Here at the Joe Meek Society Towers we get enquiries from all over the world on various aspects of Joe Meek, his techniques, his artistes etc.
We have a team of Meekologists – experts who between them can usually come up with an answer. Here are some of the queries we have received and we shall add to these as we receive more.
Q. Did Joe Meek produce the Kid Ory and Red Allen album We’ve Got Rhythm for HMV Records?also is there a get together this year at Newent and any news on the tea cheast tapes thanks for your time
A. According to the master list of Joe’s pre Triumph & 304 days…he was NOT involved with this LP.
No news on the tea chest tapes since 2008 when owner Cliff Cooper put
them up for auction – and withdrew them from the auction. The price
reached £170,000 but he wanted £250,000…..even though he had not set
an official reserve price!!! Complete silence ever since.
There is no JMS society get together – our 2016 AGM was earlier in the year.
The Newent Weekender people have always been independent of us and not heard of anything this year.
There is of course our 50th anniversary concert next year – details on
the website Upcoming Events.
Answered by Rob Bradford, JMS Chairman (& Meek expert / author)
Q. Architecture of Recording Studios
I’m a final year architecture student writing my dissertation on how the architecture of recording studios has affected the development of british pop music.
For the last couple of years I’ve held a slight obsession with Joe’s work, especially his studio and the manipulation of sound with his homemade compressors and EQ’s. Naturally when I sat down to write this essay the first place I thought of was 304 Holloway road.
I have a few questions regarding Joe, and I thought this the best place to come. I’d really appreciate any help!
Firstly, I know Joe put some effort into dampening the main recording space with curtains etc. and tended to add reverb/echo artificially. Was he bothered about not having large live spaces like they had at Decca and EMI? It almost seems to me like he would have stayed at Holloway even given the choice.
I know Joe used close micing regularly, but was this a preference on his part, or simply because there wasn’t enough space in his studio?
Finally, a rather open ended question as I’m not sure who will receive this message but, do you think Joe and his bands music was influenced by the architecture around them? My opinion is that without 304 Holloway Joe’s music would have been vastly different.
Thanks for taking the time to read through my queries, any help from someone who knows more about Mr. Meek at all would be great!
A. JOE MEEK AT 304 HOLLOWAY ROAD
By the time Joe started recording at 304 (c. late August / early September 1960)….he had already been dabbling with sound recordings for over twenty years. He himself has stated that his fascination began not longer after he was given a small gramophone for his seventh birthday in 1936. “…..I discovered if you played the record at the end of the run-out groove you could shout down the sound chamber and the sound would be imprinted in the grooves. And I thought that I’d discovered something marvellous, and of course I was really doing what Edison had discovered years before.”
By age 9 (following the gift of a “Practical Wireless” book – cum – annual at Christmas), Joe was building his own crystal sets, small radios etc. He was already creating sound effects and rigging up electric lighting in a shed / outhouse at the bottom of the garden. There, Joe would stage mini productions with sound effects and music.
By 1942, when he was only 13, he was already constructing his own amplifiers and speakers. He had so much equipment and spare parts that he commandeered the family’s front room as well as the garden shed. Immediately post war, he had moved on to tape recordings. By 1949, he had compiled a sound effects library (many created completely from scratch) to rival the FX department at the BBC. In 1950 he built himself a disc cutter and began to transfer tape to shellac. John Repsch noted that, by the early 1950s, he was experimenting with ‘sound – on – sound’ overdubbing.
With his own powerful amplification system, Joe Meek became a popular ‘mobile DJ’ in the Newent area…..as well as providing incidental music and FX for local Am Dram societies and groups. In 1953 he recorded brother Eric’s then girlfriend (later wife) – Newent schoolgirl Marlene Williams – singing “Secret Love”. First, he coached her singing along to the Doris Day original. Next, he overdubbed Marlene’s voice (enhanced by an echo device of his own construction) onto an instrumental recording of “Secret Love” (also taped by Joe) by local group the Melody Dance Band. It was much admired and, for Joe, pointed towards the future.
