Dave Clark Five: The Rise and Tragic Decline of The Beatles’s Early Rivals 

On February 9th 1964, The Beatles performed to 73 million viewers on The Ed Sullivan Show [related: The Doors on Ed Sullivan] in their first US performance, pulling the trigger on the so-called “British Invasion”.  

During this time, The Beatles’s main competition was a band less remembered today: The Dave Clark Five.  

Even lesser known is the tragic tale of what happened to the band’s membership. This is a piece documenting the dizzying heights, terrifying lows, and creamy middles of The Beatles’s biggest rivals in their early days. 

“Glad All Over”

By 1964, The Beatles were simultaneously the biggest band in the world whilst still stars on the rise. They had also scored three UK number-one singles, with “She Loves You” the biggest selling of the year (and still in the top 10 best-selling singles in UK history). 

An indicator of the “Fab Four”’s success was their UK chart first when they became the first act to knock themselves off number one when “I Want To Hold Your Hand” went to number one, unseating “She Loves You”.  

Earning seven consecutive number-one singles across two singles, the band seemed unstoppable. 

That was until The Dave Clark Five released “Glad All Over” – their most famous single – which achieved the mammoth feat of knocking The Beatles off number one. It also charted high on the Billboard Hot 100, the band’s first US top 10. 

The Dave Clark Five were early rivals to the Fab Four
[Photo: Ultimate Classic Rock]

Dave Clark recalls that upon release, “Glad All Over” was selling as much as 180,000 copies a day. Today, it has sold 2,500,000 copies. 

Recalling many years later, Ozzy Osbourne commented that, upon hearing the song, “it sent chills up  my spine.” 

Due to The Dave Clark Five’s northern origins in Tottenham, it set up a natural story between the bands as the southern, London sound took on the northern, Merseybeat sound. 

Battling With Beatles

After the aforementioned historic Beatles performance in February 1964, The Dave Clark Five became the second British band to perform on the show, which they did the next month. The band would go on to appear on the show 18 times, which PBS notes is “more than any other rock, pop, or R&B artist.” 

The group’s next single “Bits and Pieces” would have similar success although peaked at the runner-up spot. “Bits and Pieces” has also become one of The DC5’s most memorable hits, in part due to its unique stomping rhythm. 

The follow-up “Can’t You See That She’s Mine” gave The DC5 three consecutive top 10 hits in the UK and USA. 

[Photo: Variety]

The band had their highest charting single yet in August 1964 with “Because”; a single not released in the United Kingdom. 

Despite a spathe of charting tracks, it would be another year before DC5 had another top-five single: “Catch Us If You Can”. The single, also a UK top-five hit, would also be the name of the band’s promotional film, directed by Sir John Boorman, the equivalent of The Beatles’s A Hard Day’s Night or Help!. Originally, the role of Clark’s girlfriend Dinah was to be played by Marianne Faithfull but plans fell through. For the US market, the film was retitled Having A Wild Weekend, a song also used in the film.  

In 1965, DC5 would have the last number one of the year in the form of “Over and Over”. Originally sung by Bobby Day, the track would be their only US chart-topper. 

During 1965, the band had a 500,000-member strong fan club. Even Dave Clark’s dog Spike had 50,000 fans! In many interviews, Clark has stated that the group’s biggest tour was during this time, performing to over 250,000 people in the Philippines. 

When the band boarded Air Force One, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked the band for their autograph for his daughter. 

Even so, it was becoming increasingly clear by 1965 that The DC5 were being edged out by a newcomer to The Beatles’s mantle: The Rolling Stones. Throughout 1964 and 1965, The Stones racked up five consecutive number-one singles whilst in the US, by the year’s end of 1965, the Mick Jagger-fronted outfit had already doubled The DC5’s number of chart-toppers. 

In 1970, the band split. 

The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame Tragedy: Denis Payton & Mike Smith

The band’s first passing was in 2006 when Denis Payton passed away. Contributing to the unique sound of the group as their saxophonist, he was suffering from cancer prior to his death.  

