German picture sleeve
|Single by The Tornados|
|Released||17 August 1962|
|Recorded||RGM Sound, London, 1962|
|Genre||Instrumental rock, space rock|
|The Tornados singles chronology|
The song reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in December 1962 (the second British recording to reach No. 1 on that chart in the year, after Stranger on the Shore in May), and was also a number one hit in the UK. It was the second instrumental single to hit No.1 on both the US and UK weekly charts.[note 1]
The record was named after the Telstar communications satellite, which was launched into orbit on 10 July 1962. It was written and produced by Joe Meek, and featured a clavioline, a keyboard instrument with a distinctive electronic sound. "Telstar" won an Ivor Novello Award and is estimated to have sold at least five million copies worldwide.
This novelty record was intended to evoke the dawn of the space age, complete with sound effects that were meant to sound "space-like". A popular story at the time of the record's release was that the weird distortions and background noise came from sending the signal up to the Telstar satellite and re-recording it back on Earth. It is more likely that the effects were created in Meek's recording studio, which was a small flat above a shop in Holloway Road, North London.
Plagiarism claim 
A French composer, Jean Ledrut, accused Joe Meek of plagiarism, claiming that the tune of "Telstar" had been copied from "La Marche d'Austerlitz", a piece from a score that Ledrut had written for the 1960 film Austerlitz. This led to a lawsuit that prevented Meek from receiving royalties from the record during his lifetime, and the issue was not resolved in Meek's favour until three weeks after his suicide in 1967. Austerlitz was not released in the UK until 1965, and Meek was unaware of the film when the lawsuit was filed in March 1963.
"Magic Star" and other vocal versions 
Meek produced later in 1962 a vocal version of "Telstar" titled "Magic Star", sung by Kenny Hollywood. It was released as a single by Decca Records (cat. nr F11546), with on the B-side "The Wonderful Story of Love", written by Geoff Goddard. The musical direction for both songs was done by Ivor Raymonde. "Magic Star" was covered by Margie Singleton, released by Mercury Records (cat. nr 72079) in January 1963, backed with "Only Your Shadow Knows".
Two Spanish vocal versions were released by Alberto Cortez and the Latin Quartet, titled "Magica Estrella."
In 1986, Scottish duo the Knits sampled the original sounds and mixed them with text excerpts from Marx's "18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon". Their song was called "Passivism".
With French lyrics by Jacques Plante, the song was released by Les Compagnons de la chanson under the title "Telstar - Une étoile en plein jour" (a star in broad daylight).
Track listing 
- Jungle Fever
The Tornados 
- Clem Cattini – drums
- Alan Caddy – lead guitar
- Roger LaVern – additional keyboards
- George Bellamy – rhythm guitar
- Heinz Burt – bass
- Joe Meek – composer, producer
- Geoff Goddard – clavioline (on both sides), plus subtle vocals towards the end of "Telstar"
- Dave Adams – transcription of Meek's composition recording
Chart performance 
The record was an immediate hit after its release, remaining in the UK pop charts for 25 weeks, five of them at number one, and in the American charts for 16 weeks. "Telstar" was the first U.S. number one by a British group. Up to that point, and since World War II, there had only been three British names that topped the U.S. chart: in May 1962 "Stranger on the Shore" by clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk; the second was "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" by Laurie London (1958), whilst the first was "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" by Vera Lynn (1952). See List of songs by British artists which reached number-one on the Hot 100 (USA).
|UK Singles Chart||1|
|Belgian Singles Chart||1|
|Dutch Singles Chart||3|
|German Singles Chart||6|
|Irish Singles Chart||1|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||3|
|South African Singles Chart||1|
|US Billboard Hot 100||1|
|US Billboard Black Singles||5|
"She's Not You" by Elvis Presley
|UK number one single
4 October 1962 (five weeks)
"Lovesick Blues" by Frank Ifield
"Big Girls Don't Cry" by The Four Seasons
|Billboard Hot 100 number one single
22 December 1962 (three weeks)
"Go Away Little Girl" by Steve Lawrence
Cover versions 
There have been numerous other artists who recorded "Telstar." Most notable are:
Use in popular culture 
- This song was utilised as ongoing theme music for the 1979 film Mr. Mike's Mondo Video in the same vein as the song "More" was used in this film's inspiration, Mondo Cane.
- The Finnish rock band Eppu Normaali borrowed the opening of "Telstar" as the guitar solo for their song "Science Fiction" (1979).
- In the movie The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000), the angel Gabriel, played by Christopher Walken, plays trumpet to this song while driving on the highway.
- A "sound-alike" of this song appears in the film Strangers with Candy (2006). According to the audio commentary for the film, they were unsuccessful in getting the rights to the actual song.
- The song was used on a second season episode of the AMC series Mad Men entitled "The Inheritance" (2008).
- A modern version of the song is used as the intro for the Flemish comedy TV series Willy's en Marjetten (2006).
- "Knights of Cydonia", a 2006 song by rock band Muse, was influenced by "Telstar". Lead guitarist and vocalist Matthew Bellamy is the son of The Tornados' rhythm guitarist, George Bellamy.
Other uses 
- A number of football teams, such as East Fife and Telstar walk out on to the field of play to this song.
- The former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher named "Telstar" as one of her favourite pop songs.
- The WFMU Radio Show Seven Second Delay used this song as a theme song. It was picked by a listener who won a contest to pick the theme song during one of WFMU's pledge drives in 2001. They used it as a theme for one year, up through early 2002.
- The song and the life of its composer Joe Meek, was the basis of Nick Moran's directing debut in the 2008 film Telstar.
- Stranger on the Shore did make No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the Record Mirror and NME weekly charts and also topped the end of year charts.
- Austerlitz (1960) at IMDb
- The cases Telstar, Heinz, Madras Place, Howard/Blaikley
- "Kenny Hollywood". www.coda-uk.co.uk. Retrieved 13 February 2007.
- "The Spirit Of The P/age".
- "Camillo - Telstar (Irgendwann Erwacht Ein Neuer Tag) (7", EP) at Discogs". Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- "Chart Stats - Tornados - Telstar". Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- van Slooten, Johan, ed. (2005). Top 40 Hitdossier 1965-2005. J.H. Gottmer/H.J.W. Becht. p. 328. ISBN 90-230-1144-9.
- "charts-surfer.de search results". Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- "irishcharts.ie search results". Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- "norwegiancharts.com - The Tornados - Telstar". Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- "allmusic - The Tornados > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- "Bitch Boys' "...In Heat" album reviews and audio samples". The Guitar Nine. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
- "Telstar - Les Compagnons de la chanson". Encyclopédisque. Retrieved 19 May 2012.
- "Rock and Roll Jam Sandwiches - Twangin' n' A-Traddin'". Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- "Official OMD website - downloads". Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- "BBC NEWS - Ifans to play '60s pop mogul Meek". www.bbc.co.uk. 2006-11-11. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
- "Letter from Margaret Thatcher to Roger LaVern of the Tornados". Retrieved 4 March 2008.
- Roger LaVern: The Recording Of The Worldwide Hit "Telstar"
- http://www.telstar-archives.com/ a (fan) site dedicated to the song
- http://www.the-tornados.com/telstar.html a fan page