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9 May 2017

Thunderclap Newman “Hollywood Dream ” 1970 UK Psych Pop Rock:40 Greatest One-Album Wonders (Rolling Stone)

Thunderclap Newman “Hollywood Dream ” 1970 UK Psych Pop Rock:  40 Greatest One-Album Wonders (Rolling Stone)

All these years, and all these accolades later, it still seems incredible that Hollywood Dream meant nothing at the time of its release; that America let it drift no higher than Number 161; that the U.K. did not even give it a hearing. Less than a year before, after all, “Something in the Air” was topping charts and readers’ polls alike, and Thunderclap Newman were as close as Christmas to becoming the new Beatles. Instead, they weren’t even the new Badfinger, and this exquisite LP withered on the vine. Reissued in 1991, Hollywood Dream had been utterly transformed by the admiration of so many subsequent listeners, to stand alongside any lost classic you could mention, among the finest albums of its psychedelic generation. “Something in the Air,” of course, has never lost its hold on our hearts, but there was so much more to Thunderclap Newman and, across the 12-track original album, and half-a-dozen bonus tracks, the trio’s genius is inescapable. For those “in the know,” who had treasured their scratchy old Atlantic label vinyl, the real meat lay in the latter, as all three of Thunderclap Newman’s original 45’s joined their album brethren, together with their non-LP B-sides. “Something in the Air,” fussed up for the LP, reverts to its original emphatic punch; “Accidents” is pruned from a shade under ten minutes to a little over three; and the piping “The Reason” (an odd choice for a single in the first place) sounds like a role model for every record Supertramp ever made. The real gem, however, is “Wilhemina,” which sounds like a daft piece of rhyming doggerel set to a nursery tune, but also packs one of the most dramatic psych guitar solos this side of your favorite Who record. Producer Pete Townshend must have been astonished. As will you be, too, if all you’ve ever heard is the hit. So many bands have been hauled out of obscurity to be tagged the greatest secret you’ve never been told. Thunderclap Newman are one of the few who actually deserve that epithet…… Dave Thompson……… 

The only thing I knew about Thunderclap Newman was that they produced one of the best No 1 hits of the sixties in “Something in the air”, and many years later when I heard the track Hollywood No 1 on a radio station I was surprised to hear it was by Thunderclap Newman. The DJ (BFBS radio 2) went on to say it was from an album called Hollywood Dream and that the album was full of similarly quirky songs. I made enquiries and bought the album on Amazon some days later. 

I was rather disappointed,to say the least, on first playing, and the track Hollywood, which had originally sparked my interest didn’t seem as good. Anyway, I have often found that many albums take a number of playings to get into, so I persevered, and boy am I glad I did. This, in my humble opinion,while maybe not a classic, is certainly very very good. All of the tracks are well above average and indeed quirky is a good description for most of them. 

Something in the Air, Accidents and The Reason are all here in their album and single versions and are all excellent. Other notable tracks are Open the door, Homer; When I think; I see it all; and the outstanding Wilhemina plus Hollywood No 1 and No 2. 

This album is really very very good and if you like Something in the air, you will enjoy the other tracks too, but, do give it a number of plays.Highly recommended……..By R. E. Sheehan………….. 

Thunderclap Newman burst onto the scene ine the Summer of 1969 with the number 1 hit ‘Someting In The Air’.Another single followed 'Accidents'but it didn’t have the impact and this stalled the career of this very diverse group of individuals.The album includes both singles and a highlight is the 'long'version of 'Accidents’.Producer is 'Who'songwriter Pete Townsend who also played Bass under the guise of 'Bijou Jeans’. 
This album is of its time but any 50 year olds who missed it could do worse than pick it up.It is good value including 'A’ & 'B'sides of all singles.Check out 'Wilhemina'it is excellent!………. 

