Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thunderclap Newman - Hollywood Dream (1970)

The Who's Pete Townshend put together this group as a studio outfit in the late sixties.  Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch was just a sixteen at the time, 'Speedy' Keen was an untried songwriter from the Ealing/Perivale area of London who'd previously been in pre-July act The Tomcats in 1965, as drummer and Andy 'Thunderclap' Newman was a plump ex-post office engineer.  The last thing they represented was a slick rock group, but their debut 45, Something In The Air, written by Keen, remains an all-time classic, a wonderfully atmospheric song which superbly captured the changing mood of the late sixties and simply boiled over with optimism.  When it rapidly climbed to No.1, Avery and McCulloch's younger brother Jack were rapidly added to the line-up for touring purposes, but after one minor hit with Accidents, further commercial success eluded them and they broke up in mid-1970. Their Hollywood Dream album has become a minor collector's item, but is largely disappointing in comparison to the magic of Something In The Air.  It has some good moments: Hollywood #1 has some good honky tonk piano playing; The Reason is certainly one of 'Speedy' Keen's stronger compositions and features a good vocal performance by him and more good piano from Andy Newman; Jimmy McCulloch's instrumental title track is a pleasant little ditty and Wild Country is worth a listen.

John "Speedy" Keene was an old crony of the Who, and had written "Armenia City in the Sky," which appeared on The Who Sell Out LP. The unlikely Andy Newman played terrific pub-style piano and looked much like a postal clerk, which in fact, he was. Jimmy McCullough, the guitarist, looked to be a mere teenager, and so he was. It was this combination, plus the production efforts of Pete Townshend, that offered the album, Hollywood Dream.
 As the now-classic single, "Something in the Air" had long preceded it, the album delivered the goods in a similar fashion, fueled by Keene's reedy vocals and Newman's charming honky-tonk piano. Hollywood Dream has remained an anglophile fave; sadly, it was to be Thunderclap Newman's only album. Even if you own the original LP, make sure to check out the recently expanded edition of the compact disc.


John 'Speedy' Keene - Guitar, Vocals, Drums
Jimmy McCulloch - Guitar
Andy 'Thunderclap' Newman - Keyboards
Jim Avery - Bass
Jack McCulloch - Drums

All these years, and all these accolades later, it still seems incredible that Hollywood Dreammeant 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 Whorecord. 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.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...