The One That Got Away! looks back on records, comic books, and other cool things that I really, really wanted, but never got around to getting.
THE DAVE CLARK FIVE: Glad All Over AgainEpic Records, 1975 In the often narrow-minded rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere of the mid 1970s, digging the decade-old Tottenham Sound of The Dave Clark Five wasn’t the coolest thing one could do. It wasn’t quite as unhip as, say, declaring allegiance to Paul Revere & the Raiders or The Monkees, but it was still an invitation to scorn and dismissal. I just happened to like all three of these acts anyway. That played a large part in how I learned not to give a damn about what other people thought I should or shouldn’t like.
I was 15 years old in 1975. I kinda remembered the DC5 a little from their hitmakin’ heyday in the ’60s; one of my older siblings (presumably my sister Denise) had the “Bits And Pieces” 45, and that lonely little 7″ slab o’ vinyl was still in the family record library at the Me Decade’s midpoint. It was around ’75 or so that my ongoing interest in The Beatles fueled a full-on obsession with the ’60s, especially with the music of the British Invasion. I borrowed a bunch of my cousin Maryann’s records–45s by The Rolling Stones and Yanks The Lovin’ Spoonful, LPs by The Beatles, The Animals, The Searchers, and The Beach Boys–and immersed myself in the sound of the ’60s.
Maryann’s stash included two Dave Clark Five albums, Glad All Over and The Dave Clark Five Return! The title of “Glad All Over” seemed familiar, and a spin of the record confirmed that it was indeed a song I remembered from somewhere. That was enough. I was now a DC5 fan.
Over the next couple of years, I slowly expanded my knowledge and appreciation of the DC5. I heard “Any Way You Want It” and “Catch Us If You Can” on oldies radio shows, and eventually scored a couple of Dave Clark Five albums at the flea market (a really beat-up Glad All Over and a pretty nice copy of Having A Wild Weekend). More would follow.
don’t know when I became aware of Glad All Over Again, a double-album DC5 retrospective issued by Epic Records in 1975. I have no recollection of ever seeing it in a record store; I’m not 100% positive I’ve ever seen it at all, though I think I did, possibly in the library of the campus radio station WBSU when I got to college in the fall semester of ’77, or in the DJ booth at the on-campus Rathskeller during the weekly Oldies Night on Thursdays. I know that I did read a review of it in an old issue of CREEM magazine that came into my possession at that time. If I saw the record, or even if I only heard of it, I knew one thing for sure: I wanted it. I really wanted it.
But it was not to be. Lacking an opportunity to buy Glad All Over Again, I continued to build my DC5 collection as best I could. A 45 of “Red And Blue”/”Concentration Baby” (and I much preferred the B-side), and a slow process of acquiring albums one by one: Coast To Coast, American Tour, Greatest Hits, You Got What It Takes, 5 By 5, I Like It Like That, Weekend In London, The Dave Clark Five Return!, More Greatest Hits, Try Too Hard, and Satisfied With You, in that approximate order. Years later I scored a bootleg CD two-fer of The Dave Clark Five Play Good Old Rock & Roll and Dave Clark And Friends. I still have every one of these, plus a couple more bootleg CDs and the official CD best-of The History Of The Dave Clark Five, rent-money collection purges be damned. My Dave Clark Five collection isn’t complete, but it’s close.
It doesn’t include Glad All Over Again. That’s the one that got away.
Some time in the early ’70s–probably circa 1973 or ’74, when I was 13 to 14 years old–I decided I wanted to be a writer. I’ve never made much money in that endeavor, but there hasn’t been any extended period in the past four-decades-plus where I haven’t at least dabbled in writing… something.
So, while still a teen, I started filling notebooks with ideas for things I might want to write. “Ideas” inflates their worth and weight; these weren’t ideas, but little notions, germs of ideas, usually no more than a title or a vague concept at best. Most of these notions were for comic-book stories (like The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze, my recently-completed Batman pulp story), but I also imagined things I could write for movies, magazines, TV, radio, and paperback novels.