Not long after that, he left for London and secured a job with IBC (late 1954). But….by early 1955 he began to start being in demand for all of the then major recording companies. EMI (HMV, Parlophone, Columbia), Philips, Decca and Pye. Joe was used to working in big studios, recording all manner of artists in every conceivable style of music (both popular and classical). He also helped to design and fit out Lansdowne Studios (‘The House Of Shattering Glass’). By the end of 1959, Joe had engineered / produced at least 1,500 commercially released tracks. These are the documented ones, there could easily be another 500 or so (conservative estimate) where he is uncredited.
But….Joe wanted total control over the recording process. In the big commercial studios – it is well known that he was always arguing with producers, studio managers and the stifling beauracracy / union rules of such establishments. In July, 1957 he moved to a small flat in Arundel Gardens, where he set up his first intimate & (by Industry standards) haphazard / ramshackle home studio. In the UK at least, it was completely unheard of. Yet Joe did record people like Lonnie Donegan and Petula Clark there & used groups and singers to help him to cut demos there. Incredible to think that the bulk of the recordings for the astonishing “I Hear A New World” were completed in what was, effectively, the front room of a tiny flat!!
304 was bigger – being set over 3 floors. So, at least that gave Joe more scope. 1st floor – admin / office / etc., etc. 2nd floor – actual studio & control room, 3rd floor – some living space & bedrooms. Still incredibly small and cramped compared to the major studios. But….it WAS Joe’s space. Everything in it belonged to Joe & all the equipment was either purchased by him, built by him or adapted by him. Everything was exactly where Joe wanted it and as Joe wanted it. He knew where everything was. It was his domain & he was in total control. In some ways, it was (psychologically) almost a throwback to his garden shed days. The studio was Joe’s ‘Man Cave’ & was almost Joe personified.
Maybe he would have ultimately liked slightly more space and more / better equipment, but, by and large, 304 Holloway Road suited Joe very well indeed. The confined space, with everyone and everything crowded in definitely created its own atmosphere. A very, very intimate atmosphere. Many of Joe’s artists who I have interviewed / spoken to have always referred to this fact. A lot of them felt intimidated and overawed when recording at major studios – nervous and apprehensive. Whereas (after the initial shock of cables and wires everywhere) the opposite was true of 304. So many mention how relaxed and ‘at home’ they felt at 304. Plus, how incredible the playbacks sounded. By and large, most artists could not believe that what they were hearing was actually them.
So, no cavernous room…with feelings of isolation. No disembodied voices booming out from behind distant, glass – fronted control booths. Joe would simply yell from the kitchen (control room!!) or simply put his head round the living room door (recording space), or else simply step inside in person….in a matter of seconds. Performers being ‘squashed’ in created camaraderie and energy. Joe had been experimenting with DI’ing and close – micing even before his days at 304. It was a method he liked to work with and experiment with. He had lots of microphones at his disposal and he was a genius at both placing / positioning them and explaining to his performers how to use them. Joe truly was the ‘Godfather of Home Recording’. Chas Hodges once said to me about the uniqueness of Joe Meek and 304 (& what he said is typical of many). “I was just a music mad, working – class teenager. A bit rough and ready. People like me would never get into a big studio. You had to have managers and agents and the like, go for bleedin’ recording tests / auditions and play what they told you. But with Joe….lads like me could literally be working in a factory or a shop….pay a visit to Joe….play a bit of wild Rock’n’Roll. Then, maybe only a month or two later…you could be signed up by Joe…have a record out….be in the charts &, before you knew it, be on the radio or TV & be meeting the likes of Gene Vincent. It could and did happen that fast to some people.” 304 was unique. Joe Meek was unique. In terms of sound recording in the UK…he truly did break the mould and shake the foundations of the ‘Big 4’ to the very core.
Answered by Rob Bradford, JMS Chairman (& Meek expert / author)
Re the clavioline demonstrated on You Tube by Peter Knight of Moontrekkers – the famous clavioline that featured on Telstar and Night Of The Vampire. Great distorted tone. I presume it used germanium transistors?
A. The Clavioline is pre-transistor – it uses valves to produce a square wave, which is then filtered. More details and circuit diagrams are on Wikipedia.
