The best-known version of this song is by REM. This, the original, is the best.
There’s something really compelling – and really cool – about Superman. It sounds like the work of a genuine garage band. Thumpingly amateurish, the song stomps along without flair or flourish except for the backing vocals that repeat the verse while the singer’s singing the chorus and the cracking little organ that joins in at 1:50.
The song’s coolness is partly to do with the singer’s sneeringly nasal vocal, including the way he pronounces “happening” as “ha-pen-niinnng”. And despite his claim that he can do anything, he comes across as a very unlikely superhero. Especially as he’s basically using his powers to intimidate and stalk a girl: “If you go a million miles away I’ll track you down girl, trust me when I say I know the pathway to your heart.”
Maybe it’s that aspect which explains Michael Stipe’s lack of enthusiasm for the song and why the lead vocal duties went to Mike Mills for REM’s version.
The Clique, by the way, came from Texas and were essentially one man: Gary Zekley (and session musicians). Superman was the B-side to their low-charting 1969 hit Sugar on Sunday.