In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.
Not too many bands are named after their drummers, but in the case of the Dave Clark Five, it fit. Clark, a former movie stuntman, started the DC5 as a London skiffle group in the late ’50s. He wasn’t just the drummer; he was the band’s manager and producer as well. And the band’s entire sound was organized around his big, dumb beat — a four-four stomp that overwhelmed everything around it.
The band had a few genuinely exciting pop moments — one of which, the 1964 single “Glad All Over,” turned out to be their only UK #1. But the band also devoted a lot of its energies to covering American R&B songs from the late ’50s and early ’60s, making those songs slightly stiffer and more mannered, putting that big beat in service of honoring those grooves. And that was how their take on “Over And Over” landed them their one American #1.
In its original form, “Over And Over” was a pretty decent piece of party-time R&B. Bobby Day wrote the song and used it as the B-side to his 1958 novelty hit “Rockin’ Robin.” It’s a song about going to a party, meeting a girl, and getting shot down, and it probably sounded pretty rudimentary even in 1958. The DC5 took that song and stripped it down even further. Clark’s vocals are clipped and schticky, and he doesn’t even try to sell the song’s frustration. His one lyrical adjustment is pure nonsense; he turns Bobby Day’s “everybody there was stag” into the utterly inscrutable “everybody there was there.” But the song is over quickly, in just over two minutes, and it’s got a neat little sax rumble working for it.
Toward the end of 1965, when American pop music was shifting toward aquarian psychedelia and the initial excitement of the British Invasion was dying out, “Over And Over” must’ve sounded like instant nostalgia — for the innocence of those late-’50s sock-hop jams, and for the rush of the early British Invasion days that had come less than two years earlier. Today, “Over And Over” sounds like a whole lot of nothing. Nostalgia almost never ages well. The Dave Clark Five never got close to #1 again, and they broke up in 1970.
BONUS BEATS: In 1965, the Dave Clark Five starred in their own Hard Day’s Night-esque rock ‘n’ roll comedy Catch Us If You Can, released in the US as Having A Wild Weekend. Pauline Kael liked it. Instead of musicians, the members of the band played stuntmen. It was the first movie from director John Boorman, who went on to make classics like Point Blank, Hell In The Pacific, and Deliverance. Here’s the trailer, which makes it look terrible: