Most people who perceive the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as having led the British Invasion might be surprised to learn that the Dave Clark Five gave both groups a run for their money during their mid-’60s heyday. And that whole Beatles vs. Stones thing? The DC5 vs. the Fab Four constituted its own rivalry, at least according to the documentary “The Dave Clark Five and Beyond” — Glad All Over,” airing Tuesday, April 8, at 8 p.m. and Friday, April 11, at 10 p.m. on PBS (KOCE in Los Angeles) as part of the “Great Performances” series.
Judging by the milestones, the Tottenham-based DC5 made it their business to one-up their Liverpool counterparts, beginning with the single “Glad All Over,” which supplanted “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at the top of the U.K. singles chart in 1964 and performing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” 18 times compared to the Beatles’ trio of appearances. Their film “Catch Us If You Can” (1965), the feature debut of director John Boorman, attempted to catch the lightning in a bottle that was “A Hard Days Night” (1964), but with nowhere near the same success.
If the Beatles, the Stones and the Who went on to far greater heights musically, it’s because their sound evolved with each album, while the DC5 seemed to be stuck in a ’60s pop-rock time warp, with only their fashion changing with the times. Which is not to belittle what the DC5 accomplished in their meteoric rise to fame, notching 15 consecutive top 20 singles in the U.S. during a two-year period and selling more than 100 million records before they broke up in 1970.
The doc’s title tune, and other such hits as “Bits and Pieces,” perfectly showcased the DC5’s wall of sound, a particularly muscular brand of pop accentuated by the robust drumming of Dave Clark and the virility of keyboardist Mike Smith’s vocals, which bring to mind Roger Daltrey’s cocksure wail. That the drummer was front and center, and with a saxophone in the mix — which inspired the E-Street Band’s configuration, say Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt in the film — made the DC5 pioneers in their own right.
Clark also had the business acumen not to relinquish the rights to the group’s masters — a coup that his better-known peers could not claim, and would forever lament — and would end up buying the rights to the U.K. music series “Ready Steady Go,” containing a treasure trove of timeless live performances by a who’s who of ’60s superstars, from Merseyside to Motown.
In this two-hour doc, with plenty of rare footage of the band, Paul McCartney and Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Max Weinberg, Tom Hanks (whose speech inducting the DC5 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 evokes the fiery oratory of a Baptist preacher) and Gene Simmons, inexplicably in full KISS makeup, sing the group’s praises. And figures like Twiggy and a plethora of “original DC5 fans” testify to the members’ sex appeal.
A bit too much is made of the London stage production of “TIME – The Musical,” co-written and exec produced by Clark — with an accompanying album featuring Wonder, Freddie Mercury and Cliff Richard, among others — which might have to do with Clark having written, directed and produced the documentary, which would have benefited from some trimming and a less self-aggrandizing approach. (Judging from the film, the DC5 were seemingly as squeaky clean as the Partridge Family, with no hint of drug use or scandal.)
Still, for those who look back fondly on Top 40 radio at its height, this is viewing time well spent.