It’s Too Bad I Can’t Be a Hippie

I don’t listen to any real hippie music, but I’ve been enjoying Tom Petty’s cover of “Something In the Air” lately. It must be nice to look forward to revolution. On the other hand, I think I know some right-wingers who can relate to the lyrics “hand out the arms and ammo / we’re gonna blast our way through here.”


5 thoughts on “It’s Too Bad I Can’t Be a Hippie

  1. Tim October 2, 2006 / 7:04 am

    Tom Petty’s “Rebels” sounds a bit neo-confederate to me.

    And apparently, at least according to this site, Tom thinks George W Bush is heading for a hot place.

    “The war in Iraq is shameful. Whether you’re pro or con Bush, you’ve got to admit it: The guy lied. And he continues to do so. I can’t understand why he’s just not run out on a rail. To send somebody’s kids off and have them killed for no good reason– he’s going to have his day in hell for that. I wouldn’t want that karma. When you kill somebody’s little sister with a missile, he’s going to hate you forever. And the next generation will hate you even more.”

  2. Scott Lahti October 2, 2006 / 4:30 pm

    Petty’s version does earn honorable mention, but the original by Thunderclap Newman is the How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World of rock singles, and still infuses the crusty Son of Albert Jay Nock within me with unaccustomed, exalted humanist hope (it even appears in a current commercial on cable for DirecTV). The group’s one-off album has been called a “lost classic”; here’s how I saluted it just over a year ago on my late blog

    Thunderclap Newman : Hollywood Dream (1969)

    (original LP cover art at ).

    Pete Townshend’s onetime chauffeur Speedy Keen’s [*Requiescat in pace*] utopian call to arms “Something in the Air”, my personal anthem still sixteen years on, is among the most majestic singles in rock history – it’s like watching a brilliant sun rise in grandeur over the horizon just beyond receding storm clouds; I still get misty-eyed and goosefleshed. The rest of this reissue is as essential in its way, from plaintive valentine (“When I Think”) to rustic wistful (“Wild Country”) – to Germanophile-nursery rhyme (“Wilhelmina”)! Keen’s America-meets-The-Beach-Boys soprano is a revelation; 16-year-old guitarist Jimmy McCulloch [*Requiescat in pace*], later of Wings, looked like he had yet to sprout whiskers but played far beyond his years. And bearded hornrimmed piano man Andy Newman, who looked like your *slightly* bohemian uncle of a 1950s stripe brought an accent of honkytonk/barrelhouse whimsy into this odd pantomime-horse of a one-shot wonder that leaves us still with dreams of The Greatness Wot Might Have Been. (“And you know it’s right/And you know that it’s right/We have got to get it together/We have got to get it together…now.”). Magic.

    And here’s Dave Thompson’s review from the AllMusicGuide:

    “All these years, and all these accolades later, it still seems incredible that Hollywood Dream meant nothing at the time of its release; that America let it drift no higher than Number 161; that the U.K. did not even give it a hearing. Less than a year before, after all, ‘Something in the Air’ was topping charts and readers’ polls alike, and Thunderclap Newman were as close as Christmas to becoming the new Beatles. Instead, they weren’t even the new Badfinger, and this exquisite LP withered on the vine. What a difference 20 years make. Reissued in 1991, Hollywood Dream had been utterly transformed by the admiration of so many subsequent listeners, to stand alongside any lost classic you could mention, among the finest albums of its psychedelic generation. ‘Something in the Air,’ of course, has never lost its hold on our hearts, but there was so much more to Thunderclap Newman and, across the 12-track original album, and half-a-dozen bonus tracks, the trio’s genius is inescapable. For those ‘in the know,’ who had treasured their scratchy old Atlantic label vinyl, the real meat lay in the latter, as all three of Thunderclap Newman’s original 45’s joined their album brethren, together with their non-LP B-sides. ‘Something in the Air,’ fussed up for the LP, reverts to its original emphatic punch; ‘Accidents’ is pruned from a shade under ten minutes to a little over three; and the piping ‘The Reason’ (an odd choice for a single in the first place) sounds like a role model for every record Supertramp ever made. The real gem, however, is ‘Wilhemina,’ which sounds like a daft piece of rhyming doggerel set to a nursery tune, but also packs one of the most dramatic psych guitar solos this side of your favorite Who record. Producer Pete Townshend must have been astonished. As will you be, too, if all you’ve ever heard is the hit. So many bands have been hauled out of obscurity to be tagged the greatest secret you’ve never been told. Thunderclap Newman are one of the few who actually deserve that epithet.”

    And here’s the original review from Rolling Stone:

    “How anyone will manage to remain a nasty narrow-minded jade in the presence of htis unremittingly delightful album defies the imagination.”

    “There’s simply no exaggerating the pimply splendor of Speedy Keen’s lead voice, a reedy, breathless, disarmingly earnest affair that resides in the No-Voice’s-Land between little-boy soprano and grown-up falsetto. There’s simply no describing the charm of Andy Newman’s keyboard-tickling, which takes the form of a dazzling assortment of boogie-cum-piano-bar chops laid down with unerring clumsiness only in the least likely places (and there without accompaniment, as there’s apparently no keeping up with it). Nor could one exude excessively in behalf of wee Jimmy McCulloch’s precisely lyrical lead guitar.”

    “Put alternatively, nothing in Thunderclap’s music has anything much to do with anything else in Thunderclap’s music, the result being that Thunderclap’s is at once unexaggerably bizarre and a mightily refreshing rock and roll sound. That sound couldn’t in a month of Halloweens be better suited to Speedy’s imbecilically catchy little songs, which abound with surreal, nostalgic, surreally nostalgic, and other wonderful lyric sentiments.”

    “Try on for size ‘Wild Country,’ in which he glorifies the great outdoors because, simply, it’s such a nice place to ball in. Try on both the modest and colossal (the latter featuring all manner of domestic and exotic percussion) takes of ‘Hollywood,’ an eminently hummable little ditty in which Speedy laments the passing of bigger-than-life film-stars who used to make him sick, and a very McCartney-ish instrumental exploration of this theme, ‘Hollywood Dream.’ And the delightfully-dated ‘Accidents,’ which here bends the mind with its late 1966 psychedelic ambiguity for nearly ten minutes and contains dazzling piano and kazoo freak-outs by Andy. And, of course, ‘Something In The Air,’ which you’ll find as emphatic a knock-out on 600th hearing as it was on first. ‘Pass out the arms and ammo….’: have you ever encountered a TV revolutionary line that can match that for sheer charm?”

    “To top it all off, they’re the oddest-looking bunch you’ve ever laid eyes upon. Newman, with slicked-back, receding hair, a corncob pipe, and the face of a 40-year-old mailman (in actual fact he’s a former mailman who used to attend art college with Pete Townshend) is so straight he’s surreal, while Speedy’s your workaday big-nosed English longhair. And McCulloch is that archetypal moddie, a tiny teen with an adorable toothy smile who a casual groupie of my acquaintance has informed me will find long lines of takers should he ever venture onto the stage of the Whisky A-Go-Go.”

    – John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone, 10/15/70.

  3. Tim October 3, 2006 / 2:14 pm

    Well there is a lot than can be said for Warren Zevon’s “Renegade”!

  4. tom petty tickets March 22, 2010 / 8:53 pm

    Such a great song and Tom Petty’s version is good. Funny you call it hippie music.

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