The Clique is a US sunshine pop band, formed in Beaumont, Texas in the late 1960s. It could be best to say that it was a one-man outfit for producer Gary Zekley, who discovered the band and wrote much of the material (along with Mitchell Bottler) and employed session musicians. They scored a few hits: “I’ll Hold Out My Hand” and “Sugar on Sunday,” both Hot 100 singles. The group released their eponymous album in 1969, which reached the Billboard 200 album chart. Years later, alternative rock band R.E.M. covered the Clique’s original “Superman” in 1986. In 1998, record label Varese Sarabande issued a re-release of The Clique album with few bonus tracks.
The Clique’s early years
There are many acts that carry the name The Clique — including one American band, two British bands (but from different genres and generation), and an Australian pop duo. But in this article we’re focusing on the American band.
The Clique was a sunshine pop and bubblegum pop group from Houston, Texas, formed in the late 1960s. The best-known lineup consisted of David (“Dave”) Dunham, Jerry “Function” Cope, Oscar Houchins, Randy Shaw, Sid Templeton, and Tommy Pena. Their light, effervescent, brass horn-laced harmonies led the band to become part of the sunshine pop and bubblegum pop scene that was popular during their era.
The band actually originated in Beaumont, Texas as the Roustabouts. Later on they changed their name into Sandpipers, and finally settled on The Clique. From Beaumont, the band moved to Houston.
The band achieved their first hit ever with a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators “Splash 1,” (released on Cinema label) a local chart-topper in Houston. The band secured a recording contract from New York-based Scepter Records. Then they met songwriter and producer Gary Zekley.
Biggest hit with “Sugar on Sunday”
Zekley was known for employing session musicians. He and his songwriting partner Mitchell Bottler would be writing most of the Clique’s material. And as Zekley used studio musicians, most of the Clique’s music had been played by these musicians. This was usual in other manufactured pop bands during that era.
The Clique released their self-titled debut album in 1969. The LP featured the singles “I’ll Hold Out My Hand” and “Sugar on Sunday.” Both of these singles charted, with “Sugar on Sunday” being their biggest hit at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 that year. “I’ll Hold Out My Hand” (written by C. Taylor and Al Gorgogni) charted at #45.
“Sugar on Sunday” is actually the Clique’s cover of a Tommy James song (James wrote it with Mike Vale).
The band’s B-side song “Superman”
The group’s first single that had been released in 1969 was also “Sugar on Sunday” b/w “Superman” (which was written by Zekley and Bottler). In recent years the Clique is now mostly remembered not for “Sugar on Sunday” but for its B-side “Superman,” which was later covered by alternative rock band R.E.M. for their 1986 album Life Rich Pageant.As with many covers, R.E.M.’s version became more famous than the original.
The Clique’s self-titled album
Anyway, The Clique’s eponymous debut LP peaked at #177 on the Billboard 200 album chart in 1969. A third single of that album, “Sparkle and Shine,” barely registered on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1998 The Clique LP was re-released on Varese Sarabande label, with a few bonus tracks. Ten years after the re-issue of their album, the band was inducted into the Gulf Music Hall of Fame, which prompted the band to mount a fleeting reunion.