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Interview: Dave Clark on the Dave Clark Five and the British Invasion, Pt. 1

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With a special two-hour Dave Clark Five special premiering this week on PBS (check local listings), Dave Clark, who has rarely given interviews in recent years, is on the phone talking about the Dave Clark Five and its history.

“I said I would never ever write a film or a biography,” he said. “A lot of people don't quite understand this, but I actually stopped in 1970. I enjoyed every moment, wouldn't have missed it for the world. But it was then becoming a routine and that's why I stopped. And I felt I'd stop at the top while we were still packing the concert stage and selling millions of records. And that was it.

“A lot of people can't quite understand that because I wouldn't do interviews. It wasn't that I was ashamed of the '60s. I love that with great relish. I felt that we were privileged to be a part of that whole thing. And I felt if I did interviews and kept turning up for all these premieres and things that it's like living in the past. I wanted it to go forward.”

While the Beatles got their experience in Hamburg, it was a different scene for the Dave Clark Five. They played American military bases in the UK where they got American records from servicemen and gained a great deal of musical knowledge.

“It was hard slog because we were based in London and you had to drive three or four hours where it's not like in America. It's all country lanes and things. And we did the bases, especially the weekends. We used to go up on a Saturday and do one Saturday evening, one Sunday lunchtime and one Sunday evening and then drive back and do film extra work. And we played three, three-and-a-half hours. But it was a great grounding, because we heard songs I'd never heard before, never played on English radio. And that was how it really all started.”

Since the group's music was based in the records he'd gotten on those trips to the bases, it's not surprising his big musical influences were American rock 'n'rollers.

“The first record I ever bought with my sister – we didn't have enough money, so we split the cost – was Fats Domino's 'Blueberry Hill,' because I liked the sax and it was very laidback, easy going. Also, Elvis Presley's “'Heartbreak Hotel.'”

The big beat of the Dave Clark Five, as heard in the stomping on “Bits and Pieces,” got it start in those early gigs when Clark used to entertain the audience with a combination of lights and music.

“We'd have to play instrumentals, then have drum breaks. I'd pay the guy who was the electrician there a fiver to turn all the lights on and off in that ballroom in time for the drum breaks, which created the people to stomp. And that's where Mike and I got the idea for 'Glad All Over' and 'Bits and Pieces.'”

And that idea influenced later rockers, too, Clark says.

“What Freddie Mercury said to me once was 'We Will Rock You.' We got that from 'Bits and Pieces.”

(See part 2 here.)

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Don't miss our special roundup of stories: Beatles 101: Read all about it: Our fab stories on the Beatles' 50th anniversary and Beatles 101: Paul McCartney Out There! tour news complete coverage.

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