There are so many of us out there who are now taking this moment to be eternally grateful to Pete Townshend for getting the band together and made the one and only album (Hollywood Dream) from Thunderclap Newman. He helped create what grew to become a cult music classic from its birth in 1969. Townshend produced and played bass on the album. But he did so much more. He allowed a quintessential English sensibility to permeate throughout the entire Hollywood Dream album. To my ears, it was never watered down in any shape or form to be made more accessible to the American market.
And with that English flair hanging over the proceedings, I was able to envision the eccentricities in a microcosm through that piano solo during the middle of “Something In The Air”. And as the years went on and I was able to view old footage of the band performing that song for the BBC, it was confirmed to me that I was seeing the genuine article while seeing Newman and being able to accurately draw his specific place in the band. Alas, he was the older guy playing the piano.
I am mournful of the fact that the song “Something In The Air” had the misfortune of coming out in the same year as “Gimme Shelter” from The Rolling Stones. As far as a song helping to define the late ’60s period, it could have been king. And yet, it had its own staying power in spite of the incredible number of classics which were released during the course of that year. It always makes me think about how the period of 1968 and 1969 became one where a lot of people split off and made their own choices. Some stayed to fight the good fight while knowing that there was the reality that there were no promises made and no promises kept by this point of the decade. The disillusion had firmly set in by then. Within that group of people, some started up and kept growing what would become the environmental movement and the seeds of the Women’s Liberation movement. The second group of people hit and run over by disillusion broke off and became much more introspective with their lives. “Something In The Air” was for those in the former group. The song encouraged people to take things into their own hands. It was optimism with a harder and more realistic edge. At that point, people were generally still kind to each other. But there was an individual and collective sense that the optimism was to help keep people to stay in the game rather than the optimism itself being the all-encompassing be-all end-all.
As the ’70s came and kept going on, this song gathered up steam and kept being played on FM stations. Those early movements became primary movements and served as a reminder to keep carrying on. The revolution was already there-whether we wanted it there or not. We had to keep carrying on within the framework of whatever conditions were thrown our way and continue to be thrown our way to this very day.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that we now no longer have Andy, Speedy and Denny in our lives. There’s a finality to this that is very hard to swallow. And this is only from a band that made a single album.