“Telstar” was named after the Telstar communications satellite and one of the first sci-fi-influenced pop songs
Joe Meek’s “Telstar” performed by The Tornados becomes the first US No.1 by a British group in 1962
Written and produced by the eccentric Joe Meek for the English band the Tornados, “Telstar” was named after the Telstar communications satellite, which was launched into orbit on July 10th, 1962. It featured either a clavioline or the similar Jennings Clavioline, both keyboard instruments with distinctive electronic sounds. It was recorded in Meek’s studio in a small flat above a shop in Holloway Road, North London. “Telstar” won an Ivor Novello Award and is estimated to have sold at least five million copies worldwide. The song was the first U.S. number one by a British group and one of the first sci-fi-influenced pop songs. But the success of the song also caught the attention of Jean Ledrut a French composer, who accused Joe Meek of plagiarism, claiming that the tune of “Telstar” had been copied from “La Marche d’Austerlitz”, a piece from a score that Ledrut had written for the 1960 film “Austerlitz”. This led to a lawsuit that prevented Meek from receiving royalties from the record during his lifetime, and the issue was not resolved in Meek’s favor until three weeks after his suicide in 1967. Austerlitz was not released in the UK until 1965, and Meek was unaware of the film when the lawsuit was filed in March 1963. The lawsuit had a strong impact on the declining mental health of Meek who grew increasingly delusional and end up killing himself and his landlady in 1967. Joe Meek was one of the most original producers and composers, he wrote a highly experimental and ahead of it’s time record called “I Hear A New World” that had a limited release in 1961, throughout the rest of the 1960’s he struggled to make a hit similar to “Telstar” however with no success.
Listen and watch a clip featuring footage from Joe Meek and The Tornados performing “Telstar”
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