I wouldn’t know a modal implication if it bebopped me on the nose … I am pure audience. A passive appreciator who places himself in the charge
of the music … The pounding, lilting, screaming lyrical streams
of sound-feeling that lead you out onto thin ice of emotions
that might any second break and let your ego drop.

—Thomas E. Kennedy, from “A Rumor of Jazz”
in RondeDance, Wordcraft of Oregon, Fall 2006

Music and Movies



Hammer Intro

During his connection with the rock group Hammer during the late Sixties, Kennedy was a songwriter under contract to the legendary Bill Graham and briefly managed by Shelly Finkel (who went on to manage Mike Tyson).

Hammer only released one LP, HAMMER (San Francisco/Atlantic label, 1970), on which Kennedy wrote the lyrics for three songs, which won a Popular Panel Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).

Hammer toured in the U.S. and Canada in 1970, playing high-profile openings for legendary rock and jazz artists, including Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, Fleetwood Mac, Procol Harum, Leon Russell, Cat Stevens, and Traffic with Steve Winwood, at venues such as the Fillmore East in New York and the Fillmore West in San Francisco.

Leon Russell, Miles Davis, and Hammer on the same bill: One of the fantastic Fillmore posters from the psychedelic Sixties and Seventies

Leon Russell, Miles Davis, and Hammer on the same bill: One of the fantastic Fillmore posters from the psychedelic Sixties and Seventies

Hammer’s lead guitarist, Jack O’Brien, was Kennedy’s nephew, and they wrote many songs together. In Kennedy’s words: “Jack, alas, passed away in 1988, only 36 years old. He was a fabulous guitarist. Jack was a fine fellow and is sorely missed.”

Read more about Jack...

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Band Members

* NOTE: When Hammer toured the U.S. and Canada in 1970, Andy Newmark joined the group as tour drummer.

Biographical sketches

“Jack and Me,” by Thomas E. Kennedy

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Hammer Rebirth!

Nearly four decades have passed since the initial HAMMER album was released, but its mention at Bad Cat Records and on this website has elicited responses from people who still honor the music from a variety of places: Oslo, London, Georgia, Indiana, New York, San Francisco, and Australia. Interestingly, interest has not been limited to boomers who were there in the 60s; in the U.K., for example, we learned, there is a musician who includes Hammer numbers in his club sets.

HAMMER album cover, 1970This flurry of interest has inspired those surviving who were originally involved in the HAMMER project — Norman Landsberg,
John DeRobertis, Richie McBride, and lyricist Tom Kennedy — to talk about what, if
anything, to do now. They generally agree that the original album should be remastered and reissued as a CD, using the original cover art.

Reunion Concert?

Preliminarily, there is also rising excitement about the possibility of a Hammer reunion concert in San Francisco, possibly as early as autumn of 2007. There is hope to include in that event the drummer who originally toured with Hammer in 1970, Andy Newmark, who is currently touring in Europe with Brian Ferry.

A replacement for the irreplaceable guitarist, Jack O’Brien, is also being discussed, and a proposal has been made for a veteran whose axe-style is as distinguished as Jack’s and who has years of experience in his fingers — including, among other things, playing with Bob Dylan and the Stones.

A Second Album?

An exciting part of the aim for the San Francisco rebirth would be to cut a new, live album that would include a couple of the old numbers, several new ones, and at least one song that Kennedy wrote back in the late 60s and which was not previously recorded.

Whether or not HAMMER 2 becomes a reality is hard to say for sure, but at this writing (May 2007), it is a distinct possibility. Of course, in the record industry — as in the film and literary world — hopes and plans too often have a knack of rising and falling to little avail. But, check back at this page periodically for updates.

Developments toward realizing these hopes and plans — to reissue the original HAMMER album, to stage a Hammer reunion in San Francisco, and to release a new HAMMER album — will be reported here on the Thomas E. Kennedy website as new details become available.

Meanwhile, we invite our visitors to turn up the audio and enjoy the original HAMMER cuts included here — with the kind permission of the other members of the group.

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Song Lyrics: HAMMER

Lyrics from two of the three O’Brien/Kennedy collaborations that appear on the album:

(Music by Jack O’Brien; lyrics by Tom Kennedy)

Listen to the song...

Morning sun
scratchin’ my eyes.
Woman’s mouth
jammin’ my head.
Don’t tell me I spent
the groceries and rent.
Just leave, leave me alone.
I know what I done.

Hangover horns!
Oh can’t you see?
These hangover horns
are killin’ me!

Cotton mouth
all over my tongue.
Leave me alone!
I know what I done!
No hair of the dog
is gonna ease this bind
with this woman’s words
stabbin’ my mind!

Hangover horns,
oh can’t you see?
These hangover horns
are killin’ me?

Let me be!
Oh can’t you see?
These hangover horns
are killin’ me!

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YOU MAY NEVER WAKE UP (Apologies to Auden & Frost)
(Music by Jack O’Brien; lyrics by Tom Kennedy)

Listen to the song...

When I was a young boy,
I was called
to quarry stone for mending wall.
Wall became city.
City thrived.
Apartments and smokestacks cradled the sky.

You only got to not try hard enough,
and you may never wake up,
never wake up.
You only got to not try hard enough,
and you may never wake up,
never never wake up.
Ain’t I glad,
got no time to be sad.

Now I'm a vet’ran.
I got only one eye.
That’s what I got
for to look at the sky.
Think of the quarry
and my dreams.
Bottled moonshine,
drown out the screams!

You only got to not try hard enough
and you may never wake up,
never never wake up
Ain’t I glad!
Got no time —
no time to be sad.
Ain’t I glad?

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Other Songwriting and Translations

Since his work with Hammer, Kennedy has translated song lyrics from the Danish and written a couple of original songs with the Danish rock drummer, René Wulff. One of their collaborations, a jazzy number entitled, “Turns Me Around Upside My Head,” is still a regular number in club repertoires in Denmark and has been recorded by the group, Little Wolf.

Kennedy is currently working with songs written by the young Danish poet, Lone Hørslev, one of the editors of the Danish literary magazine, Den Blå Port (The Blue Gate).

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