Meek tribute show boosts town charity

By Mark Elson   |   Senior Reporter   |
Wednesday 6th September 2017 7:28 am
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•The plaque commemorating Joe Meek on the wall of the house where he was born in Newent’s Market Square. ()

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A SOCIETY dedicated to the life and work of chart-topping music producer Joe Meek raised £2,280 for a Forest charity from a sold-out 50th anniversary concert.

Newent-born Meek, who sent Telstar to the top of the UK and American charts with The Tornados, took his own life aged 37 half a century ago at his London recording studio.

And the Joe Meek Society’s recent AGM heard that the concert to mark 50 years since his passing raised the substantial sum for the Newent Dolphin Centre for youngsters with learning difficulties, a charity he championed in his own lifetime.

Members at the meeting in London also decided to return to the legendary music maker’s home town for next year’s AGM, at the George Hotel on June 9.

The memorial gig in Waltham Cross saw several of the musicians Meek helped to success reunited, including drumming legend Clem Cattini who played on Telstar, Ray Dexter and Dave Kaye, while his niece Sandra Meek-Williams, who is still connected with the Dolphin charity, attended with her daughters.

Meek was born on April 5, 1929, in a house beside the town’s market hall, where a plaque on the wall commemorates the event. He is buried in Newent Cemetery.

As a child, he developed an interest in electronics and performance art, filling his parents’ garden shed with begged and borrowed electronic components, building circuits, radios and even a working television

Considered one of the most influential sound engineers ever, he was among the first to use overdubbing and sampling to exploit the recording studios as an instrument, establishing the producer as an artist in his own right.

Meek’s chart-topping singles produced for other artists included Johnny Remember Me for John Leyton, Just Like Eddie for Heinz and Have I the Right for The Honeycombs.

But it was his instrumental Telstar, performed by The Tornados and inspired by the satellite of the same name, which made him a superstar, rocketing a British band to the top of the US charts for the first time ever in 1962, two years ahead of The Beatles, and earning him an Ivor Novello award.

His reputation for experimenting in recording was acknowledged by the Music Producers’ Guild in 2009 when it created the Joe Meek Award for Innovation in Production as a “homage to [the] remarkable producer’s pioneering spirit”.

And in 2014, he was ranked the greatest producer of all time by the New Musical Express, which said: “Meek was a complete trailblazer, attempting endless new ideas in his search for the perfect sound. The legacy of his endless experimentation is writ large over most of your favourite music today.”

His legend lives on though, with more than 4,000 hours of Meek’s unreleased recordings selling at auction for £200,000 in 2008, including tapes featuring David Bowie as singer and sax player with The Konrads.

This year’s Joe Meek Society AGM also heard that the group had supported several students on music and sound courses researching Joe Meek, while several members had appeared on radio shows talking about him and his influence.

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