I get a new turntable and dust off some old records. Vinyl Tap #47:
Unfortunately, this is one case where lightning never strikes twice in the same group.
Thunderclap Newman may be a one album wonder, but what a wonder, and what an album. The trio’s most recognizable name now may be Jimmy McCullough, who went on to become lead guitarist for Paul McCartney and Wings (McCullough died in 1979 from a heroin overdose). But in the late ’60s much of what made Thunderclap Newman distinctive was keyboardist Andy Newman’s honky tonk-style piano and drummer/singer John “Speedy” Keen’s Pete Townshend-like yearning vocals.
Indeed, the Who leader had a lot to do with the formation of the group — in “calling out the instigators,” to paraphrase their hit single — to play songs written by former roadie Keen. Townshend would also play bass, arrange strings, and produce the classic hit single “Something in the Air," which struck a chord with its entrancing melodiousness, punctuating piano, and mellifluous guitar, if not with its hippy-dippy lyric incongruity: “Hand out the arms and ammo, we're gonna blast our way through here / We've got to get together sooner or later because the revolution's here…”
For a song whose original title — “Revolution” — was changed in order not to conflict with the Beatles’ single of the same name, there was enough spin on the turntables and enough of something in the airwaves for it to remain on top of the UK charts for three weeks (it peaked at #37 in the U.S.), beating out Elvis Presley. Surprised band members, who had little in common, were augmented with reinforcements for a handful of hastily planned performances. More exposure for "Something in the Air" came in soundtracks of films such as The Magic Christian (1969), Almost Famous (2000), and The Strawberry Statement (1970).
And of course “Something in the Air” is also on the 1969 LP Hollywood Dream, which Townshend also produced, issuing “Accidents” as a follow-up single. "Accidents" sold poorly, however, but it makes for a terrifically fun track in the album’s ten-minute version as it leapfrogs from genre to genre and tempo to tempo, shifting instrumentally from psychedelic guitar to kazoo to harmonica to psychedelic kazoo, while production effects abound over a variety of pet sounds awash over monotonic lyrical admonitions that “Life if just a game, there is no end, Life is just a game, there is no end, Life is just a...”