Telstar: The Story of a Nutty Producer

All the movies about the record industry and the adolescence of pop music resemble a musical with a big budget. The movie Telstar takes place mainly in a flat above a leather goods store in a typical London house. It was in these modest decorations that the legendary Joe Meek, a British producer, and innovator, equipped his studio. The film covers the period from 1961, when the studio opened on Holloway Road to 1967, the year of Joe Meek's suicide.
Telstar is a real revelation and an alternative history of British pop music. Suffice it to say that almost at the very beginning of the movie, Joe Meek (Con O'Neill) throws into the trashcan a demo of The Beatles. The movie has got its name thanks to the instrumental composition "Telstar" (1962) of The Tornados band, which was inspired by the launch of the communication satellite of the same name by AT&T. "Telstar" won the first place in the charts of Britain and the United States, it is considered the first pop song, which reflects the beginning of the space age.

Creation of music history.

During the recording of "Telstar," Joe Meek rolled the tape in reverse and at different speeds, besides the key sound effects of the piece were recorded using the most ordinary objects. The role of the radio signal from the satellite was created with a pen, tapping on the edge of the ashtray, and the rocket launch was depicted simply by a toilet flush. Joe Meek used almost everything. When the neighbors were bored by the rumble coming from the studio, they knocked on the ceiling with a broom, and the producer readily entered this sound into his compositions.
Not knowing the Rudiments of Music, Joe Meek recorded 600 tracks and released 245 singles, 45 of them got in the top 50. He just sang tunes to composers, who "translated" his vocal demo to musicians. Joe Meek came up with a multi-channel recording for single and two-track tape recorders. He was the first to use compressors and reverbs, and one of the first to come up with the idea of sampling. He was an absolute antagonist of Phil Spector, arguing that it is not necessary to involve the whole orchestra into a huge studio and build the perfect “wall of sound” for each piece to record a catching pop track, it is enough to have a good tune.

It’s not only about music.

Nonetheless, Telstar is not just a story of a music innovator but also a plot about a man who was defeated in the fight with his own demons. Joe Meek, played by Coe O'Neill, is a gay psychopath who is obsessed with mysticism and avoids daylight, staggering under the pressure of his perversions and circumstances that are not in his favor. French composer Jean Ledrut was long suing Joe Meek, claiming that the Englishman had stolen the tune of “Telstar,” and it had been already sounded in 1960 in the film “Austerlitz” with Jean Marais. As a result, Meek lost all money payments for the song. Left without money and the studio, the hitmaker completely went off the rails. He shot the mistress of the house where he was living and committed suicide in front of his lover.

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