Dave Dee: Singer with the pop group Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich
Saturday 10 January 2009
With their name of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, the 1960s hitmakers were never going to have much credibility, but they made some of the most enterprising and entertaining records of the era, including "Hold Tight", "Zabadak!" and "The Legend Of Xanadu".
Their front man, Dave Harman, was born in Salisbury on 17 December 1943. He loved the advent of rock 'n' roll music in 1956 and felt privileged to see Buddy Holly at the Salisbury Gaumont in 1958. He became a police cadet and was called to the car accident which killed Eddie Cochran in Chippenham in April 1960. "I was a big Eddie Cochran fan and we took his guitar back to the station," he recalled. "It was there for two months and I used to play it from time to time."
Like so many youngsters in the early 1960s, he and his friends formed a beat group: "We were the Boppers first and then the Beatniks. We had jackets with 'B' on so we had to stick with that letter. We became the Bostons and then I became 'D' for David, and Tich said we should be like Cliff Richard and the Shadows and call ourselves Dave Dee and the Bostons."
In 1962 Dave Dee and the Bostons, who played American r'n'b and rock 'n' roll songs, secured a residency at the Top Ten club in Hamburg, moving on to the Star-Club. Dee told me in 2001, "At the Top Ten, we would play an hour on and an hour off, 14 hours a day for seven days a week. We were absolutely knackered after the second week, and this waiter arrived on stage with five rum and Cokes and some Preludin tablets. We took them at two in the morning and we never went to bed until the next night. I was flying 10 feet off the ground, but it was never a habit I got into."
When they returned to the UK, they became Dave Dee, Dozy (Trevor Davies), Beaky (John Dymond), Mick (Michael Wilson) and Tich (Ian Amey). "The nicknames were already there," Dee said. "We wanted something that sounded original and we were almost the Slugs. We thought that no one would remember it, but they would know us as the band with the long hair and the long name. Once people got used to the name, they wanted to know which was which and we all had our own following. People used to say, 'Where's Sleepy? Where's Grumpy?' A lot of people didn't know that Dave Dee was one person, so it was thought that there were six of us."
In 1964, the band worked a summer season at Butlin's in Clacton and on a night off they played a ballroom in Swindon. Topping the bill were the Honeycombs, and Dave Dee and co impressed that group's managers, Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley. They were signed to Fontana Records by Jack Baverstock and assigned to the producer, Steve Rowland.
The group made the Top 30 with their third single, "You Make It Move", in 1965, but their breakthrough came in March 1966 with "Hold Tight". Dee recalled, "When 'Hold Tight' was a hit, we went into a transport café and Eric Clapton was there in a military uniform, having the mickey taken out of him by truck drivers. He asked Tich how he got the sound on 'Hold Tight' and we told him about our fuzzbox. I like to think that he learnt something from us but I'm not sure that he did."
Only Jim Reeves with "Distant Drums" kept the controversial "Bend It", from topping the charts later that year. Dee would wiggle his finger while singing the suggestive lyrics. "It was full of innuendo," admitted Dee, "and the Americans wanted to ban it. We told them that it was a dance and they believed it."
"Bend It" had a Greek influence and the group made their singles distinctive with exotic titles and locations such as "The Legend Of Xanadu" (with its whip-cracking sound) and "Zabadak!". Dee said, "We also tried to make every record different from the one before, but not different from everything we had done. We kept coming back to the 'Hold Tight' sound with 'Touch Me Touch Me' and 'Hideaway'."
They lived the celebrity lifestyle – Dee drove a Bentley and dated a former Miss World, Dorothy Frankland – and they were fashionably dressed by Carnaby Street. Dee considered their best recording to be "Last Night In Soho" (1968) but loathed their final hit, "Snake In The Grass" (1969). "We were like the Westlife of the 1960s," he said, "we could have done so much more. People don't associate us with psychedelia but 'The Sun Goes Down' is as good as anyone." That claim has to be balanced by their tribute to public toilets, "The Loos Of England".
Dave Dee went solo in 1970 and released "My Woman's Man": "It got into the Top 50 but it would have gone much higher if the record label hadn't moved its distribution plant. No one could buy the record. I was doing cabaret and hundreds of people were telling me that they couldn't get my record, which finished me off as a chart act. I wanted to do some acting, but I didn't go about it the right way. I wish I'd been like Adam Faith who went into rep at £15 a week and learnt his craft."
Instead Dee worked in record management for Atlantic, then Magnet and WEA. He signed many well-known acts including AC/DC, Boney M, B.A. Robertson and Gary Numan: "In our day we had never heard of advances; we were just glad someone wanted us. By then groups had decent lawyers who understood the music business law, and there was a lot of negotiation." Dee also organised charity events, including the two Heroes and Villains concerts for the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre in the early 1980s, and he assembled many 1960s stars, including the reclusive Scott Walker, for a TV ad for Britvic.
Remaining a front man, Dee hosted programmes for Radio 2, and from time to time worked as part of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, admittedly with a new Beaky and Mick. Touring with Peter Sarstedt and members of Marmalade and the Tremeloes, Dee was the presenter of a musical history of the 1960s, "The Story Book Show". He was diagnosed with cancer in 2002 but returned to performing the following year, completing UK dates in 2008 as part of the nationwide "Solid 60s Silver Tour".
David Harman (Dave Dee), singer: born Salisbury 17 December 1943; twice married (two sons, one daughter): died Alderley Edge, Cheshire 9 January 2009.
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