Andy 'Thunderclap' Newman, despite providing the band with its name, was only a part of Thunderclap Newman. Speedy Keen and Jimmy McCulloch were the other two key members and sadly neither of them are still with us, so a Thunderclap Newman reunion won't happen - but that didn't stop a Thunderclap Newman from playing their first ever gig in a West London bar last night.
Andy Newman was in the band so it would take a very mean-spirited person to suggest that it wasn't really Thunderclap Newman and a small and old and enthusiastic crowd seemed happy to accept that what they were seeing was out of the ordinary. The 2007 version of Thunderclap Newman is a six piece which includes a close friend of mine, Steve, on guitar. If it wasn't for him I'm pretty certain that the gig would have passed me by.
The band played two sets with selections from the only real Thunderclap Newman album, Hollywood Dream. Andy chipped in with funny little insights between songs and the rest of the band chunked through the performance, in my opinion with a little too much "rock" and not enough care or subtlety. The guitar solo in (almost) every song was a bit tiresome and the drums seemed a little overwhelming for a what was such a small venue. But when things worked it was fun and interesting - and things mostly worked when Andy Newman's contribution was more prominent, whether it was his bar-room piano playing or the variety of wind instruments that he pulled out to add a little more depth to the proceedings.
Of course they finished with Something in the Air - they couldn't really have finished with anything else...and then they did part of it again as an almost encore...and then it was over. I'm glad I took the time to go - it was nice seeing Steve again and Andy Newman is an engaging and likeable front man and things may work better if he was a bit more prominent...but I get the feeling that a front man is not what he wants to be so maybe it was good enough just to see him on a stage.
But for all that, for the occasional smile it solicited and for an audience brimming with character and charm it felt little more than a pub rock performance by an old and not quite ready pub rock band...
**What Thunderclap Newman means to me...**
Of course everyone knows Something in the Air - but being a one-hit-wonder generally means that the only real connection you have with the band is via that one hit. For me, however, there were a couple of other things that linked from my record collection (and my past) to Thunderclap Newman...
1. Speedy Keen was the producer of Motörhead's first album Motörhead
2. Jimmy McCulloch was in the Venus and Mars era version of Wings
Sadly I never took my camera along so no pictures or video clips from me (although there were plenty of cameras in attendance) so instead this'll have to do and you'll have to imagine Andy is 38 years older...