In this open-ended series of Notebook Notions, I’ll be looking back at some of these half-baked, quarter-baked, sixteenth-baked, and damn-this-thing’s-still raw! almost-ideas that I jotted down in my notebooks. If any of the notebooks themselves still survive, I hope to unearth ’em someday. For now, this is all from memory; long before I became a middle-aged wannabe, I was a teen-aged wannabe, and I had a few notions, I did…. The Bay City Rollers in Catch Us If You Can
I’ve written a lot over the years about The Bay City Rollers; Scotland’s phenomenal pop combo was the subject of my first article for Goldmine in 1987 (later updated here), and even my blog bio mentions my interest in writing the liner notes to a Bay City Rollers anthology. But I wasn’t really all that big a fan of them initially. I thought their claim to be the next Beatles was absurd, but I liked their first two U.S. singles–“Saturday Night” and “Money Honey”–well enough, I guess, and I loved their third hit, “Rock And Roll Love Letter.” Go ahead and have another listen to that one; I’ll wait here.
Yeah, still good.
So maybe I was a fan after all. As silly as the Beatles comparison was, I’m sure the idea of a Scottish Fab Five intrigued this British Invasion zealot, and it surely fed my interest in them. If The Bay City Rollers couldn’t be the next Beatles, perhaps they could be the next Dave Clark Five, or the next Herman’s Hermits, and that would be fine by me. And if that were the case, the Rollers would need to do what The Beatles, Dave Clark Five, and Herman’s Hermits had all done before them: The Bay City Rollers would need to make a movie.
It’s further illustration of what an out-of-time square peg I’ve always been: in 1976, when pop music was at the awkward melting point of disco, metal, mellow, hard rock, prog, skyrockets in flight, and the early rude, loud stirrings of punk, I thought there would be commercial prospects for the razzafrazzin’ Bay City Rollers to star in a latter-day update of A Hard Day’s Night. See, this is why I didn’t have a girlfriend.
But a notebook notion is a notebook notion. At 16, A Hard Day’s Night was already my all-time favorite film. I’d seen all of The Beatles’ movies: A Hard Day’s Night on its first run at The North Drive-In in Cicero in 1964 (and on many a TV rerun thereafter), Help! on Channel 3’s weekday afternoon matinee, Yellow Submarine on network TV, and both Magical Mystery Tour and Let It Be in a weekend matinee double-bill at The Hollywood Theater in Mattydale. I had also seen Herman’s Hermits’ dreadful Hold On! at the Hollywood, and I think I’d seen The Monkees’ Head on the CBS late movie. I had not yet seen The Dave Clark Five’s Having A Wild Weekend, but I loved its companion album (not exactly a soundtrack LP), and I loved seeing that film’s stills on the LP’s cover. And I figured, that’s the kind of movie The Bay City Rollers should make. And that’s the kind of thing I should write, to further my sinister end game of becoming rich, famous, influential, irresistible to gurls, and ultimately married to hot actress Valerie Perrine.
One of my favorite songs at the time was The Dave Clark Five’s “Catch Us If You Can,” a song I’d heard on the radio and declared The Greatest Record Ever Made. I didn’t realize that Catch Us If You Can had been the actual title of The Dave Clark Five’s 1965 feature film, re-titled Having A Wild Weekend for us dim Yanks here in the Colonies. So my thought was that the Rollers should cover it as the title theme for their own breakout, career-defining feature film debut.
The notion never got all that much more specific than that. My idea was heavily influenced (possibly to the point of outright thievery) by the film Good Times, a Sonny and Cher vehicle I had recently seen on TV. In that movie, pop stars Sonny and Cher struggle with corporate entertainment-biz weasels for control of their own name-above-the-title flick. I thought a similar plot would work for a Bay City Rollers movie: The Man tries to treat Les, Derek, Eric, Alan, and Woody like puppets in the music business’ plastic cookie-cutter pop assembly line, and our heroes struggle with the gaudy temptations of success: women, fame, women, wealth, women, adoration, women, and, y’know…groupies ‘n’ stuff. The allure of such enticing prizes seems too much for five simple Scottish lads to resist, and individually they could well succumb to these sinful pleasures of greed, lust, and hedonism, but at the cost of their souls. But standing together, The Bay City Rollers are too strong, too true to their own working-class roots, to be fooled by empty promises. The group rebels, refusing to play the game, even if it costs them their fame, their fortune, and their future; for even without all of that, The Bay City Rollers would still have their music, and their tartan-clad friendship. In a climactic showdown with the suits and the moneymen, The Bay City Rollers walk away from it all, gleefully, triumphantly, to the tune of “Catch Us If You Can.” Their boldness resonates with youth across the globe, and The Bay City Rollers become bigger than ever, with no Big Company ever again telling them what they could or couldn’t do. Catch this if you can, suckers!
