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Thunderclap Newman

Rock Stars...

Pete Goodall played guitar in Thunderclap Newman from 1970 -71, and performed with the Troggs from 1972-73. Thirty years later he's released an album in the guise of Thunderclap, largely co-written with Cream lyricist Pete Brown, and featuring the distinctive blues ravaged vocals of Zoot Money. I caught up with him to talk about the new album, a life in music, and some pointed questions about the branding!

I'll start off by saying I think the album "Pick 'n' Tell" is tremendous, but awkward question first. Isn't a bit cheeky branding it as Thunderclap and kicking it off with a cover of "Something In The Air!? After all, Thunderclap was piano man Andy Newman.

I was the band’s booker - at the time I worked out of the Trem’s agency Gale Managements in Lexington Street, which enabled me to get to any West End studio any time. The other booker was Mick Eve. We’ve been mates ever since and meet regularly to compare notes on who is slacking and who is really working hard! Track had the single of SITA moving and through the incestuous nature of the trade at the time the date sheet fell on my desk. I already had a good reputation for breaking in bands, and of course the Trems and Christie etc were big news in the industry generally.

Andy and the first scratch band set off in Andy’s ex Post Office telecom Morris JU van at 40mph (maximum speed). Reports quickly reached my ears that “Something Was Wrong”. Off I went to a gig - it was City University. Standing incognito I watched in horror as the band played kazoo and barrel-house awful versions of early jazz - Sweet Lorraine, Ace in the Hole, Mean to Me etc, as the audience fled to the bar. The set should have been SITA plus songs from Hollywood, the spliced together album! Good songs by Speedy but oh so badly arranged and played.

I called Andy the next day and invited him to a meeting at my place in Highgate. All respect for age cast aside I gave him the ultimatum - change the set to one the audience has paid to expect or I pull all dates. He refused to change and resigned on the spot. I was given no choice but to carry on with the gigs, and started playing in the band, covering the album and playing the single pretty much as the re-make. I’d also taken the precaution of registering the name, to protect Gale Managements and my own investment!.Andy was the loser but several good musicians enjoyed the fruits of the tour, and the credibility of the industry was saved.

When we came to record recently, those involved asked what names I owned - and of course having the Global Rights to the name (after full publication in all the right places) was an ideal vehicle!.we deleted “Newman” from the product out of some measure of goodwill to Andy - but Thunderclap remains.

That’s rock ‘n’ roll !.

Now, on to the good stuff - what did you get up to between leaving the Troggs and this album?

Like I said I was West End based, which made me available for anything. Apart from studio work I ran Percy Sledges’ all-American band apart from one White boy - me; a great privilege since black American musicians are really the Kings of non-classical music and like me can play anything - any style. I became musical director of the Playboy, working with the most amazing visiting US artistes, and worked constantly with the session squads I’d put together for many labels and independent production companies. In 1974 Kung Fu Fighting hit the world and that took principal players and myself to Midem, to receive the 1975 awards for biggest selling single.

We created the cellar in the Hope and Anchor - Tex Makins with his bare hands, supported by Viv Prince on bottles of cider !.and well - I‘ve my diaries going back to 1961.

One great gig was booking the Speakeasy and working closely with Laurie O’leary (bless him).

Working with the top black session musicians politicized me further - I‘d long realised from my early scouse days that we kids had savagely ripped off a culture and were being used by an unscrupulous business to feed black American music back to white America and the world through the London melting pot. After touring the US that was even clearer, so at the invitation of Steve Wayne a South African working for Blackhill enterprises I set off for Africa to put together a band of black South African musicians to take to the states.

This was in the heavy days of apartheid!.when I arrived in J’Burg I was introduced by a young Cyril Ramaphosa to the guys at Dorkay House the African arts center. They were all friends of Louis Moholo and other Africans I’d worked with including Speedy Aquaye, Georgie Fame’s great conga player. They looked askance at me - black and white musos did not play together in SA, and no SA white musicians knew the repertoire known to all jazzers. “What d’you Know boy” they asked. Now several years before, Tex Makins had introduced me to the great drummer Phil Seaman and thrown n the deep end. I‘d played Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey’s great 1949 Paris live recording of Night in Tunisia - and passed the audition being classed as “Really All Right” !..I did start playing jazz from 8!

