Telstar (instrumental)

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German picture sleeve
Single by The Tornados
from the album The Original Telstar - The Sounds of The Tornadoes
B-side"Jungle Fever"
Released17 August 1962 (1962-08-17)[citation needed]
Recorded22 July 1962[citation needed]
StudioRGM Sound, London
Songwriter(s)Joe Meek
Producer(s)Joe Meek
The Tornados singles chronology
"Love and Fury"
Official audio
"Telstar" (Remastered) on YouTube

"Telstar" is a 1962 instrumental by the English band the Tornados, written and produced by Joe Meek. It reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100 in December 1962 (the second British recording to reach number one on that chart in the year, after "Stranger on the Shore" in May). It was the second instrumental single to hit number one in 1962 on both the US and UK weekly charts.[note 1]

Later in 1962, Meek produced a vocal version, "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 director for both songs was Ivor Raymonde.[5]


"Telstar" was named after the Telstar communications satellite, which was launched into orbit on 10 July 1962. Written and produced by Joe Meek,[4] 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.[6]

In 2007, Tim Wheeler of Ash wrote that "Telstar" was one of the earliest pop tracks influenced by science fiction, and that "for its time it was so futuristic and it still sounds pretty weird today". He observed the influence of "Telstar" in the 2006 single "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse; Muse's singer and guitarist, Matt Bellamy, is the son of the Tornados guitarist George Bellamy.[7]


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.[8][9]

Commercial performance[edit]

The record was an immediate hit after its release, remaining in the UK Singles Chart for 25 weeks, five of them at number 1,[10] 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: the first was "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" by Vera Lynn (1952); the second was "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" by Laurie London (1958); and the third was in May 1962 with "Stranger on the Shore" by clarinetist Acker Bilk.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Telstar"
  2. "Jungle Fever"


The Tornados[edit]

Additional personnel[edit]

  • Joe Meek – composer, producer
  • Geoff Goddardclavioline (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


Chart (1962–1963) Peak
Australia 2
Belgian Singles