Plus, they get to hang on to the women. Finders keepers, man.
The bare-bones nonsense detailed above was farther than I ever got with Catch Us If You Can, and it still leaves such banal trivialities as plot, motivation, dialogue, pacing, and common sense to be tossed in some time down the road, I guess. Even in my most starry-eyed flights of fancy, even as a more-naive-than-most 16-year-old, I knew this picture wasn’t gonna happen, ever. If one could pretend for a second that I had the talent and drive to work up a complete project proposal for this–a bona fide synopsis, some sample script pages, something more concrete than a scrawled notebook entry that read The Bay City Rollers: CATCH US IF YOU CAN [movie]–that leap of faith would still plummet into the murky depths of a Scottish loch, me laddies and lassies. This was a fantasy. And it was fun to imagine.
While I had the minimal intelligence necessary to discard the notion of The Bay City Rollers in Catch Us If You Can, I ultimately became a bigger fan of the group. They were never my favorite, but I was never ashamed to proclaim my approval of the Rollers’ best power pop tracks, particularly “Rock And Roll Love Letter,””Wouldn’t You Like It” (which I somehow convinced The Flashcubes to cover for a Bay City Rollers tribute CD), and “Yesterday’s Hero,” among others. In college, I had a BCR poster in my dorm room as an act of defiance, right alongside my KISS, Sex Pistols, and Suzi Quatro posters–a heady stance to take in the Southern Rock/Deadhead hotbed that was my college campus. I pestered my friend Jane Gach to play “Wouldn’t You Like It” on her radio show; she protested, she refused, she told me to go to Hell…but she finally played it just to shut me up. Surprise! She loved the song, and said so on the air. Just like at the climax of Catch Us If You Can: the music of The Bay City Rollers transcended differences, and provided its own happy ending. Roll credits!
(And, although Valerie Perrine never did deign to notice my existence, I met a girl named Brenda in college. On an early pizza date, listening to oldies on the restaurant’s radio, we discovered a mutual affection for a song I didn’t think anyone else my age knew about: “Catch Us If You Can” by The Dave Clark Five. Bonding! Brenda and I have been together ever since. Maybe my notebook notion of a song to further my sinister end game wasn’t as far off course as I’d thought.)
1) “I Want To Hold Your Hand” The Beatles – Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is an obvious number one choice for this list. But aside from being a fantastic song, it was responsible for kicking off the British Invasion that dominated airwaves and record players everywhere from 1964 to 1965. Hooray for The Beatles for sparking the movement and opening the door for flurries of other fine bands from Jolly Old England.
2) “Needles And Pins” The Searchers – Glistening to a stunning synthesis of twinkling twelve-string guitars and choir boy harmonies, “Needles And Pins” proved to be as influential as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Folk rock before the term even existed, the song seized the ears of future Beau Brummels and Byrds members, who popularized the style and gave it its name.
3) “Heart Full Of Soul” The Yardbirds – Also inspiring and inventive, “Heart Full Of Soul” is underlined by Jeff Beck’s distorted fuzztone guitar work, giving the song an eerie edge that predates psychedelia. A left-field offering from a left-field band, but accessible enough to become a hit single.
4) “Glad All Over” The Dave Clark Five – Bursting forth with stomping rhythms and a monster-sized call and response chorus, “Glad All Over” represents the Dave Clark Five’s style through and through, which was dubbed “The Tottenham Sound.” The timelessly catchy song further captures the youthful exuberance of the British Invasion in all its giddy glory.
5) “House Of The Rising Sun” The Animals – Navigated by lead singer Eric Burdon’s bluesy growl and Alan Price’s menacing keyboard passages, “House Of The Rising Sun” exposed a “darker angle” of the British Invasion that additionally included the rebel cries of bands like The Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things, who not only sneered and snarled, but looked mighty sinister with their exceedingly long locks and scruffy threads.
6) “You Really Got Me” The Kinks – Quaking and shaking with a wild and frantic guitar solo, “You Really Got Me” sounds as revolutionary today as it did in 1964. Often considered the first genuine heavy metal song, “You Really Got Me” is further intensified by jolting hooks and a screaming chorus.
7) “She’s Not There” The Zombies – Possessing a breathtaking repertoire of ethereal vocals, gripping keyboard exercises and melting melodies, the jazzy “She’s Not There” teems with class and sophistication. The British Invasion produced a variety of musical hues, and here’s a song – not to mention a band – that certainly sported its own individual identity.