Answered by expert Ray Liffen
Q. The Wolves
Just by accident I came across a fine 2CD BeatBeatBeat vol.5, which contains two tracks by the Wolves: Now/This Year, Next Year. According to the liner notes
these tracks have been produced by Joe Meek and were released in January ’65 on Pye 7N15733. Both tracks are from the can of Howard/Blaikley, which were responsible
for some Honeycombs’ hits. I can’t remember ever read a letter about this group; they certainly are not in John Repsch’ book.
Don’t know if it is of any interest as the series of CDs seem to be from 2001…
A. This is the story of The Wolves, nothing to do with Joe at all.
“That honour went to the Wolves, a group which had previously been known as the Big Beats. They actually sought and received permission from the Wolves Football Club to change their name. Such a publicity manoeuvre was undoubtedly the brainchild of the group’s very shrewd manager, Geoff Jacobs, as was the securing of a recording contract from Pye a matter of months after the group’s first live gig. It was the rapidity of the recording contract and the group’s television appearances which really upset many of the more established local groups.
A member of one of the town’s most popular groups from the 60’s who asked to remain anonymous, describes the feeling at the time:
“They seemed to come from nowhere and suddenly they were on For Teenagers Only and even Thank Your Lucky Stars after they made their first record. To be honest they were not that good and I’m willing to bet that if you mentioned their name to people who were really in the know around the town in the 60s they would not recall the Wolves as one of the town?s leading pop groups. Still, they did get the recording contract which was the one thing most of us really wanted. Perhaps it?s just jealousy on my part.”
John Eades, who was the lead guitarist with the group, accepted that they were not really that good to begin with: “It was only when we played alongside some of the better local groups that we realised our own limitations.”
A representative from Pye saw the Wolves at the Wulfrun Hall on April 18th 1964 and they were signed up soon afterwards. Their first record called Journey Into Dreams was released in July. They appeared on Thank Your Lucky Stars in the August (once again the first Wolverhampton group to achieve that distinction) and received a large number of airplays on both Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg.
Their second single Now was voted a miss on Juke Box Jury with Lonnie Donegan announcing that it sounded ‘like millions of other groups ‘. They were recognised as the most successful of the local groups in December 1964 when they topped the bill at the Grand Theatre’s Midland Groups Galore.
The group’s manager, Geoff Jacobs, worked tirelessly for them. He made links with American radio stations and managed to get fairly regular plays of the group’s records on some of those stations. He even visited the USA on the group’s behalf. He negotiated for them to join Manchester’s Kennedy Street Agency which meant that they got to work much further afield than just around the West Midlands. He organised a summer season for the group in Weymouth. The Wolves made four records in all, three for Pye and one for Parlophone. Their most successful record was the Drifters’ number Down At The Club.
In June 1966 Geoff Jacobs produced a breakdown of the group’s activities during the previous year. They had worked 344 days out of 365, playing 138 clubs, 123 days summer season, 37 pubs, 26 dance halls, I theatre, 6 military bases,4 night clubs, 8 youth clubs and the Lord Mayor’s Ball in Birmingham. The group was obviously quite successful.”
The had 4 singles, all of which are very rare.
answered by Meekologist David Peters
Q. Michael Cox
Does anyone know what happened to the singer Michael Cox who made the song Angela Jones famous in the 1960s.
A. In the late 1970s, Michael Cox began working on cruise ships, where he met his future wife. This led to apearances in the USA, and eventual emigration there. In 1981 they moved to New Zealand, (her birthplace) where he continues to work as Michael James.
answered by Meekologist David Peters
Q. Joe Meek Tribute Records as featured in Thunderbolt Magazine
Perhaps someone in the JMS can help me with the necessary info where I can find
the songs listed below: Rob Huxley: Robert George; Gay King Cheese Boy: Joe Meek on Brighton Pier; Blue Rondos: The Boys and Joe; Dave Adams: Robert/No Matter What You Believe/Poor Joe; Billy Blue Rondo: Hey Hey Telstar Man; Richard Routledge: Meet Joe Meek; David Millen: Joe’s Dream; Thunderstrucks: The Hook.
