Hailing from the same West Country region of England as The Troggs (the agricultural cathedral city of Salisbury, actually) this group started life as Dave Dee and The Bostons and went in search of the gold-paved streets of London, via the obligatory stint in Hamburg (a season at the Top Ten Club).
Their stage act featured rock & roll mixed with comedy routines, costume-loving theatricalism, and risqué patter from their frontman.
The ludicrously-named band were taken on by The Honeycombs’ managers Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, who secured a Fontana record contract for Dave and the lads in short order and went on to steer the group to spectacular success, writing all 13 of their best-selling singles. In 1966, the team gained more UK chart entries than anyone else – including The Beatles.
Despite startling TV appearances on Ready Steady Go, the first two singles did not take off. No Time (January 1965) was a curious waltz featuring whistling and Teutonic overtones, while All I Want – though a ballad – was nearer to what they were to become.
1966’s first release, Hold Tight, with its football chant rhythm and fuzzy guitar, squeezed into the British charts at #4, precipitating three stellar years for the band and their mentors, Messrs Howard and Blaikley.
During this period, the band’s sound evolved with singles beginning to feature girlie choruses, brass bands, sound effects and string sections.
Strategically released at the tail-end of 1967s hot flower power Summer Of Love, Zabadak swept effortlessly into the UK Top 3. Most critics consider Zabadak and its two chart successors to be the band’s most inspired phase though much of it was executed in a very slap-dash manner.
Apart from backing vocals and whip noises (an empty beer bottle zoomed down a guitar fretboard while two bits of plywood were smacked together), The Legend of Xanadu was recorded live in the last half hour of an otherwise chaotic afternoon session with a novice studio engineer.
Geared for the singles market, the group’s three albums tended to be regarded as collections of individual tracks rather than complete entities, padded as they are with A and B sides in no logical order. Despite their enormous popularity in Britain, the group were unable to impress the US market, and in 1969 they ran out of steam.
Dave Dee (born David Harman) left for an unsuccessful solo career and ultimately moved to the administrative side of the music business as head of A&R at WEA’s UK division when his solo career failed to take off
In the 1970s Dee was a founding committee member of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy charity and was actively involved in fundraising and increasing the profile of the organisation, for more than 30 years. He later worked as a magistrate in Cheshire.
The group re-formed in the 1990s with Dee as lead vocalist once again.
Dave Dee performed his last gig in Eisenburg, Germany on 20 September 2008 and died at Kingston Hospital, south-west London, in January 2009 at the age of 65, following a three-year battle with cancer.
David Harmon (Dave Dee) was an ex-police cadet and was among the police called to the scene of Eddie Cochran‘s fatal car crash in April 1960.