s partly because the music did have such an exuberance, a youthful joy in losing the inhibitions of your parents' generation. I loved the DC5, but also every other 4 and 5 piece group that had a guitar or two and a weird drummer - like The Who, The Stones, The Beatles…. But I think my refusal to let the DC5 themselves go was more about allegiance, about how we identify, and about stubborn loyalties that refuse to die.
What would popular music have become if the Dave Clark Five had got the better of The Fab Four? As I sat in my garden listening, I tried to imagine a world in which The Dave Clark Five had proven to be the Future of Music. Rolling eye emoji here!
Fortunately that didn’t quite happen, and in September I could listen to the wonderful Ezra Collective, who won the Mercury Prize about a week later, for their energetic, mind-blowing, life-affirming jazzy freedoms that have since seen them conquer the US, and come back to a sold out gig at the Albert Hall.
The fab Ezra Collective doing a laid back gig at the brilliant Tiny Desk Concerts
I could follow the advice of the wonderful old jazz journo from The Guardian, John Fordham – local Muswell Hill lad – who introduced me to the engaging new jazz ensemble led by young Emma Rawicz. I could become acquainted by things that had passed me by – especially Tori Amos and from way back, the amazing Songs for a Tailor by bassist Jack Bruce.
In wildly different spheres I really also enjoyed Tenderlonius, Margo Cilker and an album I should have already heard by a great pan-generational partnership – David Byrne (ex Talking Heads) and St Vincent (wonderful songstress who takes no prisoners)… in their album Love This Giant, which predates Byrne’s American Utopia show, but which similarly has the most amazing instrumental line up – dominated by brass! I love the inventiveness, the thinking outside the box on this album, the artiness and the strangeness!
David Byrne and St Vincent and a Talking Heads classic!
It's November, and looking at the number of albums I have listened to in my Long Covid stupour, I am now a man on a mission. As I write this, I've listened today to an amazing album by folkie John Francis Flynn. That is number 469…. Who's counting?!
- Big Thief - Two Hands
- The Brothers Gillespie - The Merciful Road
- The Weather Station - All of It Was Mine
- Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
- Belle & Sebastian - A Bit of Previous
- Shye Ben-Tzur, Jonny Greenwood, The Rajasthan Express - Junun
- The Dave Clark Five - Glad All Over
- Ava Rasti - Ginestra
- The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
- Jack Bruce - Songs For A Tailor
- Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills 2
- Sly and The Family Stone - Stand
- Blood, Sweat and Tears - Child Is Father To The Man
- Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel 3
- Osibisa - Osibisa
- Ezra Collective - Where I’m Meant To Be
- Amy Whitehouse - Frank
- Eddie Jefferson - Letter From Home
- Asleep At The Wheel - Ride With Bob
- Sarah Vaughan - No Count Sarah
- Colosseum - Valentyne Suite
- Hiss Golden Messenger - Jump For Joy
- Leon Russell - Wilson's Back!
- Eliza Carthy - Big Machine
- Mitski - The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We
- Roisin Murphy - Hit Parade
- Emma Rawicz - Chroma
- Tenderlonius - You Know I Care
- Margo Cilker - Valley Of Heart's Delight
- The Gentle Good - Galargan
- Dexy Midnight Runners - Too Rye Ay
- Paul Weller - Heliocentric
- Brian Setzer - The Devil Always Collects
- Dougie MacLean - Craigie Dhu
- Matthew Halsall - An Ever Changing View
- Arctic Monkeys - The Car
- David Byrne, St Vincent - Love This Giant
- Tomas Fujiwara - Pith
- Slowdive - everything is alive
- Hubert Laws - Moondance
- Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
- Noah And The Whale - The First Days Of Spring
- Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes
- Cup O’Joe - Why Live Without
- The Incredible String Band - The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
- Sonny Landreth - Blacktop Run
- Steeleye Span - Below The Salt
- Trygve Seim - Different Rivers
- The Zombies - Odessey and Oracle
To date: 386