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13 November 2014

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You are in: Gloucestershire > People > Profiles > Joe Meek (1929-1967)

Joe Meek (Photo: David Peters, JMAS)

Joe Meek (Photo: David Peters, JMAS)

Joe Meek (1929-1967)

Newent born Joe Meek was a pioneering record producer who became infamous for his eccentric behaviour and experimentation with instruments. Now a new film about his life has been released...

This weekend (25 October 2008) a new film about the life of Joe Meek is to get its world premiere at the London Film Festival. The movie called 'Telstar' stars Con O’Neill, Kevin Spacey and Pam Ferris. Click on the link on the right for more details.


Born Robert George Meek on April 5 in 1929, Joe grew up in Newent in the Forest of Dean.

Joe Meek (Photo: David Peters, JMAS)

As a boy he began experimenting with old radios and record players by taking them apart and seeing how they worked.

Sometimes this resulted in Joe creating his own recording equipment, a fascination that would continue throughout his life. He would often put speakers in the trees so local cherry pickers could listen to the radio as they worked.

Joe began taking his mobile record decks to dances in the local area as a budding DJ, and later he would join the RAF as a technician and as a radar operator, a job that allowed him to satisfy another fascination of his, outer space.

In 1953 London was calling, Joe moved to the capital and found a job at IBC Studios where he would learn the basics of being a recording engineer.

Ever the experimenter he would add his own sonic touch, the results of his experiments in his Newent home, on various songs - more often than not without the permission of the artists who he was recording!

These experiments resulted in techniques that modern musicians take for granted - such as removing the front skins of bass drums and moving microphones close to the instruments.

It was Joe who pioneered these techniques, however by his later standards these would seem tame.

Joe Meek (Photo: David Peters, JMAS)

Joe would have a hand in creating some of the biggest hits of the time – and worked with well known artists such as Lonnie Donegan, Petula Clark, Shirley Bassey, Gene Vincent, Frankie Vaughan, Acker Bilk, Anne Shelton and Tom Jones.

His most famous song "Telstar" which was recorded with The Tornados earned him both an Ivor Novello Award and the title of becoming the first ever single recorded by a British group to hit #1 in the US Billboard chart. The single also spent five weeks at the top of the UK charts.

Other hits Joe had a hand in included John Leyton's "Johnny Remember Me" and The Honeycombs' "Have I the Right?" which was another #1 in the UK charts and entered the US charts at #5.

However "Have I the Right?" would be Joe's last big hit. Joe had gained a reputation as being difficult to work with, he was very controlling and would often become angry and violent if musicians didn't do as he told them to.

On one occasion he stormed in on Mitch Mitchell, who would later go on to play for Jimi Hendrix, with a shotgun and screamed: "If you don't do it properly I'll blow your f***ing head off".

Joe's fascination with the unknown would take a darker turn when he would experiment with the occult. He would engage in séances and leave recording equipment in graveyards to try and contact his hero Buddy Holly.

Joe's death would occur exactly eight years after that of Holly - on February 3rd 1967. On that day Joe got into one of his regular arguments with his long suffering landlady Violet Shenton, concerning the noise levels coming from upstairs.

Joe Meek (Photo: David Peters, JMAS)

They also argued about the amount of back rent Joe still owed. His anger getting the better of him Joe picked up his shotgun and killed Mrs Shenton before turning the gun on himself.

It was thanks to Joe Meek's experimentation that techniques such as echo and reverb would be introduced into popular music, a technique used by virtually every artist or band ever since.

It's his pioneering spirit that should be celebrated on the up coming anniversary of his death, rather than the tragic events that so often overshadow his achievements.

last updated: 24/10/2008 at 16:19
created: 05/01/2007

Have Your Say

What was it about Joe Meek that made him so special? Would today's pop music have been the same without his influence?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Chris Hedger ( Singer/Guitarist for The Hotrods)
Joe was a wizard with electronics and unusual effects, a genius before his time. He knew exactly what sound he wanted but found it difficult to explain without cracking up.

Peter Rochford
Joe 2 me was,so advanced in sounds & effects.His recordings so crisp & that fab echo which is so ghostly & 2b honest,the man was a genius. the music world owe so much to Joe & his "own" ideas.God bless & fank u Mr Meek.

James H Dowbiggin, Toronto
I'm waiting for the E.P. collection which I found of Joe Meek. I've been reading up on him and I can't believe I never had heard of him. Heard the songs he was involved in I know I'm going to be buying the recent box set of his music and sound.

Hinton J. Sheryn (Author/Lecturer..Mining).
I met Joe at 304, spent an entire week there in July/August 1966. Joe was a fantastic record pproducer/composer and a very good friend.God Bless you Joe.

Andy richards
Joe meek was and still is a legend he was a legend R I P joe

Its shame that he did'nt just shoot himself, then he would have been the only one he hurt

mr p mcgrath
genius.the guy was years ahead of his time.i was a teen in the 60s.those that werent there dont know what they missed.

Winston Joseph
Joe Meek was an innovator and, in my opinion, a genius of his time. He produced a single for my band in his recording studio and not once did any of us experience the temper tantrums that other bands spoke about. We worked well together and all of us found him to be one of the most likeable person that we had experienced in our entire musical career. I would remember him for the genius that he was and the fact that the music recording would not have been the same without his extraordinary contribution.