Thunderclap Newman should have been more than one-hit wonders. Chart riding hit 'Something In the Air’ kept their profile sky-high throughout the summer of 1969; they milked it admirably, but it didn’t shoo-in the big time. Distracting himself from the demands of The Who, Pete Townsend built the band as a vehicle for the songwriting skills of Speedy Keen, kitting him with pint-sized teen guitarist prodigy Jimmy McCullough and middle-aged, ample amateur bar pianist and former post office engineer, Andy Newman - much given to blazers, slacks, bow ties. Given these contrasts, they made great TV. 'Hollywood Dream’ is a likeable set of pop and country-infused songs with brief excursions into Bonzo-esque Palm Court territory (Newman seemingly restricted to this styling) bolstered with some blistering guitar work from McCullough. But nothing really matches 'the hit’. Misguidedly the label put out an edit of the 9-minute concept song 'Accident’ and then raced another album track 'The Reason’ after it, but the interest was gone. With hindsight, the flip to 'Accidents’ was probably 'the one’: quirky, drole, uptempo and sufficiently different from the hit to let the band develop. But Keen went solo, McCullough to Stone The Crows and later Wings (both sadly no longer with us) while Newman retrained as an electrician. While they failed to move on from being something in the air, a vestige remains: Andy is out there right now, performing as The Thunderclap Newman Band……..By Rob Brook …………… 

This Band were No1 with “Something in the air” when i was doing my O'levels so this Band has fond memories for me. That was one of the best songs ever written. Jimmy (sadly passed)the bass player went on to join Wings. “Wilomena” is such a funny song in fact the whole album is brill and not a dud track on it!! Brand new and good value……..By Mrs CardiganWorshipper……… 

At the time of writing this little review - April, 2016 - it’s just been announced that Andy Newman - the keyboard player with Thunderclap Newman - has just died, joining Speedy Keen and Jimmy McCullough in the great hereafter, meaning that the core trio of the band are all gone. Sad for Andy’s family of course, and the sun sets a little darker. Thunderclap Newman were the archetype sixties 'One Hit Wonder’ band - that being the truly amazing 'Something In The Air’, a magnificent single that seemed to celebrate a sense of optimism and hope that the sixties radiated. It wouldn’t last, of course, and neither did the band’s fame. They weren’t prepared for it, really, and despite having a tremendous follow-up in the can, 'Accidents’, it just didn’t lodge in the public consciousness. 'Hollywood Dream’ offers ample proof however that the band were really something special. Keen was a fine songwriter - he was Pete Townsend’s driver for a while, and he wrote 'Armenia City In The Sky’ for The Who’s 'Who Sell Out’ album. Townsend produced the album and played bass, and it originally came out on their Track Records label - and there are some really idiosyncratic an characterful songs on this album. Some of it has not worn so well, but overall, for the modest outlay that the CD will cost you, it’s well worth the investment. At it’s best, this is pure mercurial late 60’s Pop enjoyment……..By Og Oggilby ……….. 

Pete Townshend’s chauffeur-flatmate John “Speedy” Keen, jazz-pianist postal employee Andy “Thunderclap” Newman" and teenaged future Wings guitarist Jimmy McCullough comprised this one-hit-wonder of a band. They’re best known for “Something in the Air,” a throbbingly perfect pro-revolution anthem, but the rest of the trio’s single album is fairly terrific as well. It revolves around songwriter-drummer Keen’s contrasting fantasies about louche Hollywood pleasures along with odes to sexy country comforts. Townshend, who produced the album and plays bass pseudonymously as Bijou Drains, was sold on Keen’s songwriting (he also wrote The Who Sell Out opener “Armania City in the Sky”) and Newman’s jazzy jangle. The band floundered onstage, however, and broke up six months after the album’s release, with Newman attributing its demise to a confluence of personal and artistic differences….Rolling Stone…….. 

There are One Hit Wonders and One Album Wonders, and occasionally the paths of those two dubious honors intersect. One such instance is UK group Thunderclap Newman, mostly celebrated for their single “Something in the Air” but also noted for their only LP, 1969’s Hollywood Dream. The record contains that superb single, but it also features a surplus of additional charm, and while its profile has increased substantially, it’s sadly plagued by its reputation as the sole document from one of rock’s notable underachievers. 

