Gabriella Levine

ongoing and past work


couldnt a photo of him as a young child dressed as a girl, playing with tapes…

Joe Meek (born robert george meek, 1929)

Telstar was inspired by the launch of Telstar 1, which is the first communication satellite to relay TV signals.
– launched on top of THOR DELTA rocket on july 1962
made it to the best selling british song in 1962, also topped the charts in the us

The day after he watches Telstar launch, he calls the Tornadoes, a “crack instrumental British club / pop band”. They record it, then he adds a Clavioline, an electric keyboard, a reverb effect of a rocket lifting off (some people say he records his toilet and plays it backwards”

rock and roll had already been blossoming in the states, he learned on his own / made up what rock and roll is

outer space and electronics from working for the airforce

LANDSOWNE studios: 1954; producing british jazz recordings

electronic effects: – reverb, echo, distortion, compression, closeup miking, filters, multitracking,
pissed off the other engineers at landsowne

formed triumph records – 1960

Did his recording on 304 Holloway Road in North London – 3 story building above a leather goods store
sometimes he produced up to 3 albums / week, top sellers

made his BR into a recording studio with and living room into engineering studio :USED the recording studio as an instrument

TORNADOES in his studio

RGM Sound Ltd (later Meeksville Sound Ltd)
John Leyton, Johnny Remember Me
written by psychic active geoff goddard
geoff introduced him also to seances etc

audio compression: he had a huge influence!
-basic instrumental track was laid down on a tape. re-played to the musicians who added further instruments live. RE recorded on a second tape. REPLAYED… and again other stuff added… the back-up vocals, live
In addition to this Meek had modified one of his tape recorders: He could switch off its erasing head, and this way he could “stack” several recording layers without erasing the earlier recordings.

separate mic for EACH instrument placed VERY close
he single-mindedly followed his quest to create a unique “sonic signature” for every record he produced.

painstakingly constructed composite recording—
major breakthrough in sound production.
(Up to that time, the standard technique for pop, jazz and classical recordings alike was to record all the performers in one studio, playing together in real time – pre magnetic tape, -= performances were literally cut live, directly onto disc.)

getting crazier, 1961

wasn’t really tone deaf, just a rumor – just not a good singer
but he was dislexic

obsessed with strange, abstract sound effects he created with tape manipulations. “He recorded any kind of noise, drenched it in loads of echo and played the recording backwards and/or at different speeds, sometimes up to a point where the original sound source could no longer be recognized. ”

Some Crazy sound effects:
Joe Meek experimented with other various non musical elements in his many instrumental tracks with the Tornadoes in its various forms. Examples are found in some of the following tunes:
Aqua Marina” – Bubbling noises like fish under water.
“Early Bird” – Rocket blasting off sound.
Hot Pot” – Strange animal sounds.
Is that a ship I hear” – Seagulls crying.
Jungle Fever” (this is the B side of Telstar) – Strange animal sounds.
Life on Venus” – Voice over to start the track.
Night Rider” – Horse neighing.
Red Rocket” – Voice over to start the track giving the blastoff countdown.
Robot” – Weird gun firing sounds. Actually the sound of fencing wire being plucked like a guitar string amplified and played at higher speed.
Stingray” – Bubble noise, like under water and explosions with a voice over to start the track. (thanks, Geoff – Sydney, Australia)

his last:
Major International 1964 top five hit: Have I the right
by the honeycombs

Afterwards, his career plumetted, he had increasing financial problems, he was increasingly alienated for being flamboyantly gay (it was still illegal in britain), he was sued over “Telstar” because a french soundtrack writer claimed plagiarism (after his death the suit was settled in his favor and the money was returned to pay his taxes and settle other of his lawsuits from artists

he threw 14000 Pounds out the window to pay off his business partner “Major” Banks from RGM Sound Ltd. (see also chapter 2). This was practically his complete profit share from Have I The Right, and with this expenditure Meek pulled the rug out from under himself.

1965 – heinz burt left him, found another producer

He became depressed and paranoid, more unable to pay for his equipment and artists –

professional efforts were often hindered by his paranoia (Meek was convinced that Decca Records would put hidden microphones behind his wallpaper in order to steal his ideas), drug use and attacks of rage or depression. Upon receiving an apparently innocent phone call from Phil Spector, Meek immediately accused Spector of stealing his ideas before hanging up angrily.

paranoid about his sexuality
thought the boy 1967 mutilated boy in suitcase was going to be taken out on him

Meek began to hear sidetones on his recordings which he thought could only be caused by hidden bugging devices; to find the bugs he tore off the wallpapers.

He would set up tape machines in graveyards in a vain attempt to record voices from beyond the grave, in one instance capturing the meows of a cat he claimed was speaking in human tones, asking for help.

creature creeping around his bed when it was dark in the bedroom at night; he said his voice wasn’t his own anymore, he felt traced by extra-terrestrial forces controlling his thoughts, and when being alone in the apartment at night, sometimes paintings on the wall would speak to him, but he couldn’t understand what they were saying.


he loved death, space songs horror movie
amphetamines, gun nut…

truth of the tarot. In fall 1957, the tarot cards told him that his big idol Buddy Holly was going to die on February 3rd. He trusted so firmly in this prophecy that with great probability he sent a warning message to Holly. It’s attested that Meek spent February 3, 1958, seriously concerned and didn’t calm down until it became clear in the evening that Holly was still alive. Right on the day one year later, on February 3, 1959, he heard on the news that Buddy Holly had died in a plane crash, and his shock was so much the worse. For several days he ran around completely headless, then he draw the conclusion that obviously he was a medium.

strange attractor radio show, obsession with the occult:

communicating with a cat

he had an obsession with Buddy Holly (claiming the late American rocker had communicated with him in dreams)
Tribute to Buddy Holly

idolized him, claimed he could contact his spirit – helped him via ouija , until the end when he apparently had trouble reaching him

In the morning of Friday, February 3, 1967, Joe Meek, as his studio assistant Patrick Pink remembers, burned several letters and other documents in the bathtub and finally handed a note to him: “I’m going now. Goodbye.”
Feb 3 1967 – anniversary 8 yrs later of buddy holly’s death in an airplane crash – he was convinced someone was after him, and he was in an argument with his landlady Violet Shenton about the RENT – he shot her and himself, in the control room

a few other hits:
digigng for gold, you’re holding me down, something iv’e got to tell you by glenda collins ,(who he thought about marrying in 1966)
my friend bobby, early birt, just like eddie 1963
Freakbeat mob and rb

At the time of Meek’s death there were around 3000 tapes with circa 5000 recordings in the house. The estate administrator cased them into 67 tea chests and put these into a lumber-room.

unreleased master tapes as well as snippets with studio conversation, a big number of demo songs by Dave Adams and Geoff Goddard, and several of Meek’s own off-key composition singings.

gay music? probably not. just creepy
The Tornados’ flip side Do You Come Here Often? maybe gay



176 covers

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