Something in the Air

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"Something in the Air"
Single by Thunderclap Newman
from the album Hollywood Dream
ReleasedMay 1969 (1969-05)
Format7-inch single
Producer(s)Pete Townshend
Thunderclap Newman singles chronology
"Something in the Air"

"Something in the Air" is a song recorded by Thunderclap Newman, written by Speedy Keen who also sang the song. It was a No. 1 single for three weeks in the UK Singles Chart in July 1969.[1] The song has been used for films, television and adverts, and has been covered by several artists. The track was also included on Thunderclap Newman's only album release Hollywood Dream over a year later.


In 1969, Pete Townshend, The Who's guitarist, was the catalyst behind the formation of the band. The concept was to create a band to perform songs written by drummer and singer Speedy Keen, who had written "Armenia City in the Sky", the first track on The Who Sell Out.[2] Townshend recruited jazz pianist Andy "Thunderclap" Newman (a friend from art college),[3] and 15-year-old Glaswegian guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, who subsequently played lead guitar in Paul McCartney's Wings from 1974 to 1977 and died of a heroin overdose in 1979 aged 26.[4] Keen played the drums and sang the lead.


Townshend produced the single,[5] arranged the strings, and played bass under the pseudonym Bijou Drains[6]. Originally titled Revolution but later renamed to avoid confusion with the Beatles' 1968 song of that name, "Something in the Air" captured post-flower power rebellion, marrying McCulloch's sweeping acoustic and glowing electric guitars, Keen's powerful drumming and yearning falsetto, and Newman's felicitous piano solo.

The song, beginning in E major, has three key changes, its second verse climbing to F-sharp major, and, via a roundabout transition, goes down to C major for Newman's barrelhouse piano solo. Following this, the last verse is, like the second, a tone above the previous verse, closing the song in A-flat major.


The single reached No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart just three weeks after release, holding off Elvis Presley in the process. The scale of the song's success surprised everyone and there were no plans to promote Thunderclap Newman with live performances. Eventually a line-up - augmented by Jim Pitman-Avory on bass and McCulloch's elder brother Jack on drums - played a handful of gigs. Personal records say the band played live only five times, although Keen referred to a two-month tour, playing "everywhere". In the UK, a follow-up single, "Accidents", came out only in May 1970 and charted at No. 46 for a week. An album, Hollywood Dream, peaked in Billboard at No. 163. Thus, the song and the band were forever linked as a one hit wonder. Labelle recorded an emotional cover of it alongside "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by Gil Scott-Heron for their 1973 album, Pressure Cookin'.


Chart performance (Thunderclap Newman version)[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
Germany (Official German Charts)[7] 13
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[8] 9
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[9] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[10] 37

Appearance in other media[edit]

"Something in the Air" by Thunderclap Newman appeared on the soundtracks of several films, such as The Magic Christian (1969), which helped the single reach No. 37 in the United States, and The Strawberry Statement (1970), which prompted a reissue of the single that "bubbled under" the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 120. It later appeared in Kingpin (1996), Almost Famous (2000), The Dish (2000), and The Girl Next Door (2004). It also appeared on and was the title of the second disc in the Deluxe Edition of the Easy Rider soundtrack.

"Something in the Air" has been used extensively in television, most notably on an advertisement for British Airways which featured PJ O'Rourke. The song also appeared in a retro TV advert for the Austin Mini in the early 1990s, featuring 1960s fashion model Twiggy. More recently, a version of the song was used in the advertisements for the mobile phone service provider TalkTalk. (A similar advert for TalkTalk shown at the beginning of advert breaks during Big Brother features the opening bars). The song was featured in a number of episodes of 1960s-set UK police series Heartbeat. It is also used as the 'on hold' music for The Carphone Warehouse, of which Talk Talk is a part. The song was also featured in the pilot episode of the American television show Aliens in America and in the third-season episode Bad Earl of My Name Is Earl. A version of the song recorded by Ocean Colour Scene was previously used by telephone provider Ionica. In 2008, this song appeared in a Coca-Cola commercial in Taiwan. It was also recently used in an episode of Prime Suspect 1973.

Musical quotation[edit]

"Something in the Air" features a short burst of La Marseillaise - the national anthem of France. The revolution reference in the song's lyrics has subtly been hinted at in the synthesised brass arrangement from 3'30". La Marseillaise also features in the 1812 Overture by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and in the opening of the Beatles' 1967 single All You Need Is Love.


"Something in the Air"
Something in the air tom petty.jpg
Single by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
from the album Greatest Hits
ReleasedJanuary 31, 1994
Producer(s)Rick Rubin
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers singles chronology
"Mary Jane's Last Dance"
"Something in the Air"
"You Don't Know How It Feels"

The song has been covered by a number of artists, including:

Tom Petty's version[edit]

Chart (1994) Peak
Canadian RPM Top Singles 26
UK Singles Chart 53
U.S. Billboard Album Rock Tracks 19


  1. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 234. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  2. ^ John Dougan, The Who sell out. Continuum International Publishing Group. 2006. p. 98. ISBN 0826417434. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  3. ^ Kim Cooper, David Smay, Lost in the grooves. Routledge. 2005. p. 165. ISBN 0415969980. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  4. ^ Jeremy Simmonds, The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars. Chicago Review Press. 2008. p. 124. ISBN 1556527543. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  5. ^ Dave Spencer, A Smudge on My Lens, page 97. Troubador Publishing Ltd. 2008. ISBN 1906510784. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  6. ^ Townshend, Pete (November 16, 2019). "Liz Kershaw, BBC 6music" (Interview). Interviewed by Liz Kershaw. BBC Radio.
  7. ^ " – Thunderclap Newman Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  8. ^ " – Thunderclap Newman – Something in the Air" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  9. ^ "Thunderclap Newman: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  10. ^ "Thunderclap Newman Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.