How We Got Our Name: The Dave Clark Five

The Dave Clark Five were a pop group from Tottenham, London, England

Dave Clark (drums, management): Swinging London had this reputation—still has—of being this frivolous place. You hear the songs of the time, hear the stories, see it in . . . what was the Antonioni . . .?

Mike Smith (lead vocals): Blow Up?

DC: Blow Up. And it sounds like a second Gomorrah! No great moral center, but a place of fun, at least. What people don’t talk about is the bureaucracy.

MS: Institutional.

Very institutional. To perform at all, one had to undergo a fairly rigorous application process—screenings, assessments. The English Committee for Rigorous Scrutiny of Guitar Music. Pop groups’ names, repertoires, whole wardrobes, all approved via committee. Even tests for hygiene.

MS: They left nothing to chance.

DC: You recall the Rolling Stones around ’67, ’66—people thought they were quite dangerous! But between you and I—there’s not an operating room on Earth as clean as the inside of Brian Jones’s mouth was.

MS: Immaculate.

DC: And even if you passed the screening, were assigned to certain clubs, or even the odd television appearance—it could be taken away, vanish anytime. All quite tightly controlled.

MS: Ask Keith Relf why the Yardbirds went through so many guitar players. Never finished fine-tuning that group. [laughs] Pun intended.

DC: Sort of an egg on the face of the committee, Yardbirds after Beck. Now our name—I’m actually embarrassed by that, if you can believe it. Used to be that until your band was approved, whoever had filled out the paperwork—to the committee, you were ‘The Pete Townshend Four,’ until of course they decided you could go ahead and be The Who.

MS: Lennon and McCartney bickered forever about whose ‘Four’ it would be—who would sign the form, just—or so the rumour went. As I’m sure you can imagine.

DC: We of course, when we applied to be ‘The Dave Clark Five,’ we were thumbing our noses at all that. Very rock and roll, if I may say, for the time. And I’m still not sure if it was a clerical error or if the committee had actually responded well to it. We were all just relieved to have been ratified, at first.

MS: Unless of course they’d liked it because we were thumbing our noses at it all.

DC: Right. [pauses] What?

MS: Mysterious ways, the ECRSG.

DC: The Americans had it easy. A cash deposit, some simple calisthenics, and you were a band. Officially a band. Credence Clearwater Revival—you’d think their name would be an obvious point of comparison. But as far as I know, they chose it without irony. In a way, I envy them. It was a mouthful, but at least it was theirs.

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