Something in the Air

Thunderclap Newman were formed by The Who’s Pete Townshend and producer Kit Lambert.  Pete Townshend produced the #1 single ‘Something in the Air’, and he plays bass on this song.  The Who sold millions of albums, they had videos in wall-to-wall rotation, sold out football stadiums across the globe, won Grammys and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they never had a #1 single.  The group was put together to showcase the talents of John “Speedy” Keen, Jimmy McCulloch, and Andy “Thunderclap” Newman.  Guitarist, Jimmy McCulloch, was only fifteen when they recorded this chart-topper, making him one of the youngest musicians to have a #1 hit.  He left to join Wings in 1974, and spent 3 years with Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles band, before he quit citing ongoing arguments over wages.  Little more than two years later, McCulloch died of heart failure brought on by morphine and alcohol poisoning at the age of 26.

Pete Townshend recruited the 15-year-old Scottish prodigy to play guitar in new English band Thunderclap Newman, that was named for jazz pianist Andy “Thunderclap” Newman, a friend of Townshend’s from art school.  The trio was completed by former Who roadie John “Speedy” Keen, who wrote the songs, played drums and sang lead.  Townshend was credited as “Bijou Drains” on their debut single, ‘Something in the Air’, which went straight to No. 1 in the British summer of 1969 and stayed there for three weeks.

No one was more surprised by the band’s sudden success than its own members, who had not even considered promoting the single with live performances.  The song includes an elaborate string arrangement and McCulloch provides multiple guitar parts, which proved difficult to reproduce live, but they augmented a lineup for a two-month tour.  ‘Something in the Air’ calls for unity, revolution, armed insurrection, because it is the right thing to do.  Newman played a brilliant memorable lengthy barrelhouse piano solo in its midsection, but this group became a one-hit wonder.

The song took on a life of its own, appearing on the soundtracks of several films, from The Magic Christian in 1969 the film that helped launch Badfinger to stardom and 2000’s Almost Famous and The Dish.  Townshend and Newman became friends in art college.  Drummer/singer/songwriter John King was a member of the Who’s road crew, and he wrote ‘Armenia City in the Sky’ on the 1967 album The Who Sell Out.  They broke up in 1971, Keen passed away in 2002 from congestive heart failure.  Andy Newman died in 2016 of heart failure at the age of 56.

Call out the instigators
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here, and you know it’s right
And you know that it’s right
We have got to get it together
We have got to get it together now
Lock up the streets and houses
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here, and you know it’s right
And you know that it’s right
We have got to get it together
We have got to get it together now
Hand out the arms and ammo
We’re going to blast our way through here
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here, and you know it’s right
And you know that it’s right
We have got to get it together
We have got to get it together now

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie MM Music challenge (Fresh Air) Have Another Hit!

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