Like “Tabatha Twitchit,” “The Red Balloon” is a brassy, semi-psychedelic pop song that doesn’t paint a very convincing picture of the Dave Clark Five as trippy funsters, but it’s both catchy and innocent enough to earn at least tepid praise from these quarters. Clark himself takes the lead vocals on this one, and its colorful, rootin’-tootin’, singalong cheeriness will likely either charm your pants off or annoy you to no end. Fans of, say, “Yellow Submarine” oughta dig it, which I hope paints a picture of what kinda goofy fun we’re dealing with here. Now, I don’t mind “The Red Balloon” too much, but I personally prefer the comparatively gritty psych authenticity of John Fred & His Playboy Band when I’m looking to have my mind blown by some boss sounds. OR… WAIT! I can just flip this single over and listen to the shockingly fiery Creation-lite rocker “Maze of Love”! One of their rawest and best guitar songs! Wow! It’s tragically obscure, though, as it never even came out on an American album.
Which leads us to a big ol’ problem.
Thing is, the DC5 catalog was a total mess by this point. Epic had stopped releasing studio albums in the States after Everybody Knows, whereas Europe kept cranking ’em out, with collections like 5 by 5 (NOT the same record as the America LP with the same title), the dire If Somebody Loves You, and the ultra-elusive Dave Clark and Friends. There are a few cheap import compilation LPs that round up some of the better songs from this period (notably Historia de la Musica Rock and Gigantes del Pop), but it is exceedingly difficult to acquire everything the band did after 1967. To make matters even more frustrating for the present-day fan, our buddy Dave, renowned biznass man that he is, continues to delude himself as to the cash value of his group’s recordings, and so we still haven’t seen ANY of the DC5 albums committed to CD as of 2008 (word has it that he has held out for a price that he just ain’t gonna get from any label). My hope was that there’d be a catalog clean-up and comprehensive reissue campaign after “Jann” Wenner let the band into his sham Hall of Fame earlier this year, but despite some rumor-mill rumblings and a so-so iTunes collection, the record-store shelves remain unburdened by DC5 CDs. Mebbe Davey’s waiting for more group members to die off? Or perhaps he thinks it’s smart to let old age swallow up a nice chunk of his original fanbase before he allows official reissues to come out? What is he thinking at this point? Does he even CARE about his group’s legacy?? Besides losing money for himself and his pals, he’s effectively consigning his band to obscurity by letting the bulk of its catalog remain out of print and largely unavailable for decades. Honestly, the guy just needs to get it together and PUT THE MUSIC OUT THERE AGAIN. Until that in fact happens, I absolutely encourage you – yes, you! — to poke around and buy or download the nifty, carefully-assembled “Complete Collection” bootlegs, because these records, all the way back to Glad All Over, deserve better, deserve to actually be heard. And if that has to be done illegally, so be it.