For a generation of rock music lovers, certainly those now in their early fifties, HaClique was like a breath of fresh air. Actually, considering the lyrics and sounds the late lamented hard-hitting New Wave band put out in the Eighties, perhaps the aforesaid zephyr came with a whiff or two of something of a nostril-curling nature.
Rebellious nature notwithstanding, HaClique exerted a formative influence on the left-of-center rock scene in Tel Aviv, and elsewhere around the country, a contribution which is being celebrated this evening (9 p.m.) at the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem as part of this year’s Israel Festival.
The roll call of rockers lined up for the tribute features five current indie acts, including Vaadat Charigim (Exceptions Committee), Hamasach Halavan (White Screen), I Was a Bastard, Hila Ruach, and Aviv Mark and HaNetzah (Eternity).
Mark is a prime example of the HaClique effect.
“You could say I more or less grew up on their music,” says the vocalist-guitarist. “They brought out their first album around the time I started my army service.”
That was in 1981, shortly after a couple of young Jerusalemites called Dani Dothan and Eli Avramov – vocalist and guitarist respectively – got together to further their artistic dreams. Before long they recruited giant-sized Belgian-born drummer Jean- Jacques Goldberg and bass player Oved Efrat, and hit the club scene. The debut album went by the none-too-wholesome name of Ima Annee Loh Rotzeh Lehigamel – something along the lines of “Mom, I Don’t Want to Come Off the Drug” – which was a concept album and was devised as a sort of new wave rock opera.
The overriding zeitgeist was one of desperation and the pointlessness of life.
With such a dark outlook on man, life and the universe – Dothan was the principal lyricist – the record did not appeal to mass audiences across the nation. That said, a single called “Incubator,” whose lyrics consisted only of the song title, became something of an underground hit.
Youngsters began streaming to HaClique gigs at Tel Aviv venues as Paris Cinema and Dan Cinema, generally dressed in black and in makeup, very much like the guys on the stage.
That certainly did the trick for Mark and his ilk who were looking for something different, and looking to break away from the largely still conservative local commercial music scene.
“There was something fundamentally non-Israeli about the group,” Mark recalls.
“They sang in Hebrew but they put out the vibe you got from all those bands that came out of Manchester (England).” The latter include the likes of Joy Division and New Order.
“They sang about depression and existential issues, but it was seasoned with a local backdrop. It came from here. That really spoke to me – especially their sound.”
Dothan, Avramov et al made no bones about what they wanted to convey, and how they intended to do it.
They were four angry young men looking to kick out at the established order, and had no pretenses about being accomplished musicians. There was a story going around, back in the day, that Uzi Binder, who played lead guitar with the band for a while, was dispensed with because “he was too good a musician” and his polished musicianship did not suit the group’s roughedged sound.
“The drumming of Jean- Jacques Goldberg, Eli Avramov’s guitar playing and Dani Dothan’s unusual singing, and the design of the album cover – there simply weren’t any covers like that in Israel in those days – that all grabbed me.”
Said artwork showed the four members of the band facing a bare breast. It was an excellent visual calling card that appealed to hormonal youngsters looking for something that resonated with their teenage rebellion angst.
“That really spoke to me and it accompanied me through my army service,” says Mark.
“It was a sort of escapism. That music kept me going through guard duty. It was perfect for me.”
The sophomore offering, Olam Tzafuf (Crowded World), came out in 1983 and included a couple of the band’s best known numbers – “Kol HaEmet” (The Whole Truth) and “Al Tadliku Li Ner” (Don’t Light a Candle for Me). The record came out while the First Lebanon War – then called the Operation Peace for Galilee – was raging, and “Al Tadliku Li Ner” took on anthemic status for many IDF soldiers north of the border. Meanwhile, “Hey Yaldon” (Hey Kid), another track on the album, included lyrics about homosexuality, the first time the taboo subject had featured in a Hebrew-language rock song. And that was that as regards recorded material during the band’s active years.
The proof of HaClique’s greatness, according to Mark, lies in its continued relevance.
“Thirty-one years later, last year, the group brought out a third album, Anee Loh Bepaskol (I’m Not in a Soundtrack). It wasn’t a bunch of pathetic aging rockers trying to recapture their glory days. It sounds contemporary, and there are some great songs in there.”
Sadly, shortly after last year’s reunion, Avramov died at the age of 61. Goldberg died in 2006, at the age of 51.
Mark says he is excited and moved to be part of tonight’s HaClique tribute and hopes the event helps to keep the iconic indie outfit flame burning brightly.
“They were one of the most important bands this country has seen,” he states. “The last album they brought out is full of great material. They are as relevant today as they were all those years ago.”For tickets and more information: http://israel-festival.org.