March 29, 2016: Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman Dies

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Andy Newman (center) on the “Something in the Air” picture sleeve

Pete Townshend protégé Andy “Thunderclap” Newman, pianist in the classic rock threesome that bore his name, died March 29, 2016, at age 73. The news was shared on The Who’s Facebook page. The cause of death was not revealed.

Born Andrew Laurence Newman on November 21, 1942, he was a Dixieland jazz pianist who was put together at the suggestion of Who manager Kit Lambert with Who chauffeur, musician and songwriter John “Speedy” Keen and then 15-year-old guitarist Jimmy McCulloch to record Keen’s song “Something in the Air.” Townshend produced the single and played bass on it under the pseudonym Bijou Drains.

The single on The Who’s Track Records in 1969 was a #1 hit in the U.K for three weeks. Though it only reached #37 in the U.S., it became something of a counterculture anthem, and has continued to resonate over the years as a symbolic song of the late 1960s.

Watch a performance of the song

In 1994, Tom Petty included a version of it on his Greatest Hits album, and the song enjoyed another run on radio, reaching #19 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. A version is also included on Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ The Live Anthology.

The group Thunderclap Newman subsequently recorded the 1970 album Hollywood Dream, which included “Something in the Air.”  The threesome also enjoyed a performing career until they broke up on 1971. McCullough later became a member of Wings. He died in 1979 at just 26 years of age.

Keen also wrote “Armenia City in the Sky,” which The Who recorded on The Who Sell Out. He later produced Motorhead’s self-titled album. Keen died in 2002.

Related: 2016 classic rock deaths

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3 Comments so far

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  1. Rico41
    #1 Rico41 30 March, 2018, 09:06

    Nothing on Mike Harrison’s death on March 25?

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    • Jeff Tamarkin
      Jeff Tamarkin 30 March, 2018, 11:09

      We haven’t seen any legitimate conformation of this, only a couple of reports from dicey sites without any details. No one from Spooky Tooth or a credible news source has confirmed that he died. If and when it’s confirmed we will of course publish an obit.

      Reply this comment
  2. Jarmo Keranen
    #2 Jarmo Keranen 29 March, 2024, 10:10

    Everyone should listen to their album Hollywood Dream, which was released in 1970. It’s one of those classic albums that no ever mentions. It’s unbelievable how fantastic guitarist Jimmy McCullough was as a teenager. Jimmy was short time also a member of Stone The Crows before he joined Wings.

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