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Memories Of The Clique – Andy Lewis & Ian O’Sullivan

On the back of the Preservation Society box on Detour and Andy Lewis’ extensive band history in issue #151, we remember THE CLIQUE


The room is packed with people dressed in an array of peacock finery. Razor sharp bespoke suits rub shoulders with colourful custom-made shirts and chic, expensive-looking knitwear. Polished shoes avoid stepping on suede Chelsea boots as they shuffle to the beat which is as exclusive and exotic as the clothing on display. The Meddy Evils, Jonston McPhilbry, The Hipster Image, Duffy Power, The Quik, Mr Dynamite, Sons Of Fred, Tony Jackson, The Eyes… At the far end there’s a stage on which is stacked a teetering pile of musical equipment. Scuffed and battered Marshall and Vox loudspeakers, perched on top of each other. A set of drums that looks like it’s been on active service in some sun-beaten corner of the shrinking British empire. It all looks top-heavy and precarious, like a badly loaded boat. There’s a flurry of activity as some people step out of the audience and clamber aboard. Two of them pick up guitars, one gets behind the drums. A fourth, with hair as immaculately-coiffed as Small Face Steve Marriott, steps up to the mic in the middle of the stage. The crowd stills in anticipation as the DJ fades out ‘All Good Things’ by The Richard Kent Style. There’s a brief squeal of electrical noise as the guitarist turns up the volume on his Rickenbacker. A voice over the PA system announces “Now it’s time for a bit of live music. Will you please give it up for… THE CLIQUE!”

From the opening power chords of their first number, it’s clear The Clique know not only their way round their instruments but also the route to their audience’s hearts- and feet. Their sound and style match the mood set by the DJ as the crowd continue to nod and move along to the music which is like The Who or The Yardbirds or any of the desperately rare fuzzy 45s that will become known in years to come as British Freakbeat- only miles better because it’s HERE. It’s NOW! It’s totally live and happening in front of my eyes. An exhilarating blast through of Eddie Holland’s early Motown track “Leavin’ Here”, with a blizzard of feedback where a guitar solo should be, is followed by a version of “Young Man Blues” that starts to get so heavy it is in danger of bending light around it. The guitar player obviously takes a cue from Jimi Hendrix as he plays his instrument behind his head, smashes it into his mic stand in search of the perfect resonating frequency to set his strings ringing, and even gnashes at it with his teeth. The bass player’s fingers fly around his upside-down Epiphone Rivoli. There’s more than a touch of Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith about him, anchoring the root-note groove but soaring towards the twelfth fret and beyond to rev up the rave ups. The drummer is managing to combine the cool of Charlie Watts with the chaos of Keith Moon. The tension he is generating by being both on the beat and round the bend is incredible. And just when I think the singer, looking somehow even better now there are a few beads of sweat on his brow and his hair is starting to look a bit shaken and stirred, has run out of things to bring to the party, he produces a harmonica from his jacket pocket and blows some of the sweetest blues harp this side of Cyril Davies at his best.

It was all going on in the Spanish Hall of the Blackpool Winter Gardens in November 1988.

Andy Lewis

I first saw The Clique at a club in London back in 1987. Gary Pietronave, The Aardvarks’ singer, had got to know singer Paul Newman through trips to various clubs and gigs but for me it was the first time seeing the band in action. At the time I wasn’t totally sold on their brand of Brit-Blues and R&B as such, being more of freakbeat and garage person myself. However, I remember being really impressed with their drummer Gilles and especially his beautiful blue pearl Ludwig kit (which I briefly owned later on). I didn’t realise that night just how entwined The Clique and The Aardvarks would become. I lost count of the amount of gigs we did together throughout their various line-up changes. One of my fondest memories was when we played with The Clique at a weekender in Blackpool’s sumptuous Winter Gardens in 1989. After their performance, Chris Jordan and Gary Aardvark had taken to walking around with flowers painted on their faces which didn’t go down well with some of the more hardline attendees! It was always a lot of fun playing with The Clique (and later with Knave too). Jon-Paul Harper and Mark Pietronave from The Aardvarks were probably the best guitarists on the scene at the time and had a mutual respect for each other’s talents. I think one of the last times we played together was in Barcelona in 1995 but more memorable for me event-wise was when we both played at the first Modstock weekender in Saarbrucken in Germany in 1994. Thankfully Jon-Paul recorded all the bands on the bill over the weekend which later surfaced as a compilation on the ‘Modstock Saarbrücken ’94’ LP released by Detour Records. Fun times!









Ian O’Sullivan

Order issue #151 with The Clique article here

Order The Cliquee box set here


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