Stories Behind the Music -- Telstar

By
Home Inspector with King of the House Home Inspection, Inc
A week ago I wrote about the first song from England to go to the top of the American charts. That song was a couple years before the Beatles and when the British Invasion officially got underway. Those of you who read the post know that that first song was by Mr. Acker Bilk and it was called Stranger on the Shore. That was an instrumental. Honestly, it is not that common for instrumentals to make it to the top of the charts -- ever.

That makes it doubly interesting that the next song from the UK to hit the top of the US charts, pre-British Invasion, was also an instrumental. This one was, in my view, a more exciting and innovative creation than the one featured last week and it was in tune with the times. The musicians hit on the excitement of the era.

In July 1962, the USA launched Telstar. It was the first communications satellite. The purpose was to relay television signals between the USA and Europe. I was alive and this was a big deal:Call it the dawning of the space age.

Joe Meek was an innovative electronics technician and musician in Great Britain. His band of guys, the Tornadoes, put together this really spacey song called Telstar. It was huge. I remember, as a kid, a local deejay barricaded himself in the studio and played the song over and over and over and over again. Finally the management took him away. Years later I would work at that radio station but I did not do anything that weird.

Here it is, number one from December 1962, the Tornados and Telstar.

 

 For more "Stories Behind the Music" click on the guitar  

  Steven L. Smith

 Bellingham WA Home Inspections

  

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Check out "This Day In History" -- music and vintage television from the 1950's through the 1980's.  I enjoy writing these articles because they take me back to my days in radio broadcasting. Click on Elvis' gold record, below, to revisit those golden hits of yesteryear.

           

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Show All Comments
Rainer
47,935
Nicole Weidauer
Keller Williams Greater Seattle - Shoreline, WA

The song isn't the cool thing- it's the band itself. Look at them! And the performance at some sort of weird lounge with smoke everywhere. Genius!! I didn't think I'd see videos like THIS on ActiveRain! ;)

Thanks for sharing, Nicole Weidauer

The Egerer & Weidauer Team, Keller Williams Realty North Seattle

November 26, 2008 12:10 PM #1
Rainer
15,970
Keith Callister
Equity Real Estate - South Jordan, UT

That's pretty interesting, I love little bits of music history thanks!

November 26, 2008 12:10 PM #2
Rainmaker
655,045
Jim & Maria Hart
Brand Name Real Estate - Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC Real Estate

Hey, Steve. Thanks for the info. I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Jim

November 26, 2008 12:29 PM #3
Rainmaker
1,180,153
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Nicole,

It is a pretty far out setting all right. I noticed that. No clue how this was taken.

November 26, 2008 12:34 PM #4
Rainmaker
1,180,153
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Keith and Jim,

I have real fun with these music posts. I try to find an angle of interest and then see what kind of video will fill out the post.

November 26, 2008 12:34 PM #5
Rainmaker
717,706
Barbara S. Duncan
RE/MAX Advantage - Searcy, AR
CRS, GRI, e-PRO, Searcy AR

I liked the post but not the song.  I'm sure it was more exciting there in that night club.  I can't remember ever hearing that song!

November 26, 2008 05:02 PM #6
Rainmaker
1,180,153
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Barbara,

I always liked the song. However it is kind of weird watching them there in the nightclub. It sounded like the original though. For all I know they were playing to their own record, as in not playing. That was really common -- like most of the Sullivan acts were lip synching from what I am told.

November 26, 2008 06:34 PM #7
Rainmaker
311,704
Larry Estabrooks
a Fully Independent Real Estate Agent - - Moncton, NB
REALTOR®, Moncton, NB

Steven, I remember it well when Telstar hit the radio. That video was done some time much later. Just look at the modern keyboard. Original instrumental was played with a Univox, a brand of clavioline.

November 26, 2008 07:26 PM #8
Rainmaker
1,180,153
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Larry,

For sure. These guys are certainly older than the Tornados of the 60's. Course I am older too. It might be a variation of the group, as in nostalgia act with one or two guys. Joe Meek is dead. The photos I see of the Tornados in the 60's, they were young. However it was an interesting video and the song sounded pretty good. Best I could find and I was pretty pleased with it really.

November 26, 2008 07:47 PM #9
Anonymous
Anonymous
Owen Adams

Joe Meek was born and raised a few miles from where I live, and I have written lots on him before. I am curious though about this DJ who barricaded himself in the studio to play Telstar repeatedly. Can you tell me who he was and which station?

Thanks so much

Owen

November 27, 2008 03:14 AM #10
Rainmaker
1,180,153
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Owen,

The radio station was here in Bellingham. KPUG. It was owned, at the time, by Robert Pollack. He was called Mr KPUG. The disc jockey was named Mike Forne. He locked himself in the control room and played the song over and over. He asked listeners to come fill the parking lot and to keep Mr KPUG out, so he could stay on air. I do not know how much was real and how much was just a publicity stunt. I had an audio tape of much of this until ten years ago. When I sold my station I donated the tape to KPUG. They did not have a copy of it. The fellow who took it is still alive, not sure if you could get a copy or not. I can give you his contact info, by private Email, if you want.

So, if you know lots about this, what is the deal with that video. Any idea as to why and where and when that came from, any original members there?

November 27, 2008 10:18 AM #11
Rainer
31,082
Deborah Fisher
Fisher & Company, P.A., Marketing & Creative Strategists - Fort Worth, TX

Another great post, Stephen.  I have an original copy of this record - a 45 - that my brother brought back from college with him.  Still sounds great.  This was certainly a song that was unique at the time.  The first 'space' music that I can recall.  No one was playing anything like this back then. The Ventures were another great instrumental group at that time, and they played some really great stuff as well. 

January 02, 2009 10:43 PM #12
Rainmaker
1,180,153
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Deborah,

As I recall the Ventures did Walk Don't Run. They were from the northwest here.

January 02, 2009 10:45 PM #13
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

I remember Telstar well, its one of those unforgettable songs.  I also remember watching for Sputnik to go overhead at night.

January 11, 2009 06:48 PM #14
Rainmaker
1,180,153
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Terry,

Along with wipe out it has to be one of the most memorable of the instrumentals.

January 11, 2009 07:45 PM #15
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Rainmaker
1,180,153

Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspector
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