Thursday, January 10, 2008

They got the beat, yeah, kids got the beat

Joe Meek was a whack-job visionary British recording engineer-producer, mostly forgotten by those outside the music business. Starting as an engineer in the late '50s, he became well known, at least his records did, in the British Invasion of the mid '60s.

He contributed much to the modern music recording process, most notably the creative use of intentional distortion on certain tracks. Probably his most played track today on oldies stations is "Have I The Right" by The Honeycombs:



The creatively distorted bass and bass drum are clear on this track. But that's not important right now.

Meek's best known track is something pretty special, however. It's a soaring piece of instrumental pop confection called Telstar:



Sounding like a spaghetti-western theme over a relentless 16th note surf beat drum pattern, it was a celebration of pop and cultural sensibilities of the times. We had left the Stepford '50s behind, and hopefully racism and World War as well. We were starting to hear new sounds from this group and others from across the Atlantic, predating and presaging the impending British Invasion. We, the youth of America, were starting to feel hopeful about a new world with new technologies, like the Telstar communication satellite for which the song was named.

Too often in recent decades music has represented raw rebellion or mindless hedonism. Nothing wrong with those, but music can do so much more. It can and should represent love, hopefulness, peace, and the full range of human emotions and feelings. Many people, believe it or not, heard this in Telstar back then, and continue to feel it today.

Don't believe me? Read these comments at the above, and other, YouTube postings of the song:
If ever a piece of music was an augury of things to come, it is this. Streaming through time and space Telstar points the way to a brilliant future, beaming and twinkling back down to Earth its hopeful call: A great day is coming soon!! A great day is coming soon!! Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!


I think it's not just the music, it is also the underlying message. Looking at the time and hearing the tune, one had the sense that the future would be wonderful, the New Frontier and all that, and whatever problems we had in the future would be comical, like that cartoon "The Jetsons". By the late 1960's and 1970's, however, the vision of the future got ugly indeed. And we are still dealing with that legacy today.


I agree and the song undescribable in a positive way. I still remember when and where I was at when I heard it for the first time.


what a song! you hear it and your soul flys into space - and your body is full of love!


A timeless tune indeed, allow me to present two quick bits of trivia for those whom as fond of this song as am I. 1) Bobby Rydell did a cover of Telstar with lyrics in 1962. 2) Gene Roddenberry actually mused with usung Telstar as the original theme music for Star Trek. if you listen closely to the theme composed by Alexander Courage you will hear the 'heart' of Telstar beating along.


My pop used to listen to The Ventures. I heard their version of Telstar when I was growing up (70's and 80's). Didn't even know this version existed. Very good!

Maybe I'm just being corny, but at the end of the day, for me, it's all about the music.