June 18, 2009

"Joe Meek ... the most important British musician of the Sixties."

"[H]e was a backroom boffin who revolutionized sound, devising new recording techniques and crafting an endless flow of gloriously deranged experimental pop that gave him the right to regard himself as the true creator of the records he worked on. Telstar, by The Tornadoes, is still Meek's best-known single. It was the first record by a British act to reach the top of the American pop charts and, rather unexpectedly, was chosen by Margaret Thatcher as one of her Desert Island Discs. An ode to the dawn of the space age and to what Harold Wilson later called the 'white heat of technology', it's a dizzyingly exciting instrumental full of strange, unclassifiable effects: the rocket-launch sound at the beginning is said to be a toilet flushing in reverse; the sounds evoking radio signals were apparently produced by running a pencil around the rim of an ashtray."

14 comments:

David said...

It was a stupid tune, insipid really, but I could not get it out of my head. Pretty bad commentary on my head, probably.

rhhardin said...

Walter Carlos (Switched on Bach, on the Moog synthesizer) was the groudbreaker.

traditionalguy said...

The early 60s sure did see lots of new stuff: Birth Control pills... DNA theory...Communications satellites...the birth of baby Obama somewhere...Civil Rights & MLK...the 10th birthday of little Ann Althouse...the Kennedys in power...a European Union plan announced...and Joe Meeks music. Never a dull day.

veni vidi vici said...

It's Wendy Carlos since at least the 1980's, btw. "Beauty In the Beast" is one of the greatest examples of synthesizer music ever created, using non-integer tunings to create some of the most exquisitely haunting music around.

As for Joe Meek, he was a great studio guy.

Check the tune "Joe Meek's Cat" on Swing Out Sister's excellent "Shapes and Patterns" CD from 1996. What a monster of an album.

Jeff Gee said...

My favorite cover of Telstar is Julius LaRosa's vocal version over the credits of "Mr. Mike's Mondo Video." Absolutely breathtaking ("The hauuuun-ting theeeeeeme-- from MON-do Video..."). Also great, if you can find it, is Joe Meek's own demo. He couldn't notate music or (apparently) play an instrument, so he sang the guitar line. It kills.

Ophir said...

You sure do love your boffins, don't you?

Darcy said...

My birth song. Cool!

NoName said...

We have some JoeMeek tube compressors in our studio that sound fantastic. And the EQ section is called the 'meequalizer'.

Audities said...

Meek's sound came together best on The Honeycomb's "Have I The Right". The version from the movie Pop Gear might be fancier, but this one captures the essence: handclaps, foot-stomping, pretty-boy singer with a nice doo and a bird drummer - who could ask for more? Not unlike Dave Clark meets Telstar.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-juca-sFWBU

Chap said...

I can't enjoy Meek's stuff as much knowing that he murdered his landlady before he shot himself. Unhinged dude.

NoName said...

"I can't enjoy Meek's stuff as much knowing that he murdered his landlady before he shot himself. Unhinged dude."

Great.I did not know that. Is everybody insane?

ncghost said...

The guy built his own reverbs, compressors, and tape machines,
made hit records in a converted third floor walk-up in a day when to do anything outside the studio system was patently unheard of, and he was punk, DIY, indie, etc. before any of these concepts existed. Most importantly, his music more than holds up. Much to investigate above and beyond 'Telstar'. One inspired and inspiring fellow.

Alex said...

Yeah let's forget those nobodies Lennon & McCartney...

juniorfruit said...

...and les paul.