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DDDBM&T IN AMERICA

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich conquered the charts in England, Germany and the rest of the continent, the Commonwealth countries like South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or Canada, and even Japan. But they never made it in the United States.
What happened ? Below are two lengthy reports from American magazines written in 1973 and 1988. The story of DDDBMT in America is told in five chapters.

Bomp10-11Who Put The Bomp n°10-11 (October 1973)

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich (by Ken Barnes):

Among mid-sixties London cognoscenti, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich were widely loathed and anathematically regarded as approximating Monkee-level. But actually the case may have been similar to the American image problem of Paul Revere & The Raiders; like that stellar aggregation, Dave Dee & Co. appealed to a vast young audience, wore extremely colorful stage attire, and indulged in a lot of comedy routines and general looning about onstage. And, again like the Raiders, they came up with a lengthy string of ultracommercial pop records, and most of them sound pretty good in these fallow days.
[...]
The group’s first single was a pleasant beat ballad called “All I Want,” a minor British hit in July ’65. “You Make It Move” introduced a prominent fuzz-tone foundation, as well as a great deal of borrowing from the McCoys’ “Hang On Sloopy,” and did somewhat better. Then “Hold Tight,” capitalizing on the same fuzz-based sound, with a sledgehammer beat derived from the Routers’ “Let’s Go,” a vicious punk-rock-like guitar break, and indecipherable lyrics, smashed high into the British top 10 and achieved a bit of regional success in the U.S., notably in Northern California. “Hold Tight” was a classic mid-60′s British single, and served to establish the group once and for all. “Hideaway” was the next big hit, in the identical vein; and they released a British album full of engaging and melodic hard-edged pop rockers–a consistently fine record except for an absolutely horrendous spoken introduction by famed British DJ Kenny Everett.
Their next single was a very gimmicky Zorba-influenced number called “Bend It,” nominally a dance tune but in the original British version one of the more lyrically salacious songs of the era (very much in keeping with the “agressive, slightlyy sexy sound that has become our trademark,” as Dozy put it). “Bend It” was a massive smash continentally, but ran into wide-spread censorship problems in the U.S., so the band (or their managers) wrote an apologetic letter to “the nation’s deejays”, and dubbed in new lyrics, which stressed the word “dance” repeatedly (although a lewd chuckle remained intact, just for a laugh).
None of this helped them get an American hit, however; but in England they remained at the top of the pops. “Save Me” continued their gimmicky trend, with a lot of Latin. percussion; but a second British album, If Music Be The Food Of Love, was once again a very nice pop-rock package, with straightforwardly enjoyable tunes. “Touch Me Touch Me” marked a return to their primal fuzz sound, very nice; and for some reason it prompted Fontana in the States to issue an LP called Davy Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich’s Greatest Hits (a slight misnomer in that they hadn’t had any), an excellent introduction to the group featuring British hits and four reasonabiy good flip sides and whatnot.
Bomp10-11Contents“Touch Me” was just about their last good single, however; “Okay” reverted to the “Bend It” sound with a heavy gypsy flavor and “Zabadak” was the worst yet, a virtually indescribable record full of cascading percussion riffs and nonsensical lyrics. Astonishingly, the record (on Imperial now) made the American top 60; and the follow-up, “Legend of Xanadu,” with its melodramatic Mexican bullfight music and whip-cracks, bubbled under more healthily than their previous Fontana outings. So, Imperial bemusedly released an album, Time To Take Off, which was unfortunately an atrocious muddle of various incompatible and unpalatable styles, from vaudeville to Latin to fullblown MOR ballads (like their American follow-up single “Break Out”–a terrible record).
By this time (mid-’68), the group had passed its peak commercially; they had a few more hits (“Last Night In Soho,” “Wreck Of The Antoinette.”), but eventually broke up.
[...]
While not crucial British Invasion figures, Dave Dee & Co. made good pop records most of the time, and hardly deserve the parish status accorded to them by their literary compatriots. With their colorful image and good-natured excesses of showmanship, they almost appeared a parody of the wild, flashy Mod bands of ’64-’65; and, in general, they seemed to be in it for the laughs, and the spirit was contagious. Incidentally, for the record, the nickname vs. the real-name breakdown went Dave Dee= David Harmon, Dozy=Trevor Davies, Beaky=John Dymond, Mick=Michael Wilson, and Tich was Ian Amey–just in case you’d thought I’d forgotten.

EnglandsGreatestHitsLP
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This 1967 US Various Artists Album actually featured the original censored version of “Bend It” !

