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Thunderclap Newman

+ {Andy Newman}

Devised in London by PETE TOWNSHEND, The WHO icon brought together the ad hoc session trio of John “Speedy” Keen (vocals, drums, guitar), Scots teenager Jimmy McCulloch (guitar) and GPO telephone engineer Andy Newman (piano, vocals) – aka THUNDERCLAP NEWMAN. Inspired by the mind-bending, pop psychedelia of Keen’s `Something In The Air’ (its title duly switched from its The BEATLES-esque “Revolution”), Pete played bass on the song at the request of managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp’s Track Records. It shot to the top of the charts for 3 weeks in the summer of ’69 (Top 40 Stateside), and gained further notoriety for its use in that year’s cult movie soundtrack to The Magic Christian.
A year on, times had indeed changed, therefore the kooky and kaleidoscopic `Accidents’ only managed a paltry Top 50 position; THUNDERCLAP NEWMAN were now on their way to become one-hit-wonders. In its full capacity of nearly 10 minutes, the MOVE/PROCOL HARUM-like, self-indulgent ditty featured on the overlooked debut LP, HOLLYWOOD DREAM (1970) {*7}. Produced by TOWNSHEND, himself, and penned almost in its entirety by Keen (with the exception of McCulloch’s title track instrumental and a cover of DYLAN’s `Open The Door, Homer’), the set failed, along with attendant 45s, `The Reason’ and `Wild Country’.
THUNDERCLAP NEWMAN folded shortly afterwards; SPEEDY KEEN went solo and was to release two average albums: `Previous Convictions’ (1972) and `Y’Know Wot I Mean?’ (1975). Meanwhile, a little older and a little wiser, bespectacled Dixieland purveyor ANDY NEWMAN (born 21 November 1942) popped up on an unimpressive solo set, RAINBOW (1972) {*3}, a record proving why Speedy was the Thunderclap’s chosen songwriter; covers of BILL HALEY’s `Rock Around The Clock’ and Walter Donaldson’s `That’s What I Like About You’, fitted uneasily between several self-penned pieces.
On the other end of the spectrum, rocker McCulloch went on to have stints with JOHN MAYALL, STONE THE CROWS, PAUL McCARTNEY & WINGS, SMALL FACES, et al, but died of a heroin overdose in Maida Vale on 27 September 1979. Speedy, himself, died of heart failure on 12 March 2002.
Unsurprisingly, at the behest of business manager Ian Grant, Andy re-grouped a makeshift THUNDERCLAP NEWMAN for live gigs, and from February to June 2010, the band (featuring ex-BIG COUNTRY drummer Mark Brzezicki, rhythm guitarist – Pete’s nephew! – Josh Townshend, lead guitarist Nick Johnson, and bassist Tony Stubbings), set up a recording unit to capture reprised goodies from their sole album. Marking a 40th year anniversary, BEYOND HOLLYWOOD {*6}, was delivered to long-time fans and those that had never stumbled upon the nearly men of rock. Sadly, Andy Newman passed away on 30 March 2016.
© MC Strong/GRD series // rev-up MCS Mar2016

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