But in SA this was something else !.there was no separating music and politics here, as the cretins in the London biz always tried to do !..I went straight into Love Supreme. Wow! They could not believe it but we played beautifully and it all worked.

We booked and filled J’Burg City Hall - the first mixed band to play there!. Then to the site of the Rivonia massacres for an open air festival !..The secret police arrived, broke up thee gig, arrested me, tortured me for three days with sleep and food deprivation and threw me out - back to London - grey fog and freezing. I’d lent my car to Rob Gold; it was too foggy to drive to LHR so I had to tube it, in my SA summer clothes!back to the Hope and Anchor and British West Hampstead where we then lived, in Pandora Road - hence the name of one of my very long standing production companies!.Pandora.

How do you know Pete Brown, and how did you get him to co-write the album with you?

I’d first met PB in Piblokto days and occasionally at various clubs. When Mick Eve and I were discussing the album, he’d heard from PB that PB was looking for projects to produce. I called Pete and popped round to Crouch End for a coffee - taking my acoustic 1958 Levin with me. He and his wife loved the songs, and Pete offered to work on the story lines of the lyrics. The stories are all on the websites listed at the end. They were so autobiographical; PB has smoothed them off so well.

I understand that Pete Brown laid down vocals on the demo versions. Why did you decide to get someone else in to sing?

PB did the outlines on the masters, but they were criticized by several old hands - so unfortunately I had to find an alternative to secure release. We left Pete’s vox on one track “Own Way Home”

Getting Zoot Money was a stroke of genius, he has that rich, lived in blues voice that Britain seemed to breed in the sixties - you had Chris Farlowe, Eric Burdon and countless others. Did he add an extra dimension to the material?

Absolutely - I’d been booker in 1970 for one of Zoot’s projects - “Ellis” with Steve Ellis. I was making coffee one Saturday when Bran Matthew played Zoot’s song “Big Time Operator” . Jane and I looked at each other and said, “there’s the singer”. I phoned him immediately, sent him the master and got an immediate yes - “these songs are written for me”. I had his type of voice in mind since I worked with Farlowe and especially his conga player (and the formative Zep) Keith de Groot aka Gerry Temple. I still see Chris occasionally and heard from the T’Birds original bassist Bugs Waddell just recently.

We’re performing live and really enjoying ourselves. Zoot realized the songs were great stories - he’s lived through similar scenes and has put the icing on the cake. He’s a consummate musician and his acting skills add the extra dimension. I guess coming from Italian roots he is naturally dramatic - and a great practical joker off stage too! His great act off stage is to constantly challenge and play the “Grumpy Old Man” !.I love it - he really makes me smile, although I guess some younger more tender souls could take him seriously.

When we played during the recent Battle of the Bands competition he refused to play until the PA was right - not for us - we’ll obviously play through anything - but for the sake of the inexperienced bands we were judging. The guy doing the PA was by far the worst we’d ever seen; worth a lawsuit to expose him as a Charlatan!

You also managed to get in some top notch musicians - Tex Makins, the original Thunderclap Newman and Blue Flames bass player, Nick Payn, who plays regularly with Paul McCartney and Bill Wyman, provided horn arrangements, baritone, tenor and alto sax, flute, bass clarinet and harmonica. Even the late, great Dick Heckstall-Smith performed the sax solos, and Richard Bailey who played drums with the Jeff Beck Group, Steve Winwood, and the Average White Band is along for the ride. How did you manage to get your hands on such great musicians?

We’re all mates and have played together in different bands and sessions over the years. We’re a bit of a mutual admiration society really. We cut the rhythm tracks n Richards studio - live all one or two takes and mixed at Jeff Allen’s Sensible Music (another old mate)!..Jon Moon at the controls.

