273. ‘Something In the Air’, by Thunderclap Newman

The first number one of the post-Beatles era. One of those songs where you press play and go ah yes… I know this…

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Something in the Air, by Thunderclap Newman (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 2nd – 23rd July 1969

It was in an advert for something, I realise, midway through the first listen, and it is prefect background-music-for-an-advert. Light, floaty, chords forever heading upwards… A positive sounding song. The lyrics are forward-facing too – There’s something in the air – a change is a-coming. We have got to get it together, now… They are very sixties-ish lyrics. The revolution’s here… You know it’s right… They sound more like a bunch of slogans strung together than an actual song. A gentle clarion call for young, liberal types. Hippies, but with sensible shoes.

I called it the start of the post-Beatles era, but the Fab Four’s influence is here in this record. In my last post, I mentioned all the times that a Beatle will top the charts solo. I should also have mentioned all the acts that will top the charts by channelling The Beatles’ sound. And here one is – straight away.

Midway through, and I’m starting to get a bit bored. It’s fine, it’s nice, it’s a bit bland. Thank God, then, for the demented piano solo that comes along out of nowhere, all jazzy and jarring. Like someone doing the Charleston on acid. Why? I don’t know. But it saves this record from slipping into slightly dull and forgettable territory.

thecrazyworldofarthurbrownthunderclapnewman-firesomethingintheair

Normal service is resumed for the final verse, as the revolutionary fervour is upped. Hand out the arms and ammo, We’re gonna blast our way through here… It’s a deceptively angry song. I just wish it had a little more oomph to it. (In keeping with the theme of ‘revolution’, the song apparently has a snippet of ‘La Marseillaise’ towards the end, though I can’t hear it.)

And, after a bit of research, I can confirm that ‘Something in the Air’ has been used to advertise British Airways, Austin Minis, Coca-Cola and mobile phones. It’s clearly a song that lends itself well to advertisements – make up your own mind as to whether or not this is a good thing.

Thunderclap Newman, which is a great name for a band to be fair, were the brain-child of The Who’s Pete Townshend, and he actually plays bass on this single, which is as close as a member of The Who is going to get to a #1 single, sadly. Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman was the man who pulled out the brilliant piano solo. Their guitarist, Jimmy McCulloch, was only fifteen when they recorded their sole chart-topper, making him a de facto member of the Youngest Chart-Toppers club. He would go on to join Wings. Which means that, in wrapping up the 1st post-Beatles chart-topper, I’ve managed to end with another Beatles reference. There really is no escaping them…

12 thoughts on “273. ‘Something In the Air’, by Thunderclap Newman

  1. One of my favorite late sixties songs. One thing is for certain…Britain owned the sixties…yea America had Dylan, Beach Boys and a few more but yea… nothing compares to London in the sixties.

      • You know…I would say a tie… with the Eagles…though I don’t like the Eagles much…Fleetwood Mac…both countries get credit for them in the 70s lol…but you still have the 3 big ones…Zep, Who, and Stones.
        But…your countdown is going to tell us!

  2. 3rd single I ever bought, an emotional masterpiece for me as a kid, a positive message about the world changing for better, the big ending still gives me goosebumps 🙂 If anything it would need to be played ironically these days along with footage showing it didn’t change for the better except in social improvements for human beings in developed countries and useful inventions (at least those that can’t be used to make things worse).

  3. I’m afraid I always found this intensely dull and sometimes annoying, even when it came out. It just didn’t fit in with anything really. (Not that it needed to, but when you’re in a particular mood, things can get in the way if they’re too different.) Some of it is rather Beatles-esque (reminds me of yellow submarine in places) but I think it was the wrong year to release it. I would have fitted in better circa 1965-66, I think.

    Also it was one of those songs that got played to death and could be heard everywhere including places you didn’t want to hear it!

    Oh and definitely not hippies… possibly wannabe ones…

    • Hmmm. I don’t hate it, but some people love love love it… and I can’t see it myself. If this had been a hit in the summer of ’67 then it would make sense. Definitely two years too late.

  4. Pingback: Recap: #271 – #300 – The UK Number Ones Blog

  5. Certainly no escaping The Fabs for quite a while yet I’d guess. I wonder when the first Top 20 will be that DOESN’T have a Beatles link, however tenuous?

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