Joe Meek was a brilliant, innovative and influential British record producer whose short life was filled with bizarre and ultimately tragic drama.
Meek produced several hit records in the 1960s and was often referred to as the English Phil Spector. His experimentation with electronic effects, including reverb, echo, distortion, compression, close-up miking, filters and multi-tracking, resulted in the distinctive “Meek sound.”
Telestar Telstar, a spacy instrumental by The Tornadoes was his biggest hit and still sounds as excitingly fresh as it did 50 years ago. His other big international smash (and a personal favorite of mine) was the hard driving, percussive Have I The Right by The Honeycombs. The rhythm track of the song was augmented by Meek using a bunch of microphones clipped to banisters while the band stomped it’s feet on the recording studio stairs and beat a tambourine directly into a microphone.
Sadly, like Spector, Meek’s life became a tabloid nightmare that has to a great degree overshadowed his musical legacy.
Meek was gay at a time when being gay was illegal in the United Kingdom. His sexuality was the source of extreme mental conflict for Meek, he actually thought he could be cured of his homosexuality. Fear of incrimination pushed him into an increasing sense of isolation. Perhaps in an effort to seek some kind of cosmic sexual healing, he became obsessed with magic, the occult, extraterrestrials, and conspiracies of all sorts. He claimed to communicate with the ghost of Buddy Holly via ouija board and in seances. He reputedly placed microphones in graveyards to record the voices of the dead.
After a series of devastating personal and financial catastophes, Meek eventually became a paranoid recluse. His life ended at the young age of 37 in murder and suicide.
Joe Meek’s brief ascension into the heavens of pop stardom and crushing descent into a hell of circumstance and social pressure, as well as one of his own making, is a story as compelling and offbeat as any in the annals of rock and roll’s dark side. This hour long documentary tells that story in riveting fashion while also providing fascinating insight to his particular musical genius. The Very Strange Story of The Legendary Joe Meek.