8) “Look Through Any Window” The Hollies – Praised for their poised and polished harmony prowess, The Hollies deliver the goods to maximum effects on “Look Through Any Window,” which subsequently entails enterprising arrangements and a sturdy backbeat. A high energy and high quality slice of pop rock magic, “Look Through Any Window” soars with color and light.
9) “A World Without Love” Peter and Gordon – Composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “A World Without Love” steps in as a mid-paced ballad, pronounced by the yearning Everly Brothers-fashioned lilt of Peter Asher and Gordon Waller. Lushly textured and containing a spinning keyboard break, “A World Without Love” ripples with beauty and finesse.
10) “Concrete And Clay” Unit 4 Plus 2 – Fueled by a finger-snapping bossa nova cadence, the perpetually perky “Concrete And Clay” was quite a unique entry in the British Invasion sweepstakes. Crisp and crackling acoustic guitar licks, supported by folk-framed choruses and needling hooks furnish the tasty tune with a rather exotic touch.
When The Beatles broke big in America, American groups started cropping up everywhere, intent on capturing that same Beatles’ magic. Bands like The Knickerbockers and The Cyrkle were looking to do much more than most of the also-rans, though. Their aim, inspired by the lads from Liverpool, was to create something with the same level of enthusiasm and electricity.
Here, well-known popster Gary Ritchie continues that tradition, with a wink and a nod, and his heart in the right place. He is, after all, along with musical partner Jeff King, responsible for the cult-favorite release, Beat The Meatles.
“Maybe It’ll Be Tonight”, takes a post-punk stab at what might’ve been an early MTV hit, when power pop was really becoming a thing. The title track, reminiscent of The Dave Clark Five’s “Over and Over” is another winner, and gets seriously-close to that ’65 energy.
My fave of the set, however, is “Arms Around A Memory,” which boasts a catchy melody and jangly guitar sound that pop dreams are made of. In a perfect world, that’d be the A-side of Capitol Records vinyl single, spinning on the Dansette.
Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.
Anyone who knows me also knows who my favorite bands are: The Beatles, The Ramones,The Flashcubes, The Monkees, and The Kinks. There are dozens and dozens of worthy acts that I love almost as much–I am proud to be a pop music fanatic and obsessive–but I think I’ve made it clear that this fantastic five sits permanently up there as my Top, my Coliseum, my Louvre Museum, et al. The Jam used to be right up there with those Beatles and Ramones, too. While I certainly never stopped loving The Jam, they’re not as ever-present in my mind as they were a few decades ago. But in the late ’70s and early ’80s, The Jam rivaled The Ramones for the coveted title of Carl’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll group.
My introduction to The Jam was inauspicious, to say the least. One afternoon in the Fall of 1977, I was lounging in my freshman dorm room, listening to Brockport’s campus radio station WBSU. I listened to WBSU, like, all of the time, constantly pestering the student jocks to play more of the new punk/new wave stuff I wanted to discover–Blondie, The Dictators, The Runaways, and the above-mentioned Ramones brudders–and also more of the ’60s stuff I loved, from The Raiders (“Let Me!”) and The Dave Clark Five (“Any Way You Want It”) through The Monkees (the station owned the only copy of the group’s Changes LP I had ever seen, though some of the BSU jocks flatly refused to ever play anything by The Monkees).
But this particular afternoon was a singularly revelatory WBSU session, as I heard The Flamin’ Groovies (“Misery”), The Vogues (“Five O’Clock World”), and The Knickerbockers (“Lies”) for the first time. And the station also played a brand-new song by a punk group out of England, performing a cover of “The Batman Theme.” As I heard the song play, I wrote in my journal: “1977 and Batman’s a punk. Progress.”
And that was the first time I heard The Jam.
