“TRY TOO HARD” (WRITERS: DAVE CLARK–MIKE SMITH)
ARTIST: THE DAVE CLARK FIVE
RELEASED 1966 ON 7” 45 AND ON TRY TOO HARD LP
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.