A Rockapaedia Obituary
Band: Thunderclap Newman
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Andy “Thunderclap” Newman died aged seventy-three on 29th March 2016 and was survived by his brother, Robin.
Andy Newman was born on 21st November 1942. Primarily a keyboard player with an idiosyncratic approach, schoolfriends nicknamed him Thunderclap in recognition of his playing technique. Andy was born in Isleworth, Middlesex,U.K. and grew up in Hounslow. His father, Charles, was originally from Birmingham, but moved south to take a student gardeners’ course at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and later became a park superintendent. His wife, Alice, worked at the ministry of pensions.
Andy’s first musical efforts were on his great-grandmother’s old wooden-framed piano, later replaced by an iron-framed upright model. His father would play Victorian ballads and short classical pieces, but Andy’s tastes inclined towards New Orleans jazz and dance bands from the 1920s and 1930s. After leaving Bulstrode secondary school he joined the General Post Office as a trainee engineer.
The band that would become Thunderclap Newman was formed in late 1968 at the instigation of the Who’s Pete Townshend, and comprised Andy Newman alongside a drummer and vocalist, John “Speedy” Keen, and a guitarist, Jimmy McCulloch, later of Wings. The musicians had previously collaborated on soundtrack music for a film being made by a friend of Townshend, though this material was never used.
During recording sessions at IBC Studios in Portland Place, central London, around Christmas in 1968, with Pete Townshend producing and playing the bass under the pseudonym Bijou Drains, they recorded basic tracks for Something in the Air. At the time, Andy Newman was a telephone engineer for the General Post Office, but subsequently quit to be in the group.
Something in the Air was released as a single in May 1969. A gently euphoric anthem to the prevailing mood of social and political change, it became a vehicle for Andy's’s jazzy piano solo, a mix of honky-tonk and boogie-woogie styles with rhythmic shifts. The song rose to the top of the UK charts and stayed there for three weeks.
Thunderclap Newman with bass player Jim Pitman-Avory and Jimmy McCulloch’s elder brother, Jack, on drums supported Deep Purple on a 1969 British tour. However, a second single, Accidents, did not appear until May 1970 and barely made the UK Top 50. The group’s sole album, Hollywood Dream, was released in October 1970. It reached No 163 in the US and made no impression at all in Britain, though is now considered by some to be a classic. In 1971 they supported Deep Purple again on British and Scandinavian tours, but broke up in April that year.
Apart from a 1971 solo album, Rainbow, Andy Newman was musically dormant and worked as an electrician, until he put together a new version of Thunderclap Newman in 2010 featuring Pete Townshend’s nephew Josh and Big Country’s drummer Mark Brzezicki. They recorded the album Beyond Hollywood and played live shows, including an appearance at the 2012 Isle of Wight festival.
The bass player Tony Stubbings became a close friend of Andy and was known to say that Andy always wore brown boots and a green army jumper, even when he came to his wedding.
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song: 'Something In the Air' Thunderclap Newman