Since the Dave Clark Five documentary airing on PBS is the work of Dave Clark, it can’t come as a surprise that it doesn’t raise the question of whether Clark is in fact playing drums on all those pounding early hits or whether it’s, as many people strongly suspect, the late session drummer Bobby Graham. Which is no small deal considering how many of the fans and witnesses interviewed for the film go on at some length about the whole drum presence of those singles, how front-and-center the beat was in a pop group that was, after all, named for its drummer. Fifty years on, I suppose you could say it doesn’t matter that much, because what we celebrate when we celebrate the DC5 was how those records make you feel.
It wasn’t only The Beatles, which as we Hebrews say, dayenu (“It would have been enough”), but blam!, mere days later, the DC5, The Searchers, and then The Zombies, The Animals, The Kinks, Peter & Gordon and so on. What does it diminish the experience if we know that Graham was the shadow drummer on “Tobacco Road” by The Nashville Teens, “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night” by The Kinks, “Gloria” and “Baby Please Don’t Go” by Them, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals (he also was on Dusty’s “I Only Want To Be With You,” The Walker Brothers’ “Make It Easy On Yourself,” and Petula Clark’s “Downtown”)?
Graham claimed that he played on all the major DC5 singles: “Glad All Over,” “Bits and Pieces,” “Can’t You See That She’s Mine,” “Do You Love Me,” “Any Way You Want It,” “Catch Us If You Can” and others, but it remains a fuzzy issue, and Clark has denied it. When the DC5 were having hits (’64-’66 here in the States), it wasn’t common to credit session players, so if Dennis Wilson was known as the drummer in The Beach Boys, you just assumed that it was him on, say, “Help Me, Rhonda,” or “California Girls,” when it fact it was Hal Blaine. At this point, however, everyone pretty much knows what Blaine and the other Wrecking Crew musicians brought to the party — to me, the closest domestic analogy to the DC5 were Paul Revere & The Raiders, and it wasn’t any revelation to find out they didn’t play on all their hit singles — but honestly, until I started hearing those DC5 rumors a few years ago when Graham passed away, I didn’t even consider that studio guys played on Animals, Pretty Things (Graham also produced them), Nashville Teens, Them and Kinks (except for the persistent chatter about Jimmy Page being on the earliest sessions) records.
The figure that’s tossed around on the internet for Bobby Graham recordings is 15,000, and I’m not proficient enough in math to determine whether that’s plausible or not. But if a fraction of his discography is accurate, then he was the drummer on at least two dozen of the greatest rock & roll records ever made — “Gloria,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “Tobacco Road,” “You Really Got Me” just at the apex — and a whole lot of pop classics as well (with The Walker Brothers and Dusty Springfield: on the Graham website there’s a story about her throwing a cup of coffee at him during a session. “Dusty didn’t like the sound at Phillips; she couldn’t get the warm American sound over here”). Producers Joe Meek and Mickie Most used him a lot. He played on sessions for Marianne Faithfull and Francoise Hardy. Also from the website, a typical Graham day: Pye studios with Tony Hatch in the morning, a midday session with P.J. Proby at EMI, and then the evening at Decca with Them (Bert Berns producing, Jimmy Page on guitar). Listen to the incredible racket he makes on “All Day and All of the Night,” to his rolling thunder at the start of “Make It Easy On Yourself,” to the dark stomp of “Tobacco Road.”
What about the Dave Clark Five, then? I guess we can agree on this: credit the drum sound to Clark, who produced the records and made them louder, more dense and raucous than any other songs on the radio, with so much reverb and overdubbing that even a mint condition 45 felt smudgy as soon as you put it on your cruddy little turntable. Maybe Graham and Clark are both right, and there are two drummers on these tracks, mixed into one booming crunch. The doc pleads its case for the group too hyperbolically, I think (one talking head, Elton?, says that The Beatles, The Stones and The DC5 were the three big blasts from Britain, and Steve Van Zandt ranks their songwriting up there with Lennon & McCartney and Jagger & Richards), but if any one U.K. invasion group can be represented solely by a Greatest Hits album, it was the DC5. There’s no great album in their catalog, but those singles tell a big part of the story from 50 years ago this spring.