Some of the interesting responses that we've gotten, both good and bad...
Andrew Loog Oldham Vs. Joe Meek
Having read Andrew Loog Oldham's dismissal of Joe Meek, I thought it only fair to answer the question that he raises: "The main point of the game is that anyone can have a hit. But can they have another...and another? Joe Meek had no follow-through." Of the 245 songs attributed to Meek, a quick spot check shows that 45 went Top Fifty– a fair return, it seems, for someone who couldn't read or write a note of music!
In reality, Meek's downfall had little to do with his well-documented sexuality, or the temperamental streak that Mr. Oldham still recalls with such a visible shudder. Actually, a strong case could be made that Meek's fortunes took a downturn after cutting himself loose from the financial backing of his business partner, "Major" Wifred Banks, which put all those burdensome issues squarely onto his shoulders.
Also, as John Repsch notes in his biography (The Legendary Joe Meek: The Telstar Man), much of Meek's output falls into two major categories: those quirky Beat instrumentals with which he's forever associated, like “Telstar,” and solo vocalists, who dominated the pre-Beatles era. As popular tastes and trends shifted from both genres, Meek's box office returns also began to drop off.
Even so, whether Meek's work is primarily "local stuff," as Mr. Oldham suggests, is debatable. That wasn't so with the Honeycombs, who couldn't coin another UK million-seller like “Have I Right The Right?”. However, the band fared far better in other territories – notably, Japan, where they enjoyed a successful live album, and single (“Love In Tokyo”), and also, in Sweden, where they scored two #1 singles.
What's often forgotten in the rush to sensationalize Joe Meek's life is that he was one of the first producers to fully exploit the possibilities of the modern recording studio. Comparing him to Phil Spector is definitely inaccurate, but not for the reason that Mr. Oldham suggests. Where Spector recorded many takes of the same instruments, and painstakingly overdubbed them on top of each other to build his “Wall Of Sound,” Meek worked in the opposite way – by recording his singers and instrumentalists separately, to create a composite master (that often underwent a good deal of manipulation in the mixing stage, as well).
Such techniques are taken for granted nowadays, but unheard-of at the time – since Meek preferred to work mostly out of his flat, at 304 Holloway Road (a full 20 years or so before technology allowed anyone to do likewise). As Repsch documents in his book, Meek's competitors had trouble accepting the notion that someone could create a #1 hit like “Telstar” at home – so if he felt “rude,” or “embittered,” as Mr. Oldham suggests, a sharp-eyed reader might not look far to find the source of all those slings and arrows.
Hopefully, the long-awaited documentary (A Life In The Death Of Joe Meek) will remind people of these things, and put the focus where it belongs – on Meek's contributions, which the Music Producers Guild has been recognizing since 2009 (via the Joe Meek Award for Innovation and Production). If that's confirmation of a legacy, what else is?
In any event, it would be nice to see your interviewers push back a bit harder when such claims are trotted out (“I think he has been very overrated”) for examination – at least, so that readers know there's another side to the story.
Gun Club Story
I was just reading your very enjoyable article on your website. The article quoted an the subject line says you first saw the band at the Lyceum, a gig that was my second experience of the band, having been in the front row of the Venue, Victoria in '82.
The next paragraph mentions Jeffrey Lee hiding, out of it under the drum riser. That happened at the Lyceum, and he warbled 'Some motherfucker tried to fuck my wife' Over and over again. I've still got the ticket stubs for bot and my memory is fantastic.
I've just read your article on Big Youth. I enjoyed it very much!
There is just one thing I felt the need to say. The picture at the top of the page featuring Big Youth with an "English fan" is actually Big Youth and John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols! Surely worth editing the site for?
ED NOTE: Yep, we did know- that was just our attempt to be a little cheeky...
Many years ago when I was young, I was very experimental in my music listening. I happened across Walter Carlos' 'Sonic Seasonings', and that is still one of my all time favorite albums. I also have a copy of Morton Subotnick's 'The Wild Bull'. Apparently, nobody else seems to notice, or wants to talk about the similarities of the two pieces.
My feeling is that Walter borrowed the theme of 'The Wild Bull' and made it into 'Winter'. The theme is almost identical. I was very surprise that the 1998 CD reissue had no credit to Mr. Subotnick. I did try to email Ms. Wendy Carlos about this a few years ago but received no reply.
Why is it that music people don't take this kind of an issue up much? Led Zeppelin was called to task with old blues songs they called their own, as well as Emerson, Lake and Palmer on some of their "borrowed" works.
As I stopped using drugs in the late '70's, early '80's, I can't tolerate Subotnick anymore, but still enjoy 'Sonic Seasonings'.
Wendy/ Walter, I feel that credit is due.
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