Mike Smith 1943-2008
Mike Smith, lead singer and organist of the Dave Clark Five, passed away on Thursday. He was 64. The DC5 are scheduled for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in less than two weeks.
Smith had been paralyzed in a fall five years ago, but apparently his last illness came on fairly quickly. He was, until very recently, expecting to be at the RNRHOF induction ceremony.
The DC5 always got a lot of negativity from rock critics who didn't like the band's pile-driving, somewhat unsophisticated style. Sure, they were often crass, and usually less than subtle. But what's wrong with that? The DC5 did some really tough records that still sound good today, as well as a few catchy ballads and some more "progressive" material.
While they were big stars in both the UK and US, their fandom back over the pond started earlier and ended later. Here in the states they enjoyed just one #1 ("Over and Over") but eight top ten hits, and 17 top 40 records overall, in a period lasting less than four years.
That's an impressive resume, and while some of their hits are formulaic, the best ones are just great. "Because" is grade-A balladry; "Any Way You Want It" and "I Like it Like That" solid rock and roll; "Bits and Pieces" a fun stomp-along; and "Catch Us If You Can" and "Can't You See That She's Mine" iconic chunks of British Invasion pop.
And Mike Smith's gritty, but sensitive, voice propelled the DC5. He co-wrote a lot of the band's biggest hits, and in addition, his Vox organ lent the group's highly percussive sound some necessary sonic dimension.
Attached here is one of my favorite DC5 hits, 1966's "Try Too Hard." It's interesting, with a sort of fast shuffle tempo, a drony sax, a loopy guitar line, and that chunky vocal harmony style the band did so well. Smith powers through it, a bit raucous but tuneful all the way.