And to be blunt, Thunderclap Newman is a questionable entry into the club of the One Album Wonder anyway. They have the solitary LP down pat, but a passionate bout of quibbling just might break out over the Wonder part of the equation. For Hollywood Dream, released after “Something in the Air” spent three weeks as a UK number one hit, was something of a stiff in terms of sales. It climbed no higher than #161 in the US album chart, and the single was a bit of an American sleeper, making it to only #37. And in an odd twist, apparently the LP was even more coolly received in their home country. 

When the band’s back-story is added into the mix, Hollywood Dream’s landing with a splat of relative indifference becomes something of a persistent head-scratcher. Vocalist/drummer John “Speedy” Keen had previously penned “Armenia City in the Sky” for The Who’s 1967 album The Who Sell Out. Pianist and band namesake Andy Newman looked like a dry run for the likes of Bun E. Carlos and banged on the keys like an auxiliary member of the Bonzo Dog Band. A suitable nickname for their young guitarist would be “The Kid,” or maybe even better “The Face,” for it’d be well nigh impossible to find a more splendiferously Mod figure than the one cut by Jimmy McCulloch on the record’s cover. 

Throw in that Pete Townsend played bass on the LP and its lack of performance is indeed a stumper. It’s in essence an album tailor made for Beatles fans, registering at times like a slightly more twee incarnation of Badfinger, though they never cross the line into the precious. Maybe the problem was that at the point of the record’s release The Beatles hadn’t really broken up yet (though the end was certainly near). However, Badfinger’s sales figures in ’70 and ’71 surely benefited from the realization of many that their favorite band was no longer extant. 

But it’s no use second guessing the apathy of the marketplace. And Hollywood Dream wasn’t a total flop, anyway. They had pomp, they had pop smarts, and they had strong musicianship; in particular, the guitar playing of teenager McCulloch and the distinctive falsetto voice of Keen. And Newman’s rollicking barrelhouse approach to the ivories was an obvious plus as well, the element in “Something in the Air” that ultimately raised it to the status of classic, though it was also an element the band and producer Townsend seemed occasionally at sea over how to use most effectively. 

I mention Townsend because it was completely under his auspices that Thunderclap Newman became an active concern. Keen had been his chauffeur, he’d known Newman from art school, and in their youthful guitarist he obviously recognized a crucial asset when he saw/heard it (post-breakup, McCulloch went on to play lead in Wings). But if Townsend was essentially enacting his desire to be a pop wunderkind along with a touch of the old reliable rock star philanthropy toward a few of his friends, the strokes to his ego didn’t negatively affect the music. 

The record opens with “Hollywood #1,” a fine bit of whimsical strum that pursues the titular theme of nostalgic celluloid fantasy, a motif that returns on the album’s second side. A strong opener, its lyrics also can’t avoid feeling a bit rushed, a common trait from a period where acts still routinely recorded two albums a year. But as driven home earlier, Thunderclap Newman only recorded one album in their entire career. I just came out a few short months after “Something in the Air” was an unexpected smash. 

And initially, Townsend had apparently envisioned three separate projects, one for each of Thunderclap’s members (did I say something about a wannabe wunderkind?) That needy arcade shark known as Tommy forced him to consolidate everything into one group, however. With this bit of lore in mind, it’s testament to the talents of the three principals (and yes, to Townsend’s acumen) that Hollywood Dream succeeds so highly rather than mucking up into a musical muddle. 

“Hollywood #1” detours at the two minute point into a showcase for Newman’s trendily old-hat pianistic skills, another recurring theme across the record. In this case it works quite well, adding to the filmic flashback idea and giving off the vibe of a romping score to a hypothetical saloon scene in an old silent western. As the album progresses though, this side of the band’s performance triangle can feel at moments somewhat grafted on. 

As time has marched forward this situation hasn’t exactly harmed Hollywood Dream; it has however dated the disc something fierce, but that’s not really a bad thing at all. Everything dates, eventually even stuff that’s ahead of its time, and in the case of Thunderclap Newman this datedness pleasantly expands upon an era where it was considered perfectly sensible to add a music hall inflected keyboard-knocker to the lineup of your band. Not only does his jittery piano break in “Something in the Air” effectively solidify the tune as so much more than just a passage of post-hippie ache, but his understated playing on “The Old Cornmill” shows he could wisely fall back and lead from behind. 