From small things mama, as Bossman Brucie would later say. If I seemed dismissive at the time, I think I was nonetheless intrigued. The Jam next crossed my consciousness in October, when TV’s The Tomorrow Show took a look at this punk rock thing that was driving some of these mixed-up kids crazy, with the pogo dancing and the safety pins and the anarchy and the use of impolite language. Tomorrow Show host Tom Snyder promised “a punk-rock jam,” but he was himself mixed-up; what he meant was that his guests would include The Jam’s Paul Weller, along with Joan Jett from The Runaways, and Kim Fowley, The Runaways’ former manager. I don’t remember much about this show, other than a sense of no love lost between Jett and Fowley, and the fact that I’d already developed a serious crush on our Joanie (“crush” in the sense that I wanted to hug her and squeeze her and call her Gorgeous; my girlfriend Sharon was neither impressed nor amused). I have a vague recollection that Weller was serious and focused, and that he knew what he was talking about, but the precise details are lost in the cluttered hallway of my memory. I really oughta at least try applying a feather duster to that place some time.
I’m not exactly sure of the sequence of events after that, of how I went from The Jam? to THE JAM!! I do know there were four specific songs involved: “In The City,” “I Need You (For Someone),” “The Modern World,” and “All Around The World.” I can’t tell you where or when I first heard any of these, but I can tell you that the first two were staples of The Flashcubes’ live set. I saw the ‘Cubes for the first time in January of ’78, and it was immediately clear that any songthey did was okay by me. I bought the U.S. Polydor 45 of “I Need You (For Someone)”/”In The City,” and played it often. I picked up import singles of “The Modern World” (a track I think the ‘Cubes also used to cover) and “All Around The World” when I worked at Penn-Cann Mall in North Syracuse that summer. I was hooked. Guitarist Weller, bassist Bruce Foxton, and drummer Rick Buckler had created exactly the sort of modern world I wanted to inhabit.
I returned to Brockport for my sophomore year in the fall of 1978. By then, the previously-cited girlfriend Sharon was already three or four heartbreaks ago. In early October of that semester, I aced some test or paper or somesuch, and felt I deserved a reward; so it was down to The Record Grove, where I purchased a copy of The Jam’s second LP, This Is The Modern World. I went back to my dorm, and put it on my roommate’s stereo, the volume set somewhere north of lethal. God, I loved this record on first spin. Just about everyone considers it The Jam’s least-noteworthy effort, but it’s always gonna be special to me. “The Modern World.” “All Around The World.” “I Need You (For Someone).” Then on to the tracks I didn’t already know: “Standards.” “Life From A Window.” Wilson Pickett‘s “In The Midnight Hour.” I couldn’t play Side One loud enough.
My next-door neighbor, on the other hand, thought it was already a wee bit too noisy. I hadn’t even met this chick yet, but she pounded on our mutual bedroom wall, imploring me to turn that goddamned racket down already. I grumbled, cursed, but complied. Ever the gentleman, that’s me! I did eventually meet this girl next door later that month. Her name was Brenda. Wonder whatever became of her…?
(And yes, she still thinks I play that goddamned racket too loud.)
The Jam didn’t exactly fall beneath my radar after that, but I didn’t get their next album, All Mod Cons, until well after the fact. Someone–either my then-current roommate Tom or my future roommate Paul–played “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight” for me on his WBSU show in the spring of ’79; I liked it, I guess, though it didn’t have the exuberance, the immediacy of the Jam tunes I already loved. It was…mature. It would take some getting used to.
By the time I adjusted to the idea of a more grownup-sounding Jam, the group hit me with a new album, Setting Sons. What an amazing record this was! I rarely listen to whole albums nowadays, but I owe myself the pleasure of giving this another complete spin soon. Supposedly originally created as a concept album–a dirty phrase in the post-punk world of 1979-1980–Setting Sons succeeds as a stunning song cycle, simmering with the charred embers of shattered idealism, discarded friendships, wistful memory, and defiant hope. I regard Setting Sons as The Jam’s masterpiece.
The Jam’s follow-up album, Sound Affects, was nearly as good, highlighted by “That’s Entertainment,” an unforgettable number that Weller is said to have written following a pub crawl; the track would have been worthy of The Kinks. The “Going Underground” single was another winner, and The Jam were firmly ensconced near the Toppermost of my Poppermost.
And then they were gone. Another album (The Gift), and a pair of 1982 farewell singles, “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)” and “Beat Surrender,” and Weller pulled the plug. The Jam never caught on in the States at all, but they were huge stars in Great Britain, and they quit at the height of their success. I never had much interest in Weller’s next project, The Style Council, but I have to concede neither he nor the rest of The Jam owed me anything. They’d already shown me the modern world, and all around the world: in the city, down in the tube station at midnight, lost in a strange town, Eton rifles beneath a burning sky, gone underground to a town called Malice. That’s entertainment.