|Single by The Tornados|
|from the album Telstar - The Sounds of The Tornados|
|Released||17 August 1962|
|Recorded||22 July 1962|
|Studio||RGM Sound, London|
|Genre||Space age pop|
|The Tornados singles chronology|
"Telstar" is a 1962 instrumental written and produced by Joe Meek for the English band the Tornados. The track reached number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in December 1962 (the second British recording to reach number 1 on that chart in the year, after "Stranger on the Shore" in May), and was also a number one hit in the UK Singles Chart. It was the second instrumental single to hit number 1 in 1962 on both the US and UK weekly charts.[note 1]
Later in 1962, Meek produced 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 "The Wonderful Story of Love" on the B-side, written by Geoff Goddard. The musical direction for both songs was done by Ivor Raymonde.
The record was named after the Telstar communications satellite, which was launched into orbit on 10 July 1962. Written and produced by Joe Meek, it featured either a clavioline or the similar Jennings Univox, both keyboard instruments with distinctive electronic sounds. It was recorded in Meek's studio in a small flat above a shop in Holloway Road, North London. "Telstar" won an Ivor Novello Award and is estimated to have sold at least five million copies worldwide.
"This was one of the first sci-fi-influenced pop songs," observed Tim Wheeler of Ash in 2007. "For its time it was so futuristic and it still sounds pretty weird today. It features Matt Bellamy's dad George on guitar… You can hear traces of it in Muse. 'Knights of Cydonia' was definitely him tipping his hat to his dad."
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 film Austerlitz (1960). 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.
The record was an immediate hit after its release, remaining in the UK Singles Chart for 25 weeks, five of them at number 1, 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 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).
- "Jungle Fever"
Credits and personnel
- 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 wordless vocals in the final playing of the theme (also on both sides)
- Dave Adams – transcription of Meek's composition recording
|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|
|UK Singles Chart||1|
|US Billboard Hot 100||1|
|US Billboard Black Singles||5|
- The former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher named "Telstar" as one of her favourite pop songs.
- According to OCC it is the second instrumental number one in the UK of 1962, the first being "Wonderful Land" by The Shadows which was No. 1 for more weeks than any other single that year (eight).
- Nardi, Carlo (July 2011). "The Cultural Economy Of Sound: Reinventing Technology In Indian Popular Cinema". Journal on the Art of Record Production (5). ISSN 1754-9892. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
- Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 67. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
- "Kenny Hollywood". Coda-uk.co.uk. Retrieved 13 February 2007.
- "Roger LaVern". Telegraph. London. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
- Wheeler, Tim (August 2007). "Sci-fi rocks". Q. p. 117.
- "Austerlitz (1960)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
- "The JOE MEEK Page | Joe Meek: A Portrait - 7. The cases Telstar, Heinz, Madras Place, Howard/Blaikley". Joemeekpage.info. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 142–3. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- van Slooten, Johan, ed. (2005). Top 40 Hitdossier 1965-2005. J.H. Gottmer/H.J.W. Becht. p. 328. ISBN 90-230-1144-9.
- "The Tornados - Telstar". Norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- "The Official Charts Company - Tornados - Telstar". Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 585.
- Dermody, Nick (2006-11-11). "BBC NEWS - Ifans to play '60s pop mogul Meek". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
- "Roger LaVern". Coda-uk.co.uk. Retrieved 5 January 2018.