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Hollywood Dream
Thunderclap Newman

Track SD 8264
Released: September 1970
Chart Peak: #161
Weeks Charted: 10

How anyone will manage to remain a nasty narrow-minded jade in the presence of this unremittingly delightful album defies the imagination.

There's simply no exaggerating the pimply splendor or Speedy Keen's lead voice, a reedy, breathless, disarmingly earnest affair that resides in the No-Voice's-Land between little-boy soprano and grown-up falsetto. There's simply no describing the charm of Andy Newman's keyboard-tickling, which takes the form of a dazzling assortment of boogie-cum-piano-bar chops laid down with unerring clumsiness only in the least likely places (and there without accompaniment, as there's apparently no keeping up with it). Nor could one exude excessively in behalf of wee Jimmy McCulloch's precisely lyrical lead guitar.

Put alternatively, nothing in Thunderclap's music has anything much to do with anything else in Thunderclap's music, the result being that Thunderclap's is at once unexaggerably bizarre and a mightily refreshing rock and roll sound. That sound couldn't in a month of Halloweens be better suited to Speedy's imbecilically catchy little songs, which abound with surreal, nostalgic, surreally nostalgic, and other wonderful lyric sentiments.

Try on for size "Wild Country," in which he glorifies the great outdoors because, simply, it's such a nice place to ball in. Try on both the modest and colossal (the latter featuring all manner of domestic and exotic percussion) takes of "Hollywood," an eminently hummable little ditty in which Speedy laments the passing of bigger-than-life film-stars who used to make him sick, and a very McCartney-ish instrumental exploration of this theme, "Hollywood Dream." And the delightfully-dated "Accidents," which here bends the mind with its late 1966 psychedelic ambiguity for nearly ten minutes and contains dazzling piano and kazoo freak-outs by Andy. And, of course, "Something In The Air," which you'll find as emphatic a knock-out on 600th hearing as it was on first. "Pass out the arms and ammo....": have you ever encountered a TV revolutionary line that can match that for sheer charm?

Further reading on
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Thunderclap Newman

Thunderclap Newman

To top it all off, they're the oddest-looking bunch you've ever laid eyes upon. Newman, with slicked-back, receding hair, a corncob pipe, and the face of a 40-year-old mailman (in actual fact he's a former mailman who used to attend art college with Pete Townshend) is so straight he's surreal, while Speedy's your workaday big-nosed English longhair. And McCulloch is that archetypal moddie, a tiny teen with an adorable toothy smile who a casual groupie of my acquaintance has informed me will find long lines of takers should he ever venture onto the stage of the Whisky A-Go-Go.

- John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone, 10/15/70.

Bonus Reviews!

Pete Townshend, leader of the Who, produced this one, and I think he produced it a bit too close to specifications. (I can envision a conversation that goes, "Thunderclap Newman sounds like the Who." "I give up, who?" "The Who," etc.) The group's guitar work, by Jimmy McCulloch, is excellent but sounds a lot like that of Pete Townshend, especially the acoustic stuff he did in the rock opera Tommy. Thunderclap's lead vocalist and songwriter, Speedy Keen, sounds a lot like Roger Daltrey of the Who and his songs seem deeply indebted to earlier work by Townsend.

"The Reason," "Accidents," "Wild Country," and "Something in the Air" could be identified as new lyrics fitted to pieces culled from Tommy and a lot of people would never question it. Many of Keen's songs sound something alike, too.

And yet Thunderclap escapes being an out-and-out carbon copy of the Who, because it has Andy Newman, instrumentalist de luxe, who plays a lot of non-Who instruments: soprano sax, oboe, tin whistle, glockenspiel, bass sax, kazoo, Bengali flute, etc. And usually he plays two or more on the same cut by means of overdubs -- three soprano saxes in harmony plus oboe plus piano on "Open the Door, Homer," for example. And I don't mind the similarity of the melodies, for the album has a theme to it, and they are fine melodies -- "Something in the Air" ("The revolution's here") is the outstanding piece.

I think that if Thunderclap Newman can build on Andy's versatility and establish its own identity without become bizarre it will be allright.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 3/71.

Drums: Speedy Keen, a Cockney who writes and sings a very creaky lead. Guitar: Jimmy McColluch, who is sixteen and looks thirteen. Piano, surname, and miscellaneous: Andy Newman, who is in his late twenties and looks in his early forties, and who didn't want to join because it meant giving up his pension at the post office. Message of hit single: "the revolution's here." Producer and miscellaneous: Peter Townshend. Is this your idea of fun, Peter? Is this your idea of art? What ever happened to Arthur Brown, anyway? And will you pay the man his pension? B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

This quartet was one of the stranger yet more satisfying one-shot wonders of the early 70s. In a loose union, Pete Townshend gathered Who friend Speedy Keen, a teenage Jimmy McCulloch and postal clerk Andy Newman to make one album, Hollywood Dream. The album contains the previously released single "Something in the Air," a sweet call for togetherness that was most recently covered by Tom Petty. The band was worlds away from Townshend's guitar-smashing fury in the Who, and it dissolved quickly. Keen released a couple of solo albums, while McCulloch went on to play in Wings before OD'ing in 1979. * * * *

- Allan Orski, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

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