Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 623 Thunderclap Newman

'Of all the sixties' testimonies to the need for immediate social revolution Something in the Air is by far the most elegantly atmospheric. Pete Townshend constructed it around Andy thunderclap Newman, a piano playing, train-spotting eccentric he'd idolized since art school: Speedy Keen, a drummer and former roommate who'd written the Who's Armenia City in the Sky one of the few rock fantasies as winningly utopian as Something in the Air; teenage guitarist Jimmy McCulloch who went on to a key role in Paul McCartney's Wings but overdosed young; and Bijou Drains, a bassist with a giant beak, pipestem legs and unorthodox windmill playing style.

Few rock records so effectively combine majestic orchestration and a hard beat, and although to a degree the parts feel pasted together, the project's anticipatory innocence captures the atmosphere of imminence that suffused the late sixties, when the culture and political order could be felt wobbling every hour. Of course we should all have known that combining 'Hand out the arms and ammo' with the horn line from The Lonely Surfer was no model for successful insurrection. But we didn't, and even so many years on the wrong edge of that dilapidated possibility, it's often a pleasure to hear someone warn so sweetly and confidently that ' the revolution's near / and you know that it's right.'

Although I guess what lingers longest is what follows: 'We have got to get it together / We have got to get it together now.'

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