From the Stacks

From the Stacks: Speedy Keen – Previous Convictions

Speedy Keen Previous Convictions

Let’s say that you find yourself pinned against a darkened alley wall, a revolver pressed to your temple and a mad man screaming, “Connect Pete Townshend to Motorhead to Kenny G.  now!”

Only one answer gets you on your way:  Speedy Keen.  You’re welcome.

John Keen was young Pete Townshend’s flat mate and chauffeur, but he was a musician and songwriter in his own right; in fact, Keen wrote “Armenia City in the Sky” from The Who Sell Out.  In 1969 Pete and manager Kit Lambert paired Speedy up with Andy Newman and Jimmy McCulloch in the ready-made band Thunderclap Newman, which was intended as a showcase for the three musicians.

They recorded an album at Pete’s legendary home studio, and the Keen-penned single “Something in the Air” went on to hit number one in nine different countries.  Not too shabby.

After Thunderclap Newman, Keen recorded two solo albums (this was his first) and then went to work in the studio both as a studio musician (there’s your Kenny G link) and producer (and there’s your Motorhead connection).

I picked 1973’s Previous Convictions out of the cutout bin for two reasons:  1) It was on Track Records, home to The Who and Jimi Hendrix; 2) Speedy thanks “Pete Townshend for beginning the beginning.”  See how important liner notes are?

Previous Convictions is very much in the same ballpark as Pete’s Who Came First or Lifehouse demos, but not as good.  That isn’t to say that it’s a bad album — far from it — just that it’s a bit derivative and not particularly memorable.  Still, it’s an interesting footnote for Pete fans.

This one is rare enough that you’re not likely to find it in your local used record store; however, it isn’t enough in demand to garner big online prices.  If you poke around a bit you can find a still sealed copy for as little as five bucks.  Happy hunting.

5 replies »

  1. How funny…I had never heard of Speedy Keen or Thunderclap Newman, but I have definitely heard Something in the Air. This place is such an education! And I will remember to thank you after I make it out of that dark alley.

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  2. Good stuff. I picked it up for the same reasons as you but I disagree on one thing: I think this is a great album. It captures a moment, I think, and any music that can do that has to be great.

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