Hold Tight! a tribute to Dave Dee

Dave Dee (1941-2009) was perhaps best known as the lead singer of 60s pop band ‘Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich’ who take the crown for the silliest of all band names from the era. He was not just one of our best live performers but also a record industry manager, a former policeman, and a respected magistrate in Cheshire and London.

Born David John Harman on 17th December 1941 in Salisbury, the police cadet turned budding musician attended at Eddie Cochran’s fatal accident in 1960, and taught himself to play guitar on Cochran’s Gretsch while it was impunded at the local station. By 1962 he had started his first group, Dave Dee and the Bostons, who were a comedy-music act. By 1966 this had evolved into the chart-topping quintet who produced such hits as Bend It, Hold Tight, Zabadak, Don Juan, and The Legend of Xanadu, which lasted until Dee left to go solo in 1969.

As an A&R man at WEA Records, Dave Dee can be credited as part discover of such acts as AC/DC, the Heavy Metal Kids, and Boney M. By 1985 the revival circuit beckoned and his taste for perfoming has returned – with the Heroes and Villains concert in London set up with many of the Dozies’ peers on the bill to raise money for the charity Nordoff-Robbins, which Dee co-founded. Watching this concert on video (also featuring Mud, The Merseybeats, The Equals, Chris Farlowe, The Tremeloes, Tommy Bruce, The Nashville Teens, and many more) it crackles with the energy with Dee and other groups and performers of the time would bring to the Solid Silver 60s circuit through the next couple of decades.

Was Dave Dee a great singer? I think he was – in the 90s he recorded a cover of Oasis’ song ‘Look Back in Anger’ which almost exceeded the original. Even in his last few months he recorded songs including a medley of Everly Brothers songs and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven teamed with The Who’s Pinball Wizard and sounded perhaps better than he had in his prime during the 1960s. As a live performer he was a class act who combined a sense of fun with true professionalism. I will always keep happy memories of singing those silly songs like Zabadak live with their creators!

The Dozies were fashion icons and appeared on all the great music shows of the time – including Top of the Pops and the German equivalents Beat Beat Beat, and Beat Club (which Dee co-presented for a while, and also fronted compilations of in the 1990s for British television). When they returned, perhaps the fashions were a bit more conservative, and Beaky and Mick changed personnel over the years, but there is no other Justice of the Peace who spent his mature years wielding a whip on stage singing about the black barren land of Xanadu!

Dave Dee passed away after a long battle with prostate cancer in January 2009, not that long after yet another successful nostalgia tour. There’s been quite a hole in the revival circuit ever since.