Monday, April 05, 2010

Monday Music Suggestion: Joe Meek

If you don't recognize his name, you'll at least recognize the tragic Joe Meek's freaky 1962 instrumental hit "Telstar," performed by The Tornados. The follow-up vocal version, sung by Kenny Hollywood, is titled "Magic Star." Both are available here, as are other Meek songs.

I want to draw your attention, however, to Meek's 1960 concept album I Hear a New World performed by Joe Meek and The Blue Men. The album explores what life might be like on the moon (released one year prior to John F. Kennedy's famous speech to Congress committing the US to setting foot on the moon by the end of the decade). The work is trippy and wonderful stuff unlike anything else from the time, although Meek's music is sometimes mistakenly lumped into the library music category. Justin at Aquarium Drunkard adds,
Meek stepped forward to create this lunar-inspired “music fantasy” record, technologically and conceptually well ahead of the time. Joe Meek: “I wanted to create a picture in music of what could be up there in outer space. At first I was going to record with music that was completely out of this world but realized that it would have very little entertainment value, so I kept the construction of the music down to earth.”...

The music production and engineering for this recording were unique and visionary. In a pre-synthesizer world, Meek used a wide array of homemade electronics and unique instruments to achieve a signature sound. Most notably, perhaps, was the Clavioline, a three-octave keyboard instrument somewhere between an organ and a simple analog synthesizer. The Clavioline handles many of the lead melodies on this record (as well as on "Telstar").
I Hear a New World never received a full release nor much recognition during its time. But there are a number of re-releases of the full album well worth picking up (see RPM Records). For now, catch a couple of samples from Aquarium Drunkard.

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