1969 Thunderclap Newman – Something In The Air
While he had already found superstardom as a member of the Who, Pete Townshend also helped create another group in England in the late sixties.
Speedy Keen had been a chauffer for the Who. He played drums and guitar and wrote a song on the Who Sell Out album. Pete formed a group to play songs written by Speedy by recruiting jazz pianist Andy Newman and 15-year-old guitarist Jimmy McCulloch. Their first session included the song that became their first single. The bass player? Oh, right, Pete also played bass on the group’s recordings.
The piano player went by the nickname “Thunderclap,” and the group’s name became Thunderclap Newman. They initially named their first single Revolution, but had to change that to Something In The Air in order to avoid confusion with the Beatle song that used that name. The single topped the UK chart in 1969.
The song did not do extremely well in the US, although it still has a high-profile thanks to films and television shows that have used the song in their soundtracks. In 1969 alone, the song appeared in Easy Rider and The Magic Christian. The single only reached #37 on the Hot 100 in the US in 1968.
In 1970, the song provided a pivotal moment in The Strawberry Statement, a film about the 1968 anti-war protests at Columbia University. That helped the song get close to the Hot 100 again.
The song also appeared on the soundtracks of Kingpin (1996), Almost Famous (2000), The Dish (2000), and The Girl Next Door (2004).
The group also appeared in a very unusual video for the song.
The band wasn’t particularly interested in performing in concert. They recruited some additional musicians and toured just long enough to open for Deep Purple at a few shows.
After some personnel changes, the band toured some more in 1971, after which they disbanded. The band had recorded only their first album and released only four singles.
Jimmy joined several other bands and played guitar for Wings from 1974 to 1977. He died from a heart attack caused by heroin at the age of 26.
Speedy released two solo albums and worked as a studio musicians backing Rod Stewart, Kenny G, and other musicians. He died in 2002.
Andy reformed Thunderclap Newman a few times and even recorded a new album in 2010. He died in 2016.
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