But the album has other treats in store. There’s McCulloch’s exceptional guitar solo on “Reason.” There’s a top-notch Dylan cover “Open the Door, Homer” that bookends very well on the opposite side of an era from Manfred Mann’s “The Mighty Quinn.” There’s the sweet run-through of late-Mod strutting that’s “Look Around,” with maybe Keen’s best turn at the drum seat. 

There’s the extended expansionist hoo-hah of “Accidents” (with a fantastic bass line from old Pete), easily the most far-out selection from a record that’s often over-emphasized as a product of the “psychedelic era.” There’s “When I Think” featuring some wiggly soprano sax from Newman, an ingredient tipping off that Hollywood Dream wasn’t really built with live touring in mind. 

And there’s the instrumental title track, which basically serves as a showcase for a diversity of instrumentation (lap steel, horns, percussion) and for Townsend’s production skills (did I say something about ego?) The original Track label LP ends with “Something in the Air;” a very smart move only enhanced by time. 

For my introduction to the group’s big single came through an import 2LP compilation titled Formula 30, a four sided doozy that in addition to the subject of this review also hipped my young mind to such major and not so easy to hear in the States circa the mid-‘80s cuts as The Spencer Davis Group’s “Keep On Running,” The Small Faces’ “Sha La La La Lee,” Ike & Tina’s “Nutbush City Limits,” The Stranglers’ “Golden Brown,” and best of all, Jeff Beck’s “Hi Ho Silver Lining.” 

But I digress. Back on point, roughly a decade went by before I located a copy of Hollywood Dream (I’ll confess that I wasn’t looking all that hard) and when I spun it the smartness of the track selection intensified the experience substantially. Upon dropping needle, everything was based on my knowledge of “Something in the Air.” The first side pushed me toward and pulled me away from that specific frame of reference and then gave me time for reflection. 

Side two did the same, but it also fleshed out that Thunderclap Newman had developed into something more than simply a One Hit Wonder; they were a worthwhile band that just happened to buckle under the weight of expectations after a single LP. And the side ends with the hit, reminding why the record was bought in the first place and bringing the whole process full circle. 

The Esoteric label issued a CD with an added half-dozen tracks back in 2009, but in doing so they screwed the pooch somewhat, moving “Something in the Air” into the opening spot. As if anyone buying the disc for the extra songs needed to be reminded of that particular tune’s existence. In so doing, the album’s penultimate cut “Hollywood #2,” basically a replay of (former) opener “Hollywood #1” was followed by the “Single Version” of their hit, morphing into a listening experience that’s overcome with a dubious symmetrical double (actually quadruple) whammy and the nagging reminder of their fleeting success. 

No, it’s not a mountainous problem. Reprogramming the tracks easily corrects it and just skipping over Track One returns things essentially to normal. But my recommendation for the curious is to hold out for a nice used copy of the LP (it’s been reissued numerous times) and then download or stream the extra stuff, the unsurprisingly kooky Andy Newman-penned “Wilhelmina” being the best of the lot. 

Or maybe some enterprising vinyl label will release it all as a gatefold double record set, the band’s three singles filling up an EP, with A-sides and B-sides on opposing ends of the wax. It would be a swell one-stop collection for a very interesting band, one that deserves better than to be continually dogged by their shortcomings……..BY JOSEPH NEFF …………………. 

How anyone will manage to remain a nasty narrow-minded jade in the presence of this unremittingly delightful album defies the imagination. 

There’s simply no exaggerating the pimply splendor or Speedy Keen’s lead voice, a reedy, breathless, disarmingly earnest affair that resides in the No-Voice’s-Land between little-boy soprano and grown-up falsetto. There’s simply no describing the charm of Andy Newman’s keyboard-tickling, which takes the form of a dazzling assortment of boogie-cum-piano-bar chops laid down with unerring clumsiness only in the least likely places (and there without accompaniment, as there’s apparently no keeping up with it). Nor could one exude excessively in behalf of wee Jimmy McCulloch’s precisely lyrical lead guitar. 

