SOUNDS, April 9, 1977, page 18:


Clover: more
than just
another West
Coast band
   Clover 1977 - photo by Ian Dickson

YEAH WELL I walked in the room, right and there were all these dudes in weird costumes with dilated pupils mumbling stone free at the walls, OK, and like they said “Hiiiiiii”! And so I said, “yeah, San Francisco”, that was where the vibe was man, I mean that was am-a-zing, listen the acid was free.”

I was expecting something like it. Reverence for a mystical past. Sticky nostalgia from ageing brain burnouts. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Clover have been through the trip so … many … times they aren’t too interested, except in a spot of healthy iconoclasm.

Says Hughie Louis, harp player: “Those old psychedelic giants – Quicksilver, the Dead – could never play. Those bands have just fizzled because the music biz is just getting to be quality now."

Says Johnny Ciambotti, bassist: “It was like the punk rock scene in England, I mean those guys can’t play shit but it’s a great scene, and that’s how it was in SF once.”

But anyway…

Hughie: “It pisses us off being asked in interviews about Clover 67-68. I mean we’ve moved, if we didn’t move we’d be ridiculous! We don’t really like talking about that old shit.

We’ve moved because we can play. We can play absolutely any fuckin’ style you want, you ask us to play straight jazz we can rip that right out, straight blues we can make it sound like Chicago.”

Clover, one of the first San Francisco bands, formed 1967 made two floperoo albums for Fantasy, ran out of contract, bummed around for years.

Last year, Nick Lowe, who admits to having outright copies of Clover material when he was in the Brinsley Schwarz band, “discovered” Clover. Nigel Grainge, A&R man for Phonogram, signed them up and along with Dave Robinson brought them over to England where they supported the Lizzies, Linda Lewis and Lynyrd Skynyrd on tours. Right now they’re doing pubs and colleges. Their debut album for Vertigo, ‘Unavailable’ has just been released.

‘Unavailable’ is surprising. Produced by Mutt Lange – instead of Lowe as many people expected – it offers few clues to their rather freaky roots. Funky rhythm tracks behind pedal steel and fiddle, gentle American soul, distilled and lightly stylised songs all a long way from The Bay – a band that have changed unrecognisable from their decade-old beginnings.

Hughie: “Moulding all our fluences together and getting it down on the album was a real tricky thing. We try and approach tunes in an interesting way, I mean if tunes come to mind that are Egyptian chants then we will work it out.

We were all a bit worried about the production. I mean we wanted it to sound great but we didn’t want it to seem like the production was inflicted on it.

It sounds great to us. We happen to dig things that sound really nice and in tune and stuff and we also like harmonies and shit like that.

I really like the live feel of it. You don’t have to sacrifice quality to get that feel.”

Which brings us on to Clover as a performing band. One Mr Charles of the Whalley ranted enthusiastically in these very pages about the virtues of Clover live. And Hughie acknowledges their affection for performing.

“We’re really a live band. When we play live people always get off and that’s sorta what keeps us going. I mean we know we’re going to have a hit record sooner or later but at the moment we’re just having a good time anyway.

We’re still innovators in rock. We’re not boring old farts.

We gonna play punk rock as soon as we can afford the capes and makeup,” interjects Hughie with a fat Californian guffaw. “No shit”.

“Yeah,” Johnny rounds off the dig. “I’ll play left handed and be about as good as Captain Sensible”.

Actually Johnny and Hughie are enthusiastic about the new wave.

“We all think there attitude is great, it’s what the rock scene really needed.

No way were we going to keep moving in the same groove till there’s nothing left. That’s as boring as shit.

I mean we’ve played small dance halls and big concert halls. It’s given us a perspective. And we haven’t really had the temptations that success would bring to do the same thing all the time."

Actually, it’s easier to believe Clover than most. As session men they can still make money without success as a band.

And that’s what pays the rent while Clover keep on not worrying about commercial considerations as they enter year ten.

Tim Lott


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