Monday, June 5, 2017

A Song A Day: The Dave Clark Five, "Try Too Hard"

JUNE 5, 2017




Despite arriving on the Beatles’ tails in 1964, the Dave Clark Five offered a very different option from the working-class lads from Liverpool up north. For one thing, the Five hailed from working-class London, down south.

Purveyors of the so-called “Tottenham Sound”—a raucous, pile-driving, pounding white R&B—the DC5 were soccer players, perhaps somewhat “hard,” like the Beatles. Both bands loved R&B, but played it quite differently.

The DC5 claimed a huge fan base, ranking a solid #2 among British acts in the magical years of 1964 and 1965. A lot of American kids preferred their straight-ahead, unfiltered approach to the more varied palate of the Beatles.

In 1966, stakes in pop music were rising. The Fab Four were already incorporating new instruments, rhythms, and arrangements. Other British groups followed suit. The Dave Clark Five, though, were late to the party, sticking to energetic, catchy, jackhammer-beat material, much of it self-composed.

One such DC5 hit is “Try Too Hard,” which drummer Dave Clark and singer/keyboardist Mike Smith wrote. Clark’s rocking shuffle beat, innovative piano and guitar lines from Smith and Lenny Davidson, a thumping bass from Rick Huxley, and Denny Payton’s drone-like sax provided support for a strong vocal line and strident, aggressive harmonies. Catchy no-nonsense rock, it’s among their best.

 “Try Too Hard,” issued in late March 1966, was the Dave Clark Five’s 13th top 20 hit in just over two years, a pretty staggering total. But though nobody could know, this was also the start of the end. After climbing consistently on the Billboard chart to a still-rising peak of #12, “Try Too Hard” took an unexpected nosedive in mid May and fell completely from the Hot 100 two weeks later. Record World had “Try Too Hard” reaching #9, while in Cashbox it topped out at #10. It dropped quickly from those lists as well.

Despite its quality, the record just did not click in most of the country’s biggest markets (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Philadelphia). “Try Too Hard” did reach the top five in many mid-size and smaller cities. Perhaps Epic Records, the Five's label, cut its promotion/payola efforts on the record, hoping that kids would buy it on the Dave Clark name.

If so, Epic miscalculated. The train began grinding down. In the U.S., the DC5 enjoyed just one more major hit, “You Got What it Takes,” which didn’t come until 13 months later in spring 1967. Epic then released a few more mediocre singles, which weren’t hits, and by September, the band was done in America. Clark and his crew refocused on the U.K. and Europe, going in a poppier direction; occasionally innovative later material (“Inside and Out,” “Live in the Sky,” “Remember It’s Me,” “Best Day’s Work”) were barely heard in the States.

The Dave Clark Five lack the exposure that their quality and 60s rep would suggest. This is in part because of Clark’s odd strategy in re-releasing his material. As other British 60s rockers enjoyed endless repackaging, the DC5’s original albums sat out of print for decades. It also took far too long for a reasonable CD compilation to reach the market.

This is the band in its rocking prime.


  1. Stu, you picked one of the most fantastic records ever made. I think TTH's failure was only due to changing directions in music. The 2 minute pounder was not as hip as the California sound in 66. Still, the song WAS a hit and the LP of same name spent 3 months reaching #25. What COULD have hurt was that everybody had just bought the "Greatest hits" album which also spent most of the year on the charts. When I got my copy, I was amazed at how much space there was between the last songs on the album and the center. The LP lasted maybe half an hour or less, but was SO awesome. It was a time when it really did make a difference seeing all the unused vinyl on that LP. Check it out! No matter, the DC5 were great and their sound was the biggest and most powerful in rock history for the time. WLSClark

  2. Finally have the time to start reading/listening, Stu. I'm going to try to read at least a couple of these, going backwards, each day, until I'm caught up. We'll see how that goes. I'll put a link on my site, too.

    This is great - I've only heard this song a few times. I really enjoy the above poster's description of the album with waaaay too much space that could have been filled by more music. That made me laugh.


  3. Bob, thanks. IF you do not have the LP, you should go to a record store and just ull the LP out. You will be amazed by the empty space! Another retrospective theory I have dealt with is that the DC5 suffered success via the Monkees. The DC5 "battled" the Beatles for 3 years quite well and, IMO, were still probably #2 to them as far as UK bands IN THE US until Sept 66, when Monkeemania suddenly made it the Fabs vs. the pre-Fabs. The Dc5 got left in the dust about that time, it seems. It was all different in the UK, but I felt the Monkees stole a lot of spotlight from the Brit bands battles and focused more on US vs Brit in the two bands, the Monkees and Beatles. WLSClark