The Strange Story of Joe Meek
JOE MEEK (April 5, 1929 - February 3, 1967). Pop composer and Britain’s premier independent record producer of the late fifties and early sixties.
Meek was renowned for his pioneering recording techniques and for the futuristic sound of the records he produced, but notorious for his highly eccentric personality as well.
Joe Meek has two biographical films hitting our screens shortly starring an unrecogisable Kevin Spacey and Ralf Little!
As a boy he began experimenting with old radios and record players by taking them apart and seeing how they worked.
Sometimes this resulted in Joe creating his own recording equipment, a fascination that would continue throughout his life. He would often put speakers in the trees so local cherry pickers could listen to the radio as they worked.
In 1953 London was calling, Joe moved to the capital and found a job at IBC Studios where he would learn the basics of being a recording engineer.Ever the experimenter he would add his own sonic touch, the results of his experiments in his Newent home, on various songs - more often than not without the permission of the artists who he was recording!
These experiments resulted in techniques that modern musicians take for granted - such as removing the front skins of bass drums and moving microphones close to the instruments.
Joe Meek has two biographical films hitting our screens shortly.
Telstar: The Movie is the Nick Moran-directed film adaptation of the James Hicks play of the same name. It stars Con O’Neill as Meek,
Kevin Spacey as his financier, Carl Barat (ex-Libertines) as Gene Vincent, and Justin Hawkins (ex-Darkness) as Lord Sutch. Meanwhile A Life In The Death of Joe Meek is an independant American documentary by Howard Berger and Susan Stahmann. The production
includes over 60 interviews with Meek’s family, friends, associates, friends, and musicians. Expect to see Edwyn Collins, Alex
Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Liam Watson (Toe Rag), and Simon Napier-Bell give their thoughts in front of camera.
His most famous work was The Tornados’ hit “Telstar” (1962) which became the first record by a British group to hit #1 in the US Hot 100. It also spent five weeks atop the UK singles chart, with Meek receiving an Ivor Novello Award for this production as the “Best-Selling A-Side” of 1962.
Meek’s other notable hit productions include “Don’t You Rock Me Daddy-O” and “Cumberland Gap” by Lonnie Donegan (as engineer), “Johnny Remember Me” by John Leyton, “Just Like Eddie” by , “Angela Jones” by Michael Cox and “Have I the Right?” by The Honeycombs, “Tribute to Buddy Holly” by Mike Berry. Meek’s concept album I Hear a New World is regarded as a watershed in modern music for its innovative use of electronic sounds
Joe Meek now has a signature line of pre-amps and microphones available, said to recreate his distinct copression and equlisation tones. Featuring the appropriately named ‘Meequalizer’!
Watch this facinating 7 part Arena BBC Documentary on Meek and his unusual life here:
(Watch out for Jonathan King talking about Joe’s bizzare kick drum technique!)