Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

Thunderclap Newman

thunderclap newman 2

Thunderclap Newman are without best known as a one hit wonder following the No1 hit success in 1969 of “Something In The Air”

In 1969, Pete Townshend, The Who‘s guitarist, created the band to play songs written by the former Who roadie, drummer/singer/guitarist John ‘Speedy’ Keen (miscredited as “Keene” on the single’s label). Keen wrote the opening track on The Who Sell Out album, “Armenia City In The Sky”. Townshend produced the single, arranged its strings, played its bass guitar under the pseudonym Bijou Drains, and hired for it GPO engineer and Dixieland jazz pianist Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman (born Andrew Laurence Newman, 21 November 1942, Hounslow, Middlesex) and the fifteen year old Glaswegian, Jimmy McCulloch.

Originally titled “Revolution”, but later renamed because the Beatles released a single of that name, “Something in the Air” captured post-flower power rebellion, marrying McCulloch’s sweeping acoustic and glowing electric guitars; Keen’s powerful drumming and falsetto, Newman’s legendary frostbite in boxing gloves piano solo and Townshend’s (uncredited) electric bass.

The single was Number One in the UK Singles Chart for three weeks, holding off Elvis Presley in the process. The scale of the song’s success surprised everyone, and there were no plans to promote Thunderclap Newman with live performances.

Eventually a line-up, augmented by Jim Pitman-Avory (bassist) and McCulloch’s elder brother Jack (drums), played a handful of gigs. Personal records say the band played live only five times, although Keen referred to a two-month tour, playing “everywhere”. Jimmy McCulloch and Newman have appeared on television to comment upon the anniversary of the first Moon Landing, to describe the extended concert that Thunderclap Newman were playing that evening.

“Something in the Air” appeared on the soundtracks of the films The Magic Christian (1969), Kingpin (1996), Almost Famous (2000), The Dish (2000), The Girl Next Door (2004), and The Strawberry Statement (1970); the last having helped the single reach Number 25 in the United States. The song also appeared in the deluxe edition of the Easy Rider CD. In the UK and US, a follow-up single, “Accidents”, came out only in May 1970, and charted at No. 44 for only a week, but not charting at all in the US.

An album, Hollywood Dream, again produced by Townshend and released the previous year, peaked in Billboard 200 chart at No. 163.

hollywood dream

The members of the band had little in common. Newman once commented, in a 1972 interview with the NME, that he got on with Keen’s music but not with him personally, whilst it was the exact opposite with McCulloch. Two more singles followed before the band split.

My personal favourite from the album is “The Reason” which despite the presence of Jimmie McCulloch on guitar the track has the Pete Townshend acoustic and electric signature all through it.

“The Reason” – Thunderclap Newman

thunderclap newman

Newman recorded a solo album, Rainbow, in 1971 and appeared on Roger Ruskin Spear‘s first album, playing assorted instruments, whilst McCulloch had stints with a dozen or more bands, including Stone the Crows and Wings. McCulloch died of heart complications due to a heroin overdose in 1979, at the age of 26.

Keen reappeared with a solo album, Previous Convictions, for Track in 1973, and began recording a double album as a follow-up. Frustrated at his lack of progress at Track, he took the demos to Island Records, which pared it down to the single album Y’know Wot I Mean? and released it in 1975. Its single, “Someone to Love”, received plenty of airplay but failed to sell.

Discouraged, Keen ceased recording after one more single in 1976. He tried the record producer’s seat, working with punk band Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers on their debut album L.A.M.F. in 1977, and also produced Motörhead‘s first album before leaving the music industry. He appears on several tracks on the Best of Motorhead double CD All the Aces, as part of a live set originally performed under the name The Muggers. The set includes five songs written and sung by Keen, only one of which had appeared on his solo albums.

Keen suffered from arthritis for several years, and was recording his third solo album; however he unexpectedly died at the age of 56 on 12 March 2002.

Andy “Thunderclap” Newman has in recent times been touring a “version” of the band performing “Hollywood Dream” in its entirity, for more information click HERE


To buy the music of Thunderclap Newman click HERE

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Old Music, The Who, Video | , | 7 Comments

Fairport Convention

fairport convention

I am currently reading a biography of Nick Drake and I was surprised at how much of an influence Fairport Convention had on him both as a musician and in getting him a recording contract.

liege and leaf

My first encounter with Fairport Convention was in first year at the “big school” where a young woman music teacher tried to brainwash us all into becoming fans by constantly trying to have us recreate songs from the above 1969 album with the use of triangles and chime bars!

Needless to say at the time she was not successful as I had only just graduated from the likes of Slade, T-Rex etc to “real” music like Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash and Rory Gallagher.

“Matty Groves” – Fairport Convention.


I did eventually buy a Fairport Convention collection as I had by then grown to love the voice of Sandy Denny.

sandy denny

I was sold on “The History Of Fairport Convention” not only on the basis of the tracks compiled therein but also my the brilliant cover which was a Fairport Convention edition of the famous Pete Frame Rock Family Tree’s series which were regular article in “Sounds” the weekly music newspaper of the time. 

the history of fairport convention


“Meet On The Ledge” – Fairport Convention


Another unusual aspect of the album was that a piece of ribbon was glued to the sleeve, making it look as if a royal seal had been embossed on it. Different reissues had blue ribbons, or red or green. Later reissues of the album had no ribbon, but the central seal was shown in a larger size, and the family tree was missing.


To learn more about Fairport Convention click HERE


To buy the music of Fairport Convention click HERE

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Old Music, Video | , , | Leave a comment


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