Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In defense of the Tottenham Sound

Playing right now: The Verve/Philips Dizzy Gillespie Small Group Sessions (on Mosaic!)
(Mosaic is a label that specializes in boxsets that span one certain period of an artist's career. And they've been doing this since the early '80s. Their releases - which have expanded to include smaller, 3-disc sets [Mosaic Select] and single album reissues of stuff that nobody has bothered to reissue yet - are really nicely packaged and something that people like I covet. And JazzTimes is letting me review this box for them. I'm thrilled. It's my first Mosaic big-box set, as I reviewed one of the 3-disc Mosaic select sets earlier this year.)

Last night I was seized with the idea for an entry that I decided I'd write this morning....

I like a lot of music that some folks might find questionable. "Nobody Does It Better," the 5th Dimension, Three Dog Night....I can't think of any big perpetrators at the moment, the kind that would make you say, "Now I can sort of understand the others, but you really like _____?" (Herman's Hermits might fit that line, but their strength can be explained by the fact that their songs were written by people like Carole King and Gerry Goffin.)

But there's one in particularthat comes to mind: The Dave Clark Five. It probably has to do with the fact that when I was about six or seven, there was a flea market at the Mary S. Brown Church, which is still standing in the highly residential neighborhood where I grew up. My great aunt Mary, knowing that I liked records, bought the whole pile of them for me: Sam the Sham, Tom Jones, Warren Covington (Tea for Two Cha-Chas) and More of the Best of Dave Clark Five. So my first exposure to the Tottenham Sound came at a young, impressionable age.

These days I can get a kick out of hearing "Catch Us If You Can" and especially "Bits and Pieces," but I know in listening to these songs, they really aren't that well written. The other British Invasion bands really looked down on Dave and the lads. I think in part because they started as a project to make money for a soccer or rugby team and they just kept going. So they were the first band of that area where the $$ came first, or at the very least it came before the cred. In an article on the Brit invasion, Graham Nash in particular sounded off on how "We haaated the Dave Clark Five." Not that he's one to talk.

Anyhow, I've had a song from More of the Best in my head lately, although I haven't heard it for over 20 years. It's called "Try too Hard." It's the perfect example of a song that is only half-written. It starts off with two piano chords, similar in a way to the start of "Eye of the Tiger," but nowhere near as thunderous - "first chord, second chord, first chord again," followed by a weak boinng going up the neck of the guitar. The riff kicks in and a few of the boys sing in harmony:

Teeeeeeell me do you want my life [drum roll]
Telllllllllll me what you're thinking of [drum roll]
Iiiiiii've been waiting 'round so long [drum roll to cue chord change]

Then it gets quiet again. That's the verse AND chorus. It's just getting started and it shuts itself down before it gets near anything resembling the kind of climax that you'd find in a Beatles song. And those words (I might've gotten them slightly wrong; it's been several years, y'know) - pure poetry, eh?

Nonetheless it's kind of catchy. Laughable and catchy. On that comp lp it was followed by a ballad called "Come Home," which a former bandmate of mine, a person who wouldn't cut the DC5 1/8 as much slack as I would, really really liked. In fact she bought a copy of Weekend in London used just to have that song. So even in their overly simplistic ways, the DC5 had something going for them. Lead singer Mike Smith often sang with what sounded like a bad Kirk Douglas imitation, as if his teeth were clenched together.

I got rid of More of the Best many years ago although I somehow wound up with their first Best of lp, and I have both mono AND stereo copies of the first album Glad All Over, although I can say I've never listened to either of them all the way through. Why? They're terrible. They blatantly plagarize "Camptown Races" in a song called "Doo Dah." That's enough to make anyone run from them. Me? I thought I could use them. Paid 75 cents each. I think the only other thing I did with them was compare the mono and stereo sounds of "Bits and Pieces."

While that album is very easy to find, More of and especially Try too Hard don't show up very often. And I don't really feel like paying more than $5 for either. But I'd like to hear that song again.


Anonymous said...

Check yr email :)

shanleymusic said...

It's an mp3 of "Try To Hard"! Gear! Thanks, Rich.