Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Classic Song 45 - The Tornados "Telstar"

Alright -  time to talk about classic music.

Back in the years before The Beatles changed
everything, I was a little Kootenay kid that loved
pretty well all types of music that I heard, as I was
becoming more and more obsessed with the sounds
emanating from our radio and/or console stereo, and 
was constantly on the lookout for something new.

My brother Gord was my music hero, having
allowed me exclusive access to his band's
rehearsals (as detailed in Classic Song 
34). By eavesdropping on his daily 
guitar practice, whether played
on his '59 Jazzmaster or his
mid-50s Kaye, I heard many
exciting, reverb-laden tunes that
still resonate with me, over a half
century later, including guitar-centric
songs by Duane Eddy, The Ventures,
England's The Shadows or today's Classic
Song, featuring none other than The Tornados.

The story behind "Telstar" has been recounted 
often, so I'll give you only a snapshot summary of 
the salient points. The song was written and produced
by Robert George "Joe" Meek, who was not only into
music, but dabbled also in the occult, believing that he
could communicate with the dead, including the spirit
of Buddy Holly, himself. When not communicating
with ghosts, Meek was active in the British music
scene, having already had a couple of number
one UK records to his production credit. 

He was truly obsessed with futuristic sounds,
having already written and produced a concept
album, entitled I Hear A New World (which he
described as an 'Outer Space Music Fantasy),
for Brit act, Rod Freeman & The Blue Men.

But that was in 1960, and two years later, he was
determined to paint his audio masterpiece, with
the capable help of The Tornados. The title,
Telstar, refers to the US satellite that orbited 
the globe, in competition with Sputnik,
the Soviet Union's pioneering satellite.

The song itself features a very catchy melody,
played on a unique little instrument, called
the Clavioline, a forerunner to the analog
synthesizer, that was also used on The
Beatles' "Baby You're A Rich Man"
and many other pop tunes by acts as 
varied as Esquivel, Del Shannon,
The White Stripes and a young
David Jones aka Bowie.

After Telstar's massive success, Joe Meek 
was sued for plagiarizing the melody from an 
obscure soundtrack to a French film, and though
ultimately (and posthumously) found not guilty,
he was denied all royalties to Telstar, during
his short lifetime, and ended up deeply in 
debt and massively depressed by his
sad and lonely circumstance.

Though he ended it all in 1967 by murdering 
his landlady and subsequently committing
suicide, Joe Meek's legacy has grown in 
stature, with each new generation that 
has searched for greatness, and
found this classic song.

Now, the incredible "Telstar", 
following a totally unrelated 
photo, taken from my vast, 
personal collection of
unrelated photos.

Mozz the Elder


BONUS!! Joe Meek's demo of Telstar!!

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