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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2005/08/08
by Mike Gruenberg

Mike Smith

The first live concert I ever attended was seeing the Beatles at Forest Hills Stadium in Forest Hills, New York. It was a comfortable evening in an open-air stadium and the group was flown into the stadium by helicopter. Very cool! Girls who were continuously screaming so loud and with such severity, which made hearing the music or understanding the words to the songs virtually impossible, surrounded me. The opening acts were less than pleasing, the Beatles were delayed by well over an hour, which caused an enormous amount of nervous anticipation amongst the crowd, and taking all of these factors into consideration, I had the time of my life.
I attended that concert with my friend Nat. We immediately decided that attending these concerts had many benefits. We could hear live music from the groups that we liked and also meet some nice women too, after they stopped screaming.
Approximately six months later, Nat and I experienced our second live concert in our young lives .We went to see The Dave Clark 5 at Carnegie Hall. By then, Nat and I had decided to put into practice the valuable lessons learned from the first concert. We noticed that a number of the people at the Beatles concert were dressed in their best British Carnaby Street fashions that were available in the U.S. for the Anglophiles we had all become. We therefore made it a point to be suitably dressed for this next concert. For me, the finishing touch to my mod outfit was the Beatle Boots I bought the day of the concert. The boots were black; they had a zipper up the side, pointy toes and a heel that made walking quite uncomfortable. I learned that day what the term, ‘a slave to fashion’ really meant. Nonetheless, we got on the subway in Queens, took the E train into the city and forty-five minutes later landed in front of the fabled Carnegie Hall on 57th Street. We were two dudes from Queens all decked out in our British Invasion duds. We were amply ready for the music and also hopefully expecting to comfort some of the screaming women who would be looking for our companionship after the show when they finally realized that Dave and the lads were going back to the hotel without them.
Upon entering Carnegie Hall, we were given handbills announcing the schedule of future concerts. The next rock act to appear was a group from England called the Rolling Stones. Seeing the success of the Beatles and since Dave Clark 5 had sold out 12 shows in 3 days at Carnegie Hall, promoters were quick to find other British Invasion groups to tour the U.S. To put this in perspective in relation to DC5’s popularity at the time, when the Stones first toured the U.S. and played Carnegie Hall, they scarcely filled half the house and had to cancel some of their remaining dates on that tour.

There was no warm-up act on the bill, just two hours of Dave Clark 5. The group consisted of Dave Clark on drums, Denny Payton on tenor sax, Lenny Davidson on lead guitar, Rick Huxley on bass and Mike Smith on keyboards. They were all dressed in matching outfits. Dave was located directly in the center of the stage with two members of the band on either side of him. It was all very well staged. Their show clicked with precision and best of all with the acoustics of Carnegie Hall, we were able to finally distinguish words and music above the screams of delight from the female contingent. There was no filler, no idle conversation, no tuning of guitar strings in between songs. Like a well-oiled machine, DC5 played a most enjoyable concert that in some ways clearly surpassed the Beatles concert.
Although Dave was literally the center of attention, one guy stood out as the person you instinctively looked at throughout the concert. To Dave’s right was Mike Smith on keyboards. He sang many of the vocals and had an enormous stage presence, in addition to having a great rock ‘n’ roll voice. His keyboard work was superb. I had always thought of him as the key person in DC5. Dave was the business and marketing manager whose brilliance or forethought was a rarity for rock groups of the 60’s. In his negotiation with the record company, Clark retained full control of the master recordings, which was unheard of at that time. It was also no accident that every Dave Clark Five 45 issued here in the States was packaged in a picture sleeve so that visibility was increased for those deciding which 45 to buy. The group always dressed in matching outfits and I have no doubt that the show we saw in New York was repeated verbatim in every city on the tour.
As is the case with most rock groups, there inevitably comes a time when the musicians fold up their individual tents and go on to new horizons. The success they had was undeniable. Twenty-four hit records in the U.S., fifteen albums released, one film released, eighteen appearances on the Ed Sullivan TV Show, over 50 million records sold and six sold-out U.S. tours. Not bad for a couple of lads from Tottenham, England.
So what about Mike Smith? Mike is credited with co-writng such DC5 hits as ‘Glad All Over’, ‘Bits & Pieces’, ‘Can’t You See That She’s Mine’, and ‘Everybody Knows.’ He is the voice on my all-time favorite DC5 hit, ‘Do You Love Me’ and most of all; he was clearly the heart and soul of the group. His distinct voice and personality tied together the marketing/business skills of Dave along with the excellent musicianship of the other group members.
After the group finally broke up, Mike worked within the music business writing jingles for advertising companies. He moved to Spain and decided to form a new band called ‘Mike Smith’s Rock Engine.’ In October of 2003, Mike fell at his home Spain and injured his spinal chord which left him paralyzed from the waist down. He also was unable to move his right arm and had limited mobility on his left arm.

True to the spirit that propelled Mike through his performing days, fans, friends and entertainment people have shown the same spirit to come together to help Mike get through these difficult times. A fund-raiser was held on August 2nd at BB King’s Club in New York City to raise money for his medical costs. The charity concert hosted by Paul Schaffer of the David Letterman Show included Colin Blunstone & Rod Argent of the Zombies (see jambands column June ’05), Peter & Gordon united for the first time in many years, Billy J. Kramer, Denny Laine and many others who got together to raise funds and show Mike that his fans and colleagues would like to help him in any way possible. There is currently an auction on e-Bay and 100% of the money earned from the sale of those items going to help defray the medical costs for Mike’s expenses.
As a person who has never met Mike nor his wife or any of their celebrity friends I simply say "thank you" to Mike for the vinyl memories, which I still enjoy to this day. I say "thank you" again for that night at Carnegie Hall when two young guys from Queens had a great night of fun and music. Your personality and musical talent stole the show as far as we were concerned. In return for all that you have given me; I wish you all the best and hope that my column has given you a reason to smile.

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