German picture sleeve
|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]
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. "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."
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 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.
"Magic Star" and other vocal versions
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. "Magic Star" was covered by Margie Singleton, released by Mercury Records (cat. nr 72079) in January 1963, with "Only Your Shadow Knows" on the B-side.
Luxembourg-born German language singer Camillo Felgen recorded the German vocal version as "Telstar (Irgendwann Erwacht Ein Neuer Tag)" (literally, "Someday a new day will awake") with lyrics by Carl Ulrich Blecher in 1963.
The song was re-recorded in 1975 by four of the original Tornados members – Cattini, LaVern, Burt and Bellamy – who briefly reunited as the Original Tornados.
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).
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 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).
- "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 subtle 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|
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There have been numerous other artists who recorded "Telstar". Most notable are:
- The Shadows (1981)
- Bitch Boys (2002)
- Heldon (as T.H.X., 1978)
- Les Compagnons de la chanson (French vocal version, titled "Telstar - Une étoile en plein jour", lyrics by Jacques Plante, 1962).
- The Ashley Hutchings Big Beat Combo (1994)
- Kraus (2011)
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) (1979)
- "The Ventures Play Telstar and the Lonely Bull" (1963)
Use in popular culture
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- This song was used 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 at the end of episode 10 of the second season 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.
- The song is included in the jukebox musical Return to the Forbidden Planet.
- 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.
- 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).
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- Wheeler, Tim (August 2007). "Sci-fi rocks". Q. p. 117.
- "Austerlitz (1960)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
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- "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.
- "The Shadows - Hits Right Up Your Street". Discogs.com. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- "Bitch Boys' "...In Heat" album reviews and audio samples". The Guitar Nine. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
- "T.H.X. - Telstar". Discogs. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- "Telstar - Les Compagnons de la chanson". Encyclopédisque. Retrieved 19 May 2012.
- "Twangin' n' A-Traddin'". Jamsandwiches.tripod.com. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- "Outlet Bertoni, Bison, Camp David, Carhartt Online - Nyeste Kollektioner Med Billige Pris I Danmark". Eagerproduct.com. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- "The Ventures Play Telstar, The Lonely Bull - The Ventures - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- 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.