Dave Dee Talks To Russell Newmark

Sixties hit-maker Dave Dee has played to audiences measured in the thousands. He has also played one- man shows in people's front rooms and gardens. Dave Dee. Dozy Beaky, Mick & Tich notched up a whole succession of flamboyant hits - and the group's front man has sung them in all kinds of settings. And he knows more than most about the real power of music. For more than twenty years he has been raising cash for an organisation which has proved that music brings benefits other than pop chart glory for its more successful proponents.

The Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre shows how music can help mentally, physically and autistically disabled youngsters and adults. At its North London premises. therapists use music as a tool to communicate with those who find it hard to express themselves in other ways. And Dave Dee's role as a member of its fund-raising committee is a crucial part of his life now. Dave uses his showbusiness background to help the centre, and has kept busy organising pop shows and other events to help support its work.

in the mid to late Sixties, DDDBM&T recorded 13 hits, eight of them in the Top 10 with "Legend Of Xanadu" reaching number one. "Hold Tight", "Bend It", "Okay" and "Zabadak!" were among the other distinctive offerings which caught the mood at the time. "Legend Of Xanadu" - a typically imaginative work was punctuated by Dave Dee cracking a long bull-whip. The image has lodged itself in the public consciousness,

"People come up and say to me. Oh yeah, you're the one with the whip". Dave grins. "That's my claim to fame!"

Not that the other hts should be dismissed out of hand. "Hold Tight", for instance. is currently being re-discovered. It appears on a new compilation album paying tribute to the Godfathers Of Britpop , the Sixties groups, like Dave Dee's, whose influence lives on for today's pop outfits. But these days he enjoys seeing music bringing pleasure to those being helped by Nordoff-Robbins. "Music has no barriers or bounds," he says.

Dave Dee was a Swindon based policeman called David Harman before plunging into full-time pop. By then he'd already come across a couple of legendary rock stars in tragic circumstances. As a police cadet, he was among those who one day in 1960 attended the scene of a fatal road accident in Chippenham. Wiltshire. A car had driven into a lamp-post. It was the crash that killed Eddie Cochran and left fellow-American rocker Gene Vincent seriously injured. Cochran's guitar was retrieved from the car and kept at the police station until it was collected by his estate. "But not before I'd had a good strum on it!" says Dave. He spent about four years in the police force and generally enjoyed the work.

"But I was a bit too soft"he says. "Well, in actual fact I was a good policeman - but I used to appreciate the other side of the story!"

Grey-haired Dave, divorced father of twin sons and now married to Joanne, says he plans to go on performing for as long as people want to see him. But he admits, "If someone had said 30 years ago that I'd still be doing this now I'd have said on your bike!"

He is sometimes to be seen being backed by fellow Sixties artists Marmalade - a split with Dozy. Beaky, Mick and Tich having led to a solo career, followed by a move into executive posts with record companies, a spell running his own label and some management activity, but more recently, DDBM&T have reunited to take the sixties scene by storm. They have just completed another national tour and audience reaction has been tremendous.

"I live an easy, contented life" says Dave, whose home is in Cheshire But he is of course speaking for other Sixties stars when he says, "If we were as big today as we were then, we'd be multimillionaires. Unfortunately in our era there wasn't that sort of money. Young boys on the road. Doing Top Of The Pops. All the girls. What more could a young bloke want?

Pop trivia spoilsports will tell you that the whip sounds on "Legend Of Xanadu" were actually created by a bottle being slid along guitar strings and two bits of wood being banged together. But on stage at least, Dave Dee forever remains in people's minds as the one with the whip.

"It's a real means of communication Once you are communicating with these kids through music, it opens the door to a whole lot of other things. And once you see it, it is very difficult not to want to be involved. Beside his fund-raising work, Dave quite rightly describes himself as "an entertainer and entrepreneur" He still plays gigs at home and on the continent and is a particular hero in Germany, where, along with his regular shows, he has also been booked as the Sixties star attraction at private birthday parties - hence the front room and garden performances. The Germans have even had him perform in big kitchen centres. "You're standing by the washing machines and tumble driers and cookers, singing your head off with people wandering about" he says. "If they like it, they stop and listen. If they don t, they go off and buy a microwave or whatever."

After all this time, he can still suffer from nerves before gigs. clinging to an hour-long preparation ritual before each show - unpacking his stuff, moving it around, and pacing up and down in the dressing room until show time. "I'm definitely not worth knowing far that hour"he readily admits. "But then people say that to be a performer you need that fear because it gives you a shot of adrenaline before you go on stage."

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[Last update of this page: 19-Apr-07]