I found out that Robin Goldwasser is a member of They Might Be Giants, and that the song I Hear A New World
is one of 23 tracks on the (bonus) CD Cast Your Pod to the Wind. Nevertheless not that easy to find…
Maybe an extension/addition to the list of David Peters are the songs listed below:
B-52’s: Planet Claire; Edwyn Collins: A Girl Like You; Dead Kennedys: Winnebago Warrior/Have I The Right;
Duffy: Please Stay; Gemini: Goodbye Joe; Horrors: Crawdaddy Simon/Jack the Ripper;
Inspiral Carpets: Joe/Saturn 5 (var.versions); Orbital: Satan (1-2-3); Shakin’ Stevens/Frankie Vaughan: Green Door;
Rev.Spadge Dooley: Please Stop Stamping on my Head.
A. The Robb Huxley track is on his self-produced cd which although no longer available is available to listen to on his web site www.robbhuxley.com
and it is the Lost Songs album. I suspect the others like Dave Adams and Richard Routledge are similarly self produced cd-r’s but see what David comes up with.
But Green Door by Frankie Vaughan/S Stevens I cannot see this as a tribute – there is information on the internet – the gay/lesbian night club in London the song is supposed to be associated with Joe Meek. But I cannot believe this is true. The song was written in the USA – in 1956!! Granted Joe was in London at this time but hardly so notorious to feature in a song i.e. the line ‘Joe sent me..’
But it does say this in Wikipaedia: Possible inspirations
“According to the website Songfacts, the lyrics were inspired by a popular music club in Dallas, Texas, where the kids who were not allowed in hung around outside a yellow door. The color was then changed to green in the song because it “sounded better.”
At the time the song was popular, many believed it was inspired by a green-doored restaurant and bar called “The Shack” in Columbia, Missouri, where singer Jim Lowe had attended the University of Missouri. Long-time Shack owner Joe Franke doubts this theory, however.
The song has also been said to refer to the lesbian Gateways club (first opened in 1930), which had a green door and was featured in the movie The Killing of Sister George though this seems unlikely.”
answered by Meekologist Rob Humphreys
Q. With reference to the guitar Joe loved BURNS VIBRA ARTIST. 1961.
I am contemplating selling an identical guitar.
What do you think this is worth
A. Joe was not known to have played guitar and no guitars were were on the 304 auction list. Gary LePort used a Vibra Artist for the lead part on ‘Vampire’ but that
was his guitar.
That aside, putting a price on a Vibra Artist is impossible without a VERY detailed description and pictures (and preferably an examination).
For top price it would have to be in absolutely original condition with no replacement parts and with the original paint finish in mint
condition (the paint finish tended to ‘craze’.). In poor condition, not a lot – they are not collectable in the way that an original Marvin
or Bison is collectable. A Vibra Artist DeLuxe would be more valuable (very few made).
Does the guitar have any provenance – original sales receipt for example? If not, how does he know it is 1961? Burns did not start to
use serial numbers until later ranges came in.
So, anything between £25 and maybe £1000. To get a better idea it needs to be examined by a Burns specialist and even then the price at
auction will depend on who is interested at the time and whether other Vibra Artists are being auctioned.
I’ve owned my 1959 Burns Artist (an early prototype model) since 1963 and I can date its manufacture from a letter sent to me by Phil Sweet,
one of Jim Burns’ managers. Even so, the respray it’s had, and all the modifications that I’ve done over the years means that it will never be
very valuable. For best price, original condition is vital.
answered by Meekologist Ray LIffen
Q. Did Joe Meek use the same girls as backing singers on most of his recordings?
The girls that sing on Johnny Remember Me and Walk with my Angel and many many others.
If he did, who were they?
