Cover Versions, Hard-to-find

O Superman

Life’s Rich Pageant was the first REM album I heard and, when push comes to shove, it’s still my favourite of theirs. Borrowed from Irvine library and duly taped, it soundtracked much of my late teens. From Begin The Begin‘s acid rock feedback ‘n twang via the alt. American Rickenbacker riffage of These Days and I Believe, to the Beach Boys backing on Fall On Me and Cuyahoga, it’s a terrific LP. All killer, no filler, you might say. It captures the band at the highest critical trajectory in their career – still hip enough to be considered underground, yet big enough to have worldwide sales (and actual big-hitting chart singles just around the corner with their next LP and beyond), being in REM around this time must’ve been great.

rem 86

Tucked away at the end of Life’s Rich Pageant was Superman. A twin-vocaled throwaway bit of bubblegum pop that showcased the extraordinary backing vocals of Mike Mills, it was the track I played again and again and again and again ad naseum. Which, given it was on cassette, led to some frustrating rewind sessions where I’d zero the wee digital tape counter as Superman started, and try and stop the tape bang on zero zero zero when the song had finished and I’d began to rewind it. There was none of this stop/start/skip/repeat stuff going on back then. But you’ll know that already. Anyway, I did this 1000 times until the tape stretched and eventually, catastrophically snapped, leaving ribbons of TDK wrapped around the tape heads on my none-more-80s music centre. The soft-eject door may have been the most aesthetically-pleasing one in the shop (you tried them all out, didn’t you) but it was impossible to take off to get the chewed bits of tape back out. So that was that. Down to the wee record shop at the back of RS McColl’s at the cross to buy the actual record. Up the road, and reading the sleevenotes it was then that I realised Superman was a cover. With no internet at my fingertips or music-geek big brother to grill, I waited literally years until finding out that the REM track I loved so much was by a band called The Clique.

the clique promo

Pardon the pun here, but there are lots of Cliques in the music business. The Clique that released Superman in 1966 were from Texas. There was also a pilled-up ‘n purple hearted mod band from England called The Clique doing the circuit at the same time. And in the 90s, a band called The Clique (also of modish persuasion) were on the go. A few years back I featured one of their tracks. Very good it was too. But anyway…

The Clique’s version of Superman was a b-side. Given his trainspottery love of obscure and underground music, it was no doubt Peter Buck who brought it to REM’s attention. REM’s version actually turns out to be pretty faithful. The original is indeed a piece of throwaway bubblegum pop, with a high backing vocal and a highly fruggable bassline. Handclaps, little bits of chanting and a weird, trippy vocal, not unlike the effect you get when you hear backwards guitar on one of those 60s records, complete what is an excellent wee record. Although I still prefer REM’s.

Contrast and compare:

SupermanThe Clique


Sadly, perhaps, I don’t have to hand the recording my wee band did at our first ever gig. I did the Mike Mills bits. Badly.

Double Nugget, Hard-to-find

Slave To The Rhythm Method

You’ll need a good scrub in the bath after listening to some of these tracks…

Probably long before Little Richard even though about hollering “Tutti Frutti, Oh Rudi“, pop music has been awash with sexual reference and innuendo. Island Records’ current celebration of their 50th birthday found me thinking about ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’, the Grace Jones hit from 1981.

grace jones bumper

The elastic band bassline (courtesy of Sly and Robbie’s Robbie), pattering percussion and honking horns can’t disguise the fact that this track is downright filthy. Taken at lyrical face value it would appear to be about driving through city streets at night, cruising the scene looking for action. So far, so very 80s. The fact that it’s sung by a woman might change your perception of it a wee bit, but if you know anything about Grace Jones you’ll be well aware of her appetite for life’s little pleasures.

grace jones cage

It should therefore come as no surprise when you read between the lyrics and discover that Pull Up To The Bumper is really an open invitation to come and get it.

Driving down those city streets,
Waiting to get down,
Want to ditch your big machine,
Somewhere in this town?

You’ll find the proper place,
Just follow all the written rules,
You’ll fit into the space.

Now in the park and lock garage,

Pull up to my bumper baby,
In your long black limosine,
Pull up to my bumper baby,
And drive it in between.

Pull up, to it, don’t drive, through it,
Back it, up twice, now that, fit’s nice.

back up I’ll pump your tire baby

We operate around the clock,
So won’t you please come in?
There’s lot’s of space for everyone,
Plus one for you my friend?

The lines are short,
I’ll fix you up so won’t you please come on,
That shiny, sleek machine you wheel,
I’ve got to blow your horn.

Pull up to my bumper baby,
In your long black limosine,
Pull up to my bumper baby,
Drive it in between.

Pull up to it, don’t drive through it,
Back it, up twice, now that fits nice,
Grease it, spray it, let me luricate it,
Pull up to my bumper baby.

See what I mean? There’s a multitude of versions out there. In addition to the original version from the Nightclubbing album (see above), there’s a nice early version from the Compass Point studio sessions (I think). There’s also an extended 12″ (uh-huh) version, which is basically the unedited final version of the album track. Larry Levan, Paradise Garage house DJ supremo took that version and updated it to a sleeker, club-friendly version.  This version reminds me a whole lot of..

Prince bw

‘Lady Cab Driver’ by Prince. Shuffling percussion? Check! Rinky-dink funk guitar? Check! Honking horns? Check! Suggestive lyrics? Check, although Prince isn’t as suggestive as Grace Jones, he’s more straight ahead and right to the point. Of course, the purple headed perv is no stranger to such things. But you knew that already. But have you heard the alternate mix of ‘Erotic City?


The easily offended should cover their ears and look away now. The Clique are a mysterious band. The ying to Grace Jones yang, their track ‘Bareback Donkey Riding’ was recorded in 1995 by Mr Lo-fi himself, Liam ‘Friend of Jack White’ Watson at ToeRag Studios. But if you didn’t know that, you would be let off for thinking this track was recorded by some enthusiastic mid-western garage band in 1964. Heavy on the hammond, distortion and passionate vocals, it’s a Nugget-friendly no hit wonder. But have a listen to some of the lyrics…

Well here we are again

It’s you and me my friend

Let’s go throught he same routine

We’ll get there in the end


Last night she went away

Didn’t want to stay

Packed her bags and called a cab

I guess it’s not my day


If I could find a girl who’d like to hold the reigns

We could carry on our sordid lovers games

Bareback Donkey Riding! Bareback Donkey Riding!

Let’s go through the same routine? Beg beg beg! What d’you mean “not tonight?” Sounds like his girl left him because he wanted to do something that she didn’t. ‘Bareback‘? No protection? Another word for donkey? I’ll leave you to work out what it all means. I might be wrong…

*BONUS TRACK. Here‘s the Serge Santiago Special Edit of Grace Jones‘  ‘Slave To The Rhythm’.