Only two months before his death, The DC5 were nominated for a Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction, telling Dave Clark on his deathbed: “I know I won’t be around, but it was an amazing part of my life that I am very proud of.” 

Denis Payton (far-right) and Mike Smith (second from left). [Photo: New York Times]

The lead singer and pianist of the group Mike Smith also tragically passed away before seeing his career recognised by the Hall of Fame.  

In the last years of his life, Smith was suffering from a significantly decreased quality of life after an incident left him paralysed. 

In September 2003, nearing his 60th birthday, Smith fell on his head, leaving him a tetraplegic after damaging his spinal cord. This occurred when Smith tried to climb over a seven-foot-high garden gate at his villa residence in Spain’s Costa del Sol.  

Paul Shaffer, Late Show with David Letterman bandleader, helped organise a New York benefit concert in 2005, able to organise a bill featuring fellow British Invasion stars Peter & Gordon and The Zombies. Close friends and fans such as Bruce Springsteen and Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits dedicated fundraisers to Smith as well. 

Complications from this injury would eventually lead to his death in 2008, less than two weeks before the group were set to be inducted; at the time, efforts were being made to work out a method for Smith to get to Cleveland to be inducted in person. 

The remaining three members would be inducted by Tom Hanks. 

In 2013, Rick Huxley passed away. The band’s bassist died of emphysema just a year after the death of his wife.

What Happened To Dave Clark?

In economic terms, Dave Clark has been relatively successful, even if his personal life has been anything but. 

Although he started out in a financially insecure family, ever since his fame, he has been able to maintain a £12,000,000, 7,000 square foot mansion in Hyde Park as well as a Rolls-Royce. 

He too was able to successfully defend himself in the court case Reed v. Clark (1985), with the Law Lords defending Clark’s move to California in the 1970s to avoid a $500,000 liability on sold song rights. He told The Telegraph: “In the Sixties, I and the Beatles and everybody else were paying 95p in the pound, which was a joke. That’s why The Beatles wrote the song Taxman.” 

In regards to his personal life, Clark’s life has unfortunately seemingly been much harsher on him. 

Dave Clark, whose face has been subject to online ridicule. [Photo: The Telegraph]

Clark has largely stayed out of the public limelight since his 60s heyday, with the exception of his Time musical, which starred Laurence Olivier and featured music by Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, and Freddie Mercury. 

Talking of Freddie Mercury, Dave Clark was a close personal friend of the Queen lead singer and, although reticent to discuss the matter, was allegedly by his side when the flamboyant frontman died after a years-long fight against an aggressive bout of AIDs. 

During his Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame speech, he commented how the previous two years had been from him from Payton and Smith’s death to that of his sister, Anne. This appears to be Clark with little-to-no family, having no children and never marrying. 

In recent years, Clark has perhaps had the most coverage due to his appearance, which The Daily Mail has described as a “contorted face look[ing] less than natural”, a “rapidly-decaying face”, and “ageing disgracefully.” 


Today, the Dave Clark Five have been praised by many in the know, even if not a commercial reference as much as fellow British Invasion bands such as The Beatles. The Evening Standard notes their success, having sold 100 million records and 30 hit singles – a testament to their acclaim and popularity. 

Indeed, Elton John has called Dave Clark an “absolutely stone-cold genius” whilst Steven Van Zandt has commented, “Mike Smith was one of the greatest singers ever.” 

The band have also had their works covered by some of the biggest and most diverse ranges of artists on the planet from Tom Petty to Joan Jett, The Bee Gees [related: 5 of the Most Car Crash Interviews in British TV History] to Kiss, and The Supremes to The Ramones (the latter of whom last single ever played live was DC5’s “Any Way You Want It”). 

It has been an undoubtedly jolting rollercoaster that the group has been on. From cruelly-times deaths to paralysations to the unrelenting nature of time, the group has sustained what can only be seen as a tragic demise. 

Considering their status for their time, it is perhaps surprising that the fate that befell the band is little spoken of. After all, as Andrew Loog Oldham himself proclaimed: “In 1964 when The Beatles looked in their rear-view mirror, it wasn’t The Rolling Stones they saw; it was the Dave Clark 5.” 


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