You probably already know the hit version of this song made by R.E.M. in 1986. It was the last song on their Fables Of The Reconstruction album. Michael Stipe didn’t really love the song, so he sang backup on it and had bass player Mike Mills take the lead vocals. Ironically, this song became the most memorable track on that album. Believe it or not, the song did not appear on the Billboard Hot 100. However, it did climb to #17 on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks.
The song was written by Gary Zekley and Mitchell Bottler and produced by Don Gehman, who had previously worked with John Mellencamp. While on tour to promote the new album, Gary Zekley joined R.E.M. on stage when they performed his song on 21 October 1986 at the Northern Illinois University in De Kalb. You may have also heard the R.E.M. version of Superman on a couple of television shows. It was used in a CSI:NY episode, along with an episode of Lois And Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman. Of course, there’s also the song called Superman by Lazlo Bane, an alternative rock group from Santa Monica, California, that was used as the theme for the Scrubs television show. That’s a different song, I know. Maybe I can do a future blog post about the other songs that were made in the 1950’s and 1960’s that referenced The Man Of Steel. There were several of them!
Did you know that Superman was a cover of an original song made by The Clique, the group that brought us the #22 hit, Sugar On Sunday, back in 1969? Did you also know that Sugar On Sunday was also a cover of a song first recorded by Tommy James And The Shondells on their Crimson And Clover album. Tommy James actually produced The Clique’s hit version of the song.
After the break-up of a group from Beaumont, Texas, called The Lavender Hour, a few of their members pulled a new band together, calling themselves The Clique. They were Jerry Cope on drums, Tommy Pena on bass, and Sid Templeton on guitar. They recorded a single on Cinema Records called Splash 1, a cover version of a single by Roky Erickson’s 13th Floor Elevators. The Clique improved on the original by speeding up the tempo and adding a fuzz guitar. The record was picked up for national release by Scepter 12022. The record showed up on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 at #113.
The Clique made a follow up single in 1968 called Gotta Get Away / Love Ain’t Easy on Scepter 12212. After that song failed to chart, Scepter pulled the plug. The group was then picked up by White Whale Records, the label that was built around the success of The Turtles. It was there that the band hooked up with record producer Gary Zekley, who had once been a member of the group backing up Jan And Dean. The records he made with The Clique featured lead singer Randy Shaw backed up by professional session musicians from Los Angeles.
Here’s the original version of Superman by The Clique on White Whale 312 from 1969:
Here’s that first song from The Clique that became a Bubbling Under hit. This is Splash 1 on Cinema 001, later issued on Scepter 12202 in 1967:
Now let’s go back even farther. This was the first release by the band that evolved into The Clique. This is I’m Sorry by The Lavender Hour on Tribe 8323 from 1967:
My favorite garage rock track from The Lavender Hour appeared on their second record. Here’s I’ve Gotta Way With Girls by The Lavender Hour on Steffek 1929 from 1967:
To complicate things a bit, there were a couple of other groups known as The Clique. You’ll hear all of them on MusicMaster Oldies, of course. One of them is from England. Another is from Australia. There’s even another garage rock group from Champaign, Illinois, who called themselves The Cliques. The Cliques was also the name of a 1956 doo wop group lead by Jesse Belvin and Eugene Church. If you’ve heard of any other “Clique” groups, let me know. You can become an official member of the MusicMaster Oldies clique! I’m not playing the later cover versions of songs that originated in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but I am considering that. Maybe I’ll come up with some kind of special feature that pairs the original with a modern remake. Who would love hearing that?