 

Goldmine215-Oct1988Goldmine n°215 (October 1988)

Zabadak by Rex Woodard:

Without question, no major British Invasion band remains more obscure in the United States than the extraordinary Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Don’t doubt the “major” designation, either; in Europe, they regularly surpassed the biggies in the late ’60s. Their failure to establish a toehold in America, however, forever shrouded their other achievements.
Perhaps you vaguely recall “Bend It,” “Save Me,” “Land Of Xanadu” or “Zabadak.” Are these really the guys they called the “British Monkees”?
[...]
Fontana released “No Time” in January 1965. Like virtually every DDDBM&T single to be released over the next five years, “No Time” was penned by Howard and Blaikley under the pseudonym “Howard Blaikley.” The group performed “No Time” onstage with swinging guitars, choreographed by ducking, swinging and jumping over things. It brought the audience to a frenzy. but cost Dozy three front teeth after one errant swing.
“No Time” bombed. Half a year rolled by before Fontana released a follow-up, “All I Want.” [...]
“You Make It Move” came out in November 1965. It reached #26 on the U.K. charts, and crossed the ocean to the United States as the group’s debut single.
Promoters latched onto the band, and put them into the big package tours. This exposure accelerated the momentum. The fourth single, “Hold Tight,” shot up to #4 in England, and repeated the feat weeks later in West Germany.
“Hold Tight” featured all the trademarks of the first phase of DDDBM&T’s musical legacy: a strong beat, unpretentious, repetitive lyrics, clapping, and a catchy, hook laden jingle.
“Hideaway” followed, another Top 10 single.
The group needed a blockbuster to crack the American charts. The sixth single, the controversial “Bend It,” did the trick. “Bend It,” ostensibly a dance disc, blew the tops of most European charts, hitting #1 most everywhere. The Howard Blaikley tune teased the listener with salacious lyrics, a sped-up tempo, and an off-beat guitar break midway.
Fontana Records in the United States refused to release the single in America until new lyrics were recorded. The group complied, and a “G-rated” version appeared stateside. It did not reach the American Top 10, but certainly served as a monumental introduction.
Fontana released two DDDBM&T albums in England during the year 1966. Reviewers gave the discs good reviews, although employing phrases like “brash” and “amusing vulgarity.”
The next two singles, “Save Me” and “Touch Me, Touch Me,” continued essentially the same sound. Both were Howard Blaikley compositions, and both went Top 10. Six back-to-back hits firmly entrenched the boys in the fast lane of fame and success. What could go wrong?
An insidious backlash began developing against DDDBM&T among the “serious” rock critics. DDDBM&T were unashamedly commercial, and the songs were formula conceived for guaranteed teen success. From this identity came a label the band has never been able to shake, the “British Monkees.”
In retrospect, DDDBM&T sounded nothing like the Monkees. Granted, both groups relied on outside writers, had similar sounding names (Dave, Davy; Mick, Mickey; Tich, Tork, etc.), were commercially successful, and preferred light fun over heavy philosophy. However, DDDBM&T controlled their own destiny, paid much higher dues, and formulated their own distinct sound.
Despite the knocks, DDDBM&T prospered. They charted more weeks on the 1966 U.K. charts than any other band in England, including the Beatles. The German Magazine Bravo awarded the group its 1967 Golden Otto Award as top band in the world (ahead of the Beatles at #2, Beach Boys at #3, Rolling Stones at #5 and the Kinks at #8).
Late in ’67, DDDBM&T changed musical direction. They jettisoned the simple, formula ditties, and embarked on a series of utterly unique, complex and ambitious songs.
The outrageous “Zabadak” launched the progression of new songs. “Zabadak” is a swirling sound experience of indecipherable lyrics, multiple vocal layers, exotic Afro-Cuban percussion and jungle sound effects. The public loved it. It surpassed in sales every previous single, with the exception of “Bend It.” “The Sun Goes Down,” on the flip side, was a psychedelic dirge. A second winning streak commenced.
Goldmine-10With follow-up “Legend Of Xanadu,” DDDBM&T reached the pinnacle of their career. The record hit # 1 in England and did well elsewhere. The song told the tragic story of a love affair ending in a fatal duel. Musically, it surrounded the listener in fiery Mexican rhythms, intricate vocal harmonies and the sound of a whip as a part of the percussion.
Both songs appeared on the group’s fourth album, If No One Sang (released in the United States on Imperial, as Time To Take Off). DDDBM&T intended this album as their answer to Sgt. Pepper. Of course, every ’60s band worth its salt tried to redo Sgt. Pepper, and none succeeded, including DDDBM&T. Nevertheless, the album contains several knockout numbers. Like its counterparts, it sounds slightly pretentious today, but then so does Sgt. Pepper.
Dave Dee calls the next single, “Last Night In Soho.” the best thing he ever did. It’s hard to disagree. The song tells the dramatic story of a young man tempted back into crime on the eve of his marriage. The lead vocalist skillfully captures the young man’s emotional predicament and carries the story to a rousing climax. “Soho” slotted at #8 on the U.K. charts, making it the eighth Top 10 entry there.
“The Wreck Of The Antoinette,” DDDBM&T’s last single of 1968, dealt with the sinking of a ship. It predated Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” by eight years, and is thematically similar. Once again, the production and performance is infallible.
The group’s adventurous story songs continued to bring it chart success. “Don Juan,” their first single of 1969, followed suit. It returned to a Latin theme, with the appropriate embellishments. The song’s protagonist is gored to death by a bull, following the tragic theme of the preceding songs.
The last single recorded by the original five members appeared in mid-1969, “Snake In The Grass” b/w “Bora Bora.” It climbed to #23 in England, #19 in West Germany.
David Harmon (Dave Dee) shocked the British music press with his July 1969 announcement that he would split from the band to go solo. “I felt that life was passing by without giving me any real challenge,” he explained.
[...]

 

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