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Telstar by The Tornados

Album: TelstarReleased: 1962Charted:
1
1
  • An instrumental with space sound effects, this is about the Telstar communications satellite, which was launched shortly before this song was written.
  • This Instrumental hit was followed quickly by vocal versions in the UK first by a singer who called himself Kenny Hollywood and then by a young studio singer named Margie Singleton. When it topped the chart in the US, Bobby Rydell also did a cover (he had big hits with "Sway" and "The Cha Char"). There are also versions in French by Les Compagnons, in German by Camillo Felgen, and 2 Spanish versions by Alberto Cortez and The Latin Quartet, titled "Magica Estrella." (thanks, Geoff - Sydney, Australia)
  • This was the best-selling British single of 1962. It was also the first song by a British group to hit #1 in the US. This did not happen again until The Beatles "I Want To Hold Your Hand" in 1964.
  • Producer Joe Meek was intrigued by the sound of the organ on Dave "Baby" Cortez' #1 hit, "The Happy Organ" - so entrapped by it that he tried to duplicate it with the Clavioline keyboard on "Telstar," which was played by a studio musician named Geoff Goddard, who also supplied the "humming" vocal you hear at the end of the song.
  • A French composer named Jean Ledrut sued Meek for plagiarism, claiming that the tune from "Telstar" had been lifted from the score of the 1960 film Austerlitz, for which Ledrut wrote the score. The suit was resolved in Meek's favor, but not until about a year after his death. (thanks, Sam - Lincoln, NE, for above 2)
  • Joe Meek idolized Buddy Holly and claimed he could make contact with Holly's spirit. Meek committed suicide on February 3, 1967, the eighth anniversary of "The day the music died." (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL)
  • After the Tornadoes had laid down track for this song, Meek wanted to give it more, so after the band left the studio at the end of the day, he played around with effects to get it just right. Latter when he played the demo to the lads, they were not sure. The beginning was just Joe being his creative self, however, the "Ah Ah" voiceover in the final part was a bit much and they expressed some dismay. This mixture of music and voice was usual and had not been done in a Pop tune, yet this track exploded on the music scene. (thanks, Geoff - Sydney, Australia)
  • The Tornados - a journeyman club band - disliked the song, but Meek added his own distinctive magic at his home-cooked studio above a leather shop in northern London. An overdubbed Clavioline keyboard provoked spooked space effects, while a backwards tape of a flushing toilet evoked all the majesty of a spacebound rocket. (from The Observer Music Monthly)
  • Joe Meek took a tape of "Try Once More," which he had written with songwriter Geoff Goddard, to Alan Caddy and Clem Cattini of The Tornados. Joe sang wordless vocals over Geoff's backing track. Clem Cattini recalled, "He played us this tape of him singing and the music didn't really sound right. It had all wrong time and key signatures. So we listened to the tape to get the idea and basically re-wrote the music."
  • The book 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh explains that The Tornados received little money from the song. Meek had leased the record to Decca Records and having negotiated a 5% royalty of the record's sales he banked 29,000 pounds, very little of which was passed on to The Tornados.
  • The rhythm guitarist on this track was George Bellamy of The Tornados, who is the father of Muse lead singer Matthew Bellamy.
  • Joe Meek experimented with other various non musical elements in his many instrumental tracks over the years played by his group the Tornadoes in its various forms. Examples are found in some of the following tunes:
    "Aqua Marina" - Bubbling noises like fish under water.
    "Early Bird" - Rocket blasting off sound.
    "Hot Pot" - Strange animal sounds.
    "Is that a ship I hear" - Seagulls crying.
    "Jungle Fever" (this is the B side of Telstar) - Strange animal sounds.
    "Life on Venus" - Voice over to start the track.
    "Night Rider" - Horse neighing.
    "Red Rocket" - Voice over to start the track giving the blastoff countdown.
    "Robot" - Weird gun firing sounds. Actually the sound of fencing wire being plucked like a guitar string amplified and played at higher speed.
    "Stingray" - Bubble noise, like under water and explosions with a voice over to start the track. (thanks, Geoff - Sydney, Australia)
  • Joe Meek recorded this in his home studio above a leather shop on London's Holloway Road.
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Comments: 18