Put alternatively, nothing in Thunderclap’s music has anything much to do with anything else in Thunderclap’s music, the result being that Thunderclap’s is at once unexaggerably bizarre and a mightily refreshing rock and roll sound. That sound couldn’t in a month of Halloweens be better suited to Speedy’s imbecilically catchy little songs, which abound with surreal, nostalgic, surreally nostalgic, and other wonderful lyric sentiments. 

Try on for size “Wild Country,” in which he glorifies the great outdoors because, simply, it’s such a nice place to ball in. Try on both the modest and colossal (the latter featuring all manner of domestic and exotic percussion) takes of “Hollywood,” an eminently hummable little ditty in which Speedy laments the passing of bigger-than-life film-stars who used to make him sick, and a very McCartney-ish instrumental exploration of this theme, “Hollywood Dream.” And the delightfully-dated “Accidents,” which here bends the mind with its late 1966 psychedelic ambiguity for nearly ten minutes and contains dazzling piano and kazoo freak-outs by Andy. And, of course, “Something In The Air,” which you’ll find as emphatic a knock-out on 600th hearing as it was on first. “Pass out the arms and ammo….”: have you ever encountered a TV revolutionary line that can match that for sheer charm? 
To top it all off, they’re the oddest-looking bunch you’ve ever laid eyes upon. Newman, with slicked-back, receding hair, a corncob pipe, and the face of a 40-year-old mailman (in actual fact he’s a former mailman who used to attend art college with Pete Townshend) is so straight he’s surreal, while Speedy’s your workaday big-nosed English longhair. And McCulloch is that archetypal moddie, a tiny teen with an adorable toothy smile who a casual groupie of my acquaintance has informed me will find long lines of takers should he ever venture onto the stage of the Whisky A-Go-Go. 

- John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone, 10/15/70……………. 

Drums: Speedy Keen, a Cockney who writes and sings a very creaky lead. Guitar: Jimmy McColluch, who is sixteen and looks thirteen. Piano, surname, and miscellaneous: Andy Newman, who is in his late twenties and looks in his early forties, and who didn’t want to join because it meant giving up his pension at the post office. Message of hit single: “the revolution’s here.” Producer and miscellaneous: Peter Townshend. Is this your idea of fun, Peter? Is this your idea of art? What ever happened to Arthur Brown, anyway? And will you pay the man his pension? B- 

- Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Record Guide, 1981. …………………… 

This quartet was one of the stranger yet more satisfying one-shot wonders of the early 70s. In a loose union, Pete Townshend gathered Who friend Speedy Keen, a teenage Jimmy McCulloch and postal clerk Andy Newman to make one album, Hollywood Dream. The album contains the previously released single “Something in the Air,” a sweet call for togetherness that was most recently covered by Tom Petty. The band was worlds away from Townshend’s guitar-smashing fury in the Who, and it dissolved quickly. Keen released a couple of solo albums, while McCulloch went on to play in Wings before OD'ing in 1979. * * * * 

- Allan Orski, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996. ……………. 

There were many people trying to make that perfect record during the middle 60’s and early 70’s, everyone from Bob Dylan with Blonde On Blonde, to The Beatles with Sgt. Pepper, and of course The Beach Boys [Brian Wilson] with Pet Sounds, and Smile. But the one that flew in through the window, riding on the amazing single, “Something In The Air,” was Thunderclap Newman, and their unmistakable, dynamic, Hollywood Dream … an album like we’d never heard before, and probably never will again. 

This album did more than just wither on the vine, in America, one of the finest albums of the psychedelic generation, produced by Pete Townshend, never charted higher than number 161, while in England you’d have trouble finding people who’d even heard of the band. The genius of this band is inescapable, filling track after tack with perfect vocal harmonies, and guitar solos that drive you to play along. 

This album was one of the few that was packed with my gear as I made my way to Vietnam, and compared to everything else that was being played at the time, Hollywood Dream stood in stark contradiction to the darker, heavier music of the times. Thunderclap Newman may have been a one hit wonder, but what an amazing album it was. I couldn’t believe that when I got home there wasn’t at least one follow up, though the talent was so amazing that those from other bands seemed to dismantle Thunderclap Newman, taking bits and pieces here and there … Jimmy McCullough went on to become the lead guitarist for Wings, a little band formed by Paul McCartney. And while we consider Paul McCartney, the original title was changed from Revolution so as not to be confused with The Beatles song of the same name. 

