Friday, October 10, 2008

The Prophets of Overmuchness, or, Kevin Shields Controls the Skies ≈ Jon Hamm?

Upon hearing [Rod] Stewart sing, [Joe] Meek rushed into the studio, put his fingers in his ears and screamed until Stewart had left.

MP3 The Tornados / Telstar (1962)
MP3 Hans Annéllsson / Telstar (Tornados cover, 1990)

Looks like Catherine has a lot in common with one Joe Meek. They both despise[d] Rod Stewart (idiots) and they both fe[e]l[t] lukewarm about the Beatles (terrorists). Meek was of course that tinkering independent homosexual (then illegal) psychopath [sic] English record producer in the late-'50s/early '60s obsessed with Buddy Holly and outerspace who eventually murdered his landlady with a shotgun (also illegal) before turning it on himself. The '50s did great things to people. As to his taste: says Mojo, says Wokopodo...

[Meek] passed up the chance to work with David Bowie, The Beatles (the latter he once described as "just another bunch of noise, copying other people's music") and Rod Stewart. John Repsch, in The Legendary Joe Meek recounts that upon hearing Stewart sing, Meek rushed into the studio, put his fingers in his ears and screamed until Stewart had left. [Ed Note: Final image predates Adam lying in bed with MacGyver.]

I had a random run-in with Meek yesterday. Saw My Bloody Valentine few days back, found myself reading Christgau's MBV album reviews which reference the 1962 Meek-written 'n' Meek-produced supersingle "Telstar," ended up pouring over Meekbios and Meekstats, learning all about his tough life slash squirky personality and about the gargantuanly successful 1962 single for the Tornados (no "e"), which was the first UK group single to top the US charts and was named after the first active communications satellite. "Telstar" forever negated the need for Ennio Morricone to write a theme for a western set on the moon (though was inexplicably not referenced on the "Mission to Mars" OST). Still, it's hard to imagine this dinky if likeable instrumental was such a huge sensation. Says a lot about the mindset of early-'60s space-race-enthused America. Not incidentally, the first-ever live transoceanic television picture, beamed from Maine to France through space via Telstar, was of Old Glory waving gently in the wind.

Anyway, at the end of the day I On-Demanded the new episode of Mad Men (The Inheritance) . Don and Pete are heading to Pasadena for an aerospace conference, and the final scene takes place on an airplane heading from NYC to LA through sunlit clouds AS A CLIP OF TELSTAR PLAYS. The charging ditty struck my brain stem dead on, and it felt as if all of pop culture was playing some giant overwoven trick on me.

The next night the category for final Jeopardy was "Hit Songs of the 1960s." THE ANSWER WAS TELSTAR! No, not really, but I did lose $1 betting before the question that it would be. It was "Sweet Caroline," gag—yet Meek still haunted.

Hans Annéllsson's cover version, however, nearly rids the paranoia. It's all neon-colored angels engaged in floating-through-each-other sex amidst Jupiter rings and whooshing lasers. The whooshing promises salvation from pop-culture debris, but you can always just barely make out and follow the vapor trail because there's...

More Telstar tunes... More more... More more more:

MP3 Joe Meek / Telstar (rare demo ft Meek on vocals)
MP3 Glenda Collins / It's Hard to Believe (ft "Telstar" sample)


Anonymous said...

"Meek was of course that tinkering independent homosexual (then illegal) psychopath "

From your comments it is obvious that you never knew Joe - or even met him!

He hid his homosexuality from most people. I don't think he was a psychopath either. In the last few days of his life he was suffering from a deep depression and this, coupled with his intake of drugs, finally flipped him over the edge.

Clay Davis said...

Such are the perils of diagnosing a mental illness based on a WikiPedia entry. Good work, Jer Bear!

jeremy said...

all better.

Lionel Hubris said...

The most important point of all of this is that Rod Stewart out hots hell itself (and I'm not talking about the icy ninth level of Dante's Inferno).