Steve Bint
Simply Marvelous

richard loncaric
i live in the the 1960's i just could not wait to hear the next song that he would put out. joe meek is was and still the best.

tim rees
lets remember joe meek forhis innovation & achievemnts in production ,he was a pioneer in studio recording&up there with brian wilson & phil spector.they are allperfectionists,but look at them together,are they so different? the words genius & eccentric come to mind.

Adrian Gregg
It's a crying shame that ALL his "master tapes" which contain thousands of hours of never before heard material as well as the Masters for all his songs. sit in boxes in cliff cooper's music shop in london somewhere.. be bought all the tapes after joe's sad death, and won't let anyone hear them.. after 40 years the guy better do somthing soon.. as I work everyday with tapes from that vintage and depending on the brand and batch of "blank" most by now may be ruined.. another "sad" end to the genius that was Mr. Meek.. so how about it Mr. Cooper.. it's about time.!!

Marion at Liss England
He gave us our own rock and roll sound over here, brings back that time perfectly.

valentin hauri
Joe Meek was a true artist, who doesn't make any compromises. He walked head up and just did what he believed in. Great musik, fantastic songs, visionary statements! All this makes him outstandig & bigger then most of the people in the music business then and now! Listen closely to Joes Messages!

graham ford
is there a compilation of all his records either hits or ones he produced for other artists. Can you tell me which Record Co and how to order. He was a true pioneer. A genius in the mould of Phil Spector.

Al Denholm
Joe Meek should be remembered for his contribution to sound recording and British music, not for the tragic events that happened in 1967.It would be sad if 304 Holloway road was left to ruin, this could easily be set up as a museum and would be a great tribute to the man and his work.

Robbie Duke
Lots of fans make the pilgrimage to Sun Studios every the USAand likewise there are fans here in the UK that go to 304 Holloway Road,London N7. and stand outsite or sit on the bench.If this was America, 304 would be a National Treasure and would have been made into a museum by now. Instead, 40 years after the tragic death of Joe Meek, Britain's first independant pop record producer, the building which he used as his recording studio and home is falling apart, literally. It is shocking to see the poor state of disrepair this landmark has fallen into over the years. It's as if the recording industry and all the big wigs who didn't mind associating with Joe when they thought he could make them a star, want his memory wiped off histrories records. We cannot just sit back and let this happen.

stuart freed
He influenced a younger generation no doubt about it so why isn't he in the Rock and Roll hall of Fame? He was an original and irreplacable

Andy Meek
Lets get it together now my friends theres no need for hatred. Take it eze meekys ur cheshire friend

Rob Bradford
With ref to Steve & John.The tragic ending of Joe's life and that of Violet Shenton will always cast a long shadow & will probably mean that Joe will never be inducted into the Music Hall Of Fame. Awful though it was - we shouldn't let the last two minutes (literally)of Meek's life overshadow the previous 37 years. It was shocking that he killed the unfortunate Mrs Shenton - but (as we can now tell with 40 years of hindsight, mental health advances etc) Joe Meek was clearly suffering a total physical and mental breakdown. He was literally out of his mind when he took Mrs Shenton's life and ended his own. To that end, he cannot possibly be compared with the depraved and vile Fred West - who callously and pre - meditatingly abused, tortured,raped and murdered several young women over a long period of time. Plus, I don't think that Fred was an innnovative pioneer of recorded sound.Joe's personal life may not be approved by everyone and no - one cannot but be appalled about Violet Shenton's death - but Joe's genius as a Record Producer / Soundscape creator should not go unrecognised.

steve wilce
The guy may have been clever; Fred West was a good builder, shall we commemorate him too.

Rob Bradford
Joe Meek was definitely both a genuine pioneer and innovator of sound recording. He truly was a great record producer. This is why he deserves to be remembered

Doug Kilroy(Bass guitarist for "The Hotrods")
Joe had an exceptional ear for the sound that he wanted and would not settle for anything less than the best sound he could get. He would bring out the best in us, that is dedication.

Tom Hammond
Its difficult to explain an unknown force Joe puts into his Music-I wish I had met him..but then I dont need to I have the Music

billy kuy (ld.guitarist The Outlaws}
Though Joe could sometimes be difficult in the studio, a lot of us should be proud to have been with him, in his unique time.

Mike Anthony
It was the sound of Joe's records that got me interested in music,recording and sound effects, And so thanks to him I have spent the last forty years either playing in bands or working in my own studio. I've had a great life, thanks Joe

Rod Janes
I still play and like very much two particular records he produced, "Love & Fury", by the "Tornados" and "Crazy Drums" by the "Outlaws",I would like to thank you very much for the three programmes,sincerely,Rod Janes

Archibald McSkerrin
Joe was my special friend, and I still miss him to this very day. God bless you JM, for all that you have done for modern music, and for me. I still miss you.


John Clarke
Why do we call him a local hero. The guy was a nutter who ended up not only killing himself but another person. How is that regarded as being hero status????

Patrick Pink (Joe's assistant)
Joe Meek gave every one a chance to make it in the music biz. He was the kindest man I've ever known. I'm so happy his Legacy lives on today after 40 years. --Not many have achieved this. His music stands out, if Johnny Remember Me were released today it would still make number one. Telstar is so brilliant no one has ever made a better version. God bless you Joe.

lauraine meek

Robin Attwood
He was an utter genius. Just listen to Telstar - it could have been produced yesterday it sounds so futuristic. Today's pop music owes him so much - he was the father of today's recording techniques.

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