Were Dave Clark Five The Poor Man’s Beatles?

The Dave Clark Five appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show 18 times and knocked ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ of the top spot, so why are they often referred to as ‘the poor man’s Beatles?’

As band names go the Dave Clark Five is pretty lame. It doesn’t quite have the elemental majesty of the Jimi Henrix Experience or the wistful ring of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, but the Dave Clark Five’s impact on the music scene in the mid-1960s was anything but lame.

During the British Invasion, the Dave Clark Five were not just galloping side by side with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, they were, for a brief period, leading the charge for the hearts and minds of a nation’s youth.

Over a two year period the Tottenham-based Dave Clark Five penned an impressive 15 consecutive singles which all broke into the top 20 of the American hit parade.

Like the Beatles did with a ‘Hard Days Night’, the Dave Clark Five also had a film made especially for them in 1965. It was called ‘Catch Us If You Can’.

Sadly for the Dave Clark Five it appeared their days were numbered and no-one was too concerned about ‘catching’ the Dave Clark Five by the late 1960s.

Dave Clark Five struggled to compete with not just the musical strides being made by the Beatles, Stones, the Kinks, and the Who, but they failed to compete on a level playing field with an abundance of homegrown acts who had suddenly appeared on the scene.

Bands like the Doors, the Byrds, Love, and the Velvet Underground suddenly made things a lot more interesting and fun than a bunch of guys in natty jackets and white turtlenecks maniacally nodding their heads and singing about feeling ‘Glad all Over’ ever could.

In 1970 after selling more than 100million records the Dave Clark Five folded. Led from the back by their manager and drummer, Dave Clark himself, the Dave Clark Five had failed to live up to their early promise.

Critics say the Dave Clark Five couldn’t handle the move into psychedelia and the demands of the period to innovate or stagnate.

The Dave Clark Five’s apparent refusal or inability to break out of a mid 1960s time-warp led to their eventual split and ‘poor man’s Beatles’ tag.

Yet a new PBS documentary, produced by a 71-year-old Clark and which airs this week, seeks to readdress the standing of Dave Clark Five in musical history.

In the documentary, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt all cite the Dave Clark Five as a big influence.

Yet the most telling interview is with Dave Clark, who confesses his dismay that Ed Sullivan introduced the Dave Clark Five as: ‘the kind of young men that every American mother would love to have in her home’.

Dave Clark explains: “I thought, ‘Well, that’s blown our rock ‘n’ rock career straight away. But it didn’t”.

Yet it may have been a deciding factor on how history would later treat the Dave Clark Five.