Saturday, March 01, 2008

"Because" / The Dave Clark Five

In memory of Mike Smith, 1943-2008

Sure, they weren't the Beatles, but in those first few months after the British Invasion hit America, we seriously thought of the Dave Clark Five as the Beatles' main competition. They were turning out catchy, melodic hit singles with nice vocal harmonies and punchy drumming (Dave Clark himself was the drummer), and until it became clear that they hadn't the Beatles' range, we were ready to buy them. Speaking strictly as a pre-teen fan, the Dave Clark Five met my chief requirement: they had a cute lead singer with a powerful, gritty voice. (I'm just realizing that my Patrick McGoohan crush was based on how much he looked like Mike Smith.) If I had abandoned the Beatles, it would have been because of Mike Smith.

Mike Smith died of pneumonia last Thursday, the last of many complications from a spinal cord injury he sustained in 2003. Heartbreakingly, that injury occurred only a few months after he'd returned to performing, and then lost his only son in a scuba diving accident. Yeesh. I contributed to the worldwide Mike Smith relief effort by attending a benefit concert here in New York in summer 2005 (Peter & Gordon, the Zombies, Denny Laine, the Fab Faux -- a truly fantastic concert). Every band on the bill performed a different DC5 hit, which really brought home to me how many there had been -- four Top Ten singles in 1964 alone. "Because" was the fourth, and the first to try a softer, more ballad-like approach. I guess when your band leader is a drummer (Clark even set up his drum kit at the front of the stage, ahead of Smith's keyboards), you emphasize the drum-heavy dance numbers.

"Because" is a lovely change of pace; maybe they should have done more of this sort of stuff. The sentiment is simple, unclouded, and straightforward, in a way that Lennon-McCartney love songs rarely were (compare this to "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You"): "It's right that I should care about you / And try to make you happy when you’re blue / It’s right, it’s right / To feel the way I do/ Because, because / I love you." There's a hint of friction in the bridge, but in the second verse, his devotion is back on track: "Give me one kiss and I’ll be happy / Just, just to be with you / Give me, give me, / A chance to be near you / Because, because / I love you." Mike even got to do an organ solo in the middle.

I love the shifting chord progressions of the vocal harmonies on those repeated phrases, the "it's right's" and "give me's" and, of course, the repeated "because's." It's not like Roger Daltry's stutter in "My Generation," more as if by saying it twice, the guy can convince her how sincere he is. But the thing that really sells this song is Smith's slightly husky voice, the urgency underlying every crescendo. As a love song, it just works.

I'm surprised this track isn't featured on more British Beat compilations; I had a hard time finding a source for you to listen to it, though the source I finally found -- Dave Clark's website -- has a cool jukebox that'll let you listen to lots more DC5 material. Clark was always a sharp businessman, and possibly he's controlling the rights to these tracks so tightly, he may have cheated this band out of their rightful place in the 60s pantheon. The Dave Clark Five is finally due to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on March 10; Mike came so close to getting there at last. It makes me sad all over.

"Because" on the Dave Clark jukebox


Uncle E said...

How truly sad that he didn't live long enough to be inducted. I wasn't too familiar with their discography, I'm ashamed to admit, but I have always had a soft spot for the Zombies. I needen't ask how the show was...

Mark said...

That's a really nice memorial to a very good singer. I listened to some songs on the Dave Clark Five jukebox, and I knew more of their songs than I thought I did, I just didn't realize the DC5 sang them. I also checked out a couple of YouTube videos, and I totally see the Patrick McGoohan resemblance. Mike also reminds me of Hugh Grant a little bit. You've made me realize the Dave Clark Five were much better than I had thought they were. My favorite underrated British Invasion group, besides the Kinks, are Peter & Gordon.

Anonymous said...

Nick reflection Holly. I wanted to give you a heads up that iTunes has just released a Dave Clark Five Best Of Collection. It's remastered and exclusive to iTunes. I downloaded yesterday and it's great to finally add the DC5 to my collection!


Holly A Hughes said...

Thanks, Spencer -- though I assume you meant "nice" reflection. Don't worry, I myself have often been guilty of typing Nick's name where it doesn't belong...;)

Anonymous said...

Yes, I met nice.

Nick reflections are always good too...


Anonymous said...

Lord, lately my typing skills need some work..

I "meant" nice!


accident at work said...

god bless

Anonymous said...

THE best lookin' of the Brit groups and Mr Smith's somewhat prominent nose only added to their rather noble look.

"Because," was a summer hit. Yeah, Holly, a little different from their previous stompin' stuff and it featured a cool (as in icy) intro and bridge.

I also liked "I Like It Like That," even though I never quite figured out how a place could have such a moniker.

Know what I mean?