Something in the Air
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|"Something in the Air"|
|Single by Thunderclap Newman|
|from the album Hollywood Dream|
|Label||Track Records 604031|
|Thunderclap Newman singles chronology|
|"Something in the Air"|
|Single by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers|
|from the album Greatest Hits|
|Released||January 31, 1994|
|Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers singles chronology|
"Something in the Air" is a song recorded by Thunderclap Newman, written by Speedy Keen who also sang the song. It was a number 1 single for three weeks in the UK Singles Chart in July 1969. 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. Townshend recruited jazz pianist Andy 'Thunderclap' Newman (a friend from art college), and 15-year-old Glaswegian guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, who subsequently played lead guitar in Paul McCartney's Wings from 1974 to 1977 and died, under mysterious circumstances, of a heroin overdose on 27 September 1979 at the age of 26. Keen originally played the drums but because he also sang lead vocals he was replaced on drums. He played rhythm guitar so that he could front the band.
Townshend produced the single, arranged the strings, and played bass under the pseudonym Bijou Drains. 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. 44 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'.
- Speedy Keen - double-tracked lead vocal, drums
- Jimmy McCulloch - lead and rhythm guitars
- Pete Townshend - bass guitar (credited to "Bijou Drains"), orchestral arrangement
- Andy Newman - piano, lead vocals on "Wilhelmina"
The song has been covered by a number of artists including: The Mandrake Memorial in 1969; Labelle in 1973; Herbie Mann in 1974; Simon Park in 1974; Gamma in 1980; Eurythmics in 1985; Fish in 1991; The Lightning Seeds and Trip Shakespeare in 1992; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1993; the U.K. Subs in 2000; The Superjesus in 2001; Elbow and Wellwater Conspiracy in 2003, Hayley Sanderson in 2006. and Donald Fagen with the Dukes of September and Polyphonic Spree live in 2010; Velvet Truckstop live at the Warren Haynes 25th Annual Christmas Jam in Asheville, North Carolina, United States, in 2013.
Chart performance (Thunderclap Newman version)
|Dutch Singles Chart||9|
|UK Singles Chart||1|
|US Billboard Hot 100 Chart||37|
Chart performance (Tom Petty version)
|U.S. Billboard Album Rock Tracks||19|
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||26|
|UK Singles Chart||53|
Usage in film soundtracks
"Something in the Air" by Thunderclap Newman appeared on the soundtracks of several films, such as The Magic Christian (1969) and The Strawberry Statement (1970) (which helped the single reach No. 37 in the United States) and later 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.
"Something in the Air" features a short burst of La Marseillaise - the national anthem of France. The revolution reference in the songs 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.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 234. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- John Dougan, The Who sell out, page 98. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006, ISBN 0826417434. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- Kim Cooper, David Smay, Lost in the grooves, page 165. Routledge, 2005, ISBN 0415969980. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- Dave Spencer, A Smudge on My Lens, page 97. Troubador Publishing Ltd, 2008, ISBN 1906510784. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- "Velvet Truckstop - 12/14/2013 - Asheville, NC". PanicStream.com. 2013-12-17. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
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