In places Thunderclap Newman had a jazzy, 1920’s honky tonk piano style, a theme the band seems to return to at different points to tie things together. But don’t go thinking this is some sort of light weight piece of material, because it’s anything but that. When the guitars start pealing the paint off your walls you’re in for a real treat, and the effects of Hollywood Dream on future groups like Supertramp are more than obvious. 

Discover Hollywood Dream and you’ve got yourself a friend for life. There have been several reissues, some with additional material, some with the 45 RPM single versions of the songs, and others with additional material that was never released … no matter which you get, you’re getting a perfect album, though I’d opt for the original; it’ll lay you out flat. 

”Life is just a game, fly a paper plane, there is no end, there is no end …”………by…..streetmouse …………. 

I must have been around ten years old when “Something In The Air” was first in the singles chart. Nearly fifty years later the memory of first hearing the track on the radio is still as vivid as ever. I can remember the DJ (possibly Tony Blackburn) proclaiming, “That was Thunderclap Newman with the new hit single Something In The Air” and I can remember thinking “Thunderclap? You can call your kid Thunderclap?” I kept my thoughts to myself but I recall looking at my Mum and pouting: “You could have chosen something as cool as Thunderclap and the best name you could come up with was Ian! Pathetic!!” 

Despite Andy “Thunderclap” Newman being the man behind the distinctive piano-based sound, Thunderclap Newman was the name of the band, a band founded by The Who’s Pete Townsend as a vehicle for that band’s roadie Speedy Keen. Hollywood Dream is their only album, an album so anonymous at the time of release it could very well have been placed in the witness protection program. Despite being heaped with critical praise and “Something In The Air” hitting the top of the charts, Hollywood Dream sank with all the finesse of a hippo diving from the high board. In later years the album underwent a popular re-evaluation but, all this time later, it’s perhaps understandable why the album failed to connect. 

The band’s heavy reliance on Newman’s keyboards creates a sparse, somewhat minimalistic effect which, rather than cutting edge, feels hollow and barren, and I find myself filling gaps with imaginary notes. The result is, even in the context of 1969-70, Hollywood Dream feels slightly antiquated. It’s a combination of The Kinks and Small Faces storytelling together with the faded beauty that was the Summer Of Love. 

By changing the running order of the original album, placing “Something In The Air” at the forefront of proceedings, it’s as if the producers of this reissue recognise the need to encourage people to stick with the whole enterprise. And Hollywood Dream is just about worth sticking with. Keen’s slight, reedy voice, Newman’s honky tonk piano, and Jimmy McCulloch’s (later Of Wings) classy guitar breaks make for an inventive brew. 

Besides “Something In The Air”, the sprawling “Accidents” with its morbid chronicle of children’s deaths, a retooling of Dylan’s “Open The Door, Homer”, “The Reason” and the numerical takes of “Hollywood” stand out. This remastered reissue also includes the single versions of “Something In The Air”, “The Reason” and “Accidents” together with their respective B-sides, all three of which are welcome additions. 

Perversely, if I’d picked up Hollywood Dream at the time of its release I would have been sorely disappointed. There’s nothing remotely as immediate as “Something In The Air”. Now I have a greater appreciation of the detailed arrangements and fertile, imaginative ideas at play. I’m still not completely sold but there’s almost something quaint about how old fashioned this now sounds……by………Grampus …………. 

A1 Hollywood 1 3:15 
A2 The Reason 3:50 
A3 Open The Door, Homer 3:00 
A4 Look Around 2:56 
A5 Accidents 9:40 
B1 Wild Country 4:15 
B2 When I Think 3:07 
B3 The Old Corn Mill 4:00 
B4 I Don’t Know 3:45 
B5 Hollywood Dream 3:05 
B6 Hollywood 2 2:53 
B7 Something In The Air 3:55 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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