On July 23rd 1962, at 3:00 PM EDT Telstar 1 broadcasted the first live TV picture from the U.S.A. to Europe; the first images were of major league baseball game between Philadelphia Phillies vs. Chicago Cubs (the batter was Tony Taylor and the pitcher was Cal Koonce at the time)...
Three months later on October 28th, 1962 the Tornadoes' "Telstar" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #85; and on December 16th, 1962 it peaked at #1 (for 3 weeks) and spent 16 weeks on the Top 100...
Its first two weeks at #1 prevented "Limbo Rock" by Chubby Checker from reaching the top spot, it was at #2 for both those weeks and never made it to #1...
And on October 6th, 1962 it also reached #1 (for 5 weeks) on United Kingdom's New Musical Express Top Singles chart...
The English quartet had one other Top 100 record, "Ridin' The Wind", it peaked at #63 in 1963 and stay on the chart for 5 weeks.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I played Telstar many times in the 1960's on a Selmer Clavioline. I now write and record instrumental music in the Joe Meek/Tornado style.
All the details are on my web site at www.chestnutbankproductions.co.uk
Byron, Fritchley, Derbyshire, England.
Byron - Fritchley, Derbyshire, United Kingdom
Many memories of this band at 17 years old Just Like Eddie by Heinze comes to mind as well John.
oneseagull@yahoo.co.uk
John - Wirral, United Kingdom
My God I've read about Joe Meek. You would think his story would make be a great subject for a movie. Its got everything great music from the birth of the British Invasion, obsession with a dead musical icon and a sad and tragic ending brought on by insanity. His story reminds me of the great drummer Jimmy Gordon.Alan - Sault Ste. Marie, On
Hmmm...does anyone else reckon Matt Bellamy made 'Knights of Cydonia' sound like 'Telstar' on purpose??? Love both songs:)Nady - Adelaide, Australia
This song was #1 on the day I was born, and I've got a copy somewhere on the Decca label - which was about the only label releasing 'pop' records in the UK in those days!Dave - Liverpool, United Kingdom
In the late 1980s, a Class "C" luxury motorhome called "Telstar" (on a Ford Econoline E-350 chassis) was introduced. It featured a fibreglass body and unusual styling, and few were sold. I know of several in my hometown in all conditions, and they appear to be well-made but odd-looking.Darrell - Eugene, United States
George Bellamy was the rhythm guitarist for the Tornadoes. He is the father of Muse singer/songwriter/guitarist Matthew Bellamy.Stephen - Cincinnati, Oh
tELSTAR was a brilliant instrumental track, something innovative and new.
The song was written by Joe Meek and went to No 1 in UK and in the USA.
Joe Meek was a one off, a recording genius
maybe Englands answer to Phil Spector.
Surprisingly for someone who spent his life recording music, he was in fact tone deaf and dyslectic.
He had a tragic end, he shot dead his landlady then shot dead himself in 1967
It was the 8th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly.
Lovelytim - Manchester, England
The original Telstar 1 is still spinning around in orbit above the Earth. It should be rescued from space, cleaned up, and put in a specially-built museum next to Meek's studio apartment in London. If it weren't for the song, Telstar 1 would just be a forgotten piece of space junk. Meek immortalized it forever, and now, 43 years later, it still has meaning and value.Peckerhead - Los Angeles, Ca
The rocket thruster sound at the beginning and end was actually a recording of a flushing toilet played backwards. Meeks, who originated the song, took his life in 1967.Rick Sobotka - Sedona, Az
pretty sure this song was used in an episode of "Gumby"Pete - Nowra, Australia
Telstar and all Joe Meek's recordings are available from www.joemeekappreciationsociety.com
check out this site
David - Falmouth, England
Joe Meek sings the wordless vocal part on the last verse.Jordan - Wv
Joe Meek also produced the song "Have I the Right?"by the Honeycombs it also had the same sound effects as "Telstar"George - Williston, Nc
Mike - Try typing in "Telstar - The Original Sixties of The Tornados" on a search engine - this record is never out of print in the UK so you may be able to order it on import, and their other stuff is well worth a look at, too.Dave - Cardiff, Wales
Why is this refcord so hard to find nowadays? It should be in my collection. I love collecting music from the 50's-80's. Telstar is one song I would love to find. It was an excellent song.

Mike
Penticton, B.C.
Canada
Mike - Penticton, Canada
This appeared on the opening credits to a SEGA video game called Cool Spot. In the credits, Cool Spot is seen 'surfing' on a lemonade bottle!Tom - Trowbridge, England