Friday, February 29, 2008

Mike Smith and the Dave Clark Five

Mike Smith, the singer of the Dave Clark 5, has died. The Dave Clark 5 are fairly undiscussed these days, their CD reissues are long out of print, and they've been relegated to the oldies stations, so much that you can scarcely imagine their name being said out loud by anyone but Dick Biondi. I had a long romance with oldies radio when I was in junior high, so I heard a lot of their tunes but never really paid attention. I started looking into them again several months ago when I became obsessed with the Rezillos, a Scottish punk group who covered "Glad All Over," which is generally regarded as the DC5's biggest hit. Much to my surprise, the Dave Clark 5 had a surprising amount of depth to their catalog -- not that they were great artists, but they have a hell of a lot of damn good songs.

Putting aside their tendency to use pop ballad schmaltz as filler on their full albums, DC5 churned out a hell of a lot of wild, growling rock and roll tunes. Being a major part of the same wave of British rock as the Beatles, a fair amount of Smith's vocals tended to follow in the John Lennon vein, but on most of their best songs he breaks into his own style. His voice on "I Like it Like That," and a number of others, was a baudy, throaty bellow that communicates above all things that this is not someone you want dating your little sister. Dave Clark himself may have been one of the worst drummers in rock history (well, he was at least more enthusiastic about it than Ringo), but he provided monstrous, stomping beats to match it, so much that several venues insisted that they not play "Bits & Pieces," because all the people jumping up and down to the rhythm were smashing the dance floors to hell.

As I said earlier, all of their CD's are long out of print, and going for a pretty penny used, but their LP's are still pretty common, and pretty cheap. If you can lay your hands on their "Greatest Hits" compilation, it's absolutely worth it. It's only ten minutes per side, but every single song on it will kick your ass.

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