A. Lissa Gray was responsible for the haunting backing cries on Johnny Remember Me but almost every girl singer who worked at the studio may have been used as a session singer for any of Joe Meek’s recordings. Examples being Kim Roberts and Vivienne Chering who was Flip of Flip and the Dateliners. The Ladybirds worked with Joe and they became the Sharades and of course they were an offshoot of the Vernons Girls who also worked with Joe. The Vernon Girls themselves worked with Joe.There was Diana Parry- Husbands of Diana and the Javelins and of course there were the Fletchers who sang the backing to Cry My Heart and they were Guy, Ted and Babs Fletcher. There was also Sue and Sunny who later backed the Love Affair on Rainbow’ Valley. It is possible that Pamela Blue also sang backing vocals.
answered by Meekologist Ken Ledran
Q. Just discovered on You Tube a recording by Gerry Marsden entitled “Strollin”
I do have a theory where this comes from but maybe someone can confirm. I think that this was around Mid to late 66. Gerry did some sessions without the Pacemakers in 66 and he did release a handful of solo singles in 67-68 under Robert Stigwood. I think Gerry demoed some songs and maybe was looking for a producer for his solo material and went to Joe at 304. Again I could be way off on this as this is just a theory. Based on the recording I put “Strollin” around 1966 because:
A. Gerry’s voice sounds like circa 1966
b. The backing does not sound at all like the Pacemakers. I asked Fred Marsden years ago if he worked with Joe Meek and the answer was no.
c. I have heard rough demos that were recorded by Sam Leach of Gerry and The Pacemakers circa 1961 recorded by Sam Leach and again they sound very different so I don’t think “Strollin” sounds like the early Pacemakers.
Based on the above thats how I came to the conclusion, can anyone else shed some light on this? I will also try to ask Gerry but last time I spoke with him (years ago) He didn’t ever recall working with Joe.
A. 1. Speaking to Alan Blackburn and he said he didn’t think Strollin’ was by Gerry Marsden. He said it was very similar to Chick Graham who recorded a few tracks at 304 also similar to Lee Starr ‘s voice. Meeklogist Ken Ledran
2. Mark Newson believes Gerry’s recording was in 1962 Meekologist Mark Newson
3. The 1966 angle is indeed very interesting. The Pacemakers disbanded during 1966 and Gerry embarked upon a solo career. Also…during 1966 Joe became very close to Brian Epstein for several months (Bob Dylan at the Albert Hall – they went together….then they both had an interest in the Cryin’ Shames & were in touch quite a lot) – so it would fit. Also….I’m convinced that it was finally confirmed (after many, many years) By Gerry himself…that it was indeed him on Strollin’. If the choice of song seems odd – it wasn’t really – he was laready experimenting with material like “Who Can I Turn To” and “On A Wonderful Day Like Today” at the time.
Meekologist Rob Bradford
Q. One of our Peaksoft CD releases is PEA007 The Complete Dickie Pride. I have now learned that Joe Meek cut a demo of Dickie singing the James Brown number Out Of Sight, for ciculation to record companies. Is there any possibility that this track might be traced?
A. Dickie Pride (Real name Robert Kneller) recorded about 4 tracks with Joe in 1965, the only known title is “Out Of Sight”, none of these recordings have ever been heard, hopefully they are in the Tea Chest Tapes. We have just spoken to Alan Blackburn who has listened to all the teachest tapes but he can’t say that he ever heard anything by Dickie but there again he said he might not have recognized the voice. There are many tracks in the tea chest tapes where the singer is unknown because unless it was reasonably obvious a conclusion couldn’t be made. Joe didn’t write much on the tape boxes and what he did write often did not relate to what was on the tapes, so as to mislead people who were trying to steal his songs, . The song was a No.24 hit for James Brown in 1964 so I guess Dickie, the Sheik of Shake, must have made his demo in that year, well after his fame as one of the Larry Parnes’ stable of Fury, Power, Wilde, Gentle and Eager which was at its peak in about 1960 – 1961 when Boy Meets Girl and Oh! Boy! were on the box and Dickie was among the stars who featured regularly on TV at Saturday tea time.
answered by Meekologists David Peters and Ken Ledran
Chords for Blue Blue Blue Beat:
A. F / Dm / Gm / C
Gm/ C / Am / D7 / Gm / C / F / Bb / C
(F / Bb / F) before guitar sol
Gm / C / F / Dm
Am / Bb / Gm / C
C# / D / D#
Ab / Fm / Bbm / Eb
Bbm / Eb / Cm / F7/ Bbm / Eb / Ab / Fm / Bbm / Eb /Ab to fade