Is there any one theme running through the material?

Yes - the life and times of a muso traveling through the incredibly tricky world of the music industry. It’s like treacle !..

There's a funky, soulful vibe to a lot of the material, almost Stax like. Was that intentional or a happy accident?

No accident - that’s how we all play for fun. I’m flattered you really know your stuff - Cropper, Jones et al were a principal influence in our early days. So were the Crusaders when they first turned to non-straight jazz funk, similarly Quincy Jones. QC’s Body Heat album was wonderful, similarly Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. Apart from that we’re all steeped in jazz R&B and blues from the earliest days, and have all been lucky enough to work with the best musicians globally.

The album has only just been released, but how has it been received so far?

Absolutely brilliantly. I am so humbled. We all knew t was special but I’ve had over 50 radio interviews and we’ve been play listed on over 60% of UK stations - surprising really. Everyone has praised the songs, the musicianship and well - everything really!

We do keep finding out from national presenters that one team of pluggers have been a little lax - but they seem to about to do something - we watch our contractors closely, and love being in Court - our company secretary is also a licensed debt collector and used to run a fleet of bailiffs !in Hereford there’s a steady stream of available ex SAS personnel available which is sometimes very useful!! Ultimately our contractors seem to understand this.

Any plans to take the show on the road?

We are already. We played to a full house at Hereford Shire Hall last Saturday. A brilliant set, with guest bass from Tex. Steve Laffy from the Big Roll Band on drums and Jo Fletcher on percussion and BVs. We are working on Jo’s album - she’s a wonderful singer and writer.

Singer-songwriter Woodstock Taylor (Ellie) came down from Edinburgh, and absolutely loved our new boy Joolz on Bass.

Coming from her that’s a complement indeed. Joolz has just moved to Hereford from Greenwich and s a tremendous all-round muso. Zoot's producing Ellie. Payn has started rehearsing with Bill so asked to be excused but will be involved in January.

Our main launch is at Eel Pie on 17th and 18th January, with special guests Georgie Fame with original surviving Blue Flames Mick Eve Eddy Thornton and Tex. Farlowe is being invited, and possibly Alan Price. I need to see Van as well.

The main tour starts on 2 Feb in sunny Wolverhampton! Don Mackay of Rhino is currently organizing so watch this space. Incredibly I‘ve had every agent and his dog wanting the date sheet, but we’ll see how Don gets on !. As an ex booker I know what he should be doing! I keep my beady eye on everyone !.

What (and when) can we expect next from you and/or Thunderclap?

A DVD and video from the Sept 17th gig and a live and streamed album after the Eel Pie gig in January. I’m working on an acoustic album, the second Goodmoney/Thunderclap album, an album by a great young talent Mike Mann, who songs and writes fantastic songs and his band Velvet, three brilliant new rock bands, Taxi, TES and Bitchpups, and at grass roots recording all the 10 finalists of the Hereford Battle of the Bands competition, creating a residential academy for the performing arts, and commissioning a download site connected to everywhere through the Cadiz site, and developing a mini TV series based on the songs from “Pick n Tell” tracing the history of the London studio scene and the projects formed from the players from the 50s up to date.

We’ve supported the work of a young hip designer and photographer, Brendan of Freedesign who works literally alongside us, and commissioned a wonderful 86 year old West Indian artist, Jos Peart, who we are exhibiting on the Web and in various locations.

I have a label for our output called Speakeasy Recordings, and a distribution deal for non-electronic product via Voiceprint and Pinnacle, with Cadiz responsible for sales management. The great promoter Steve Osborne s dealing with all regional radio and TV…..

Any final message for the readers?

The video, sound recordings and photos of the Hereford gig are available from our own download site You can also find out about all our work at

Both of these link to the sites of everyone involved - we’ve tried to create a fully electronic independent medium sized production and promotion company from day one - with the added ability of being able to stream directly from our fully digital studio, all in the center of Hereford.

Interview © 2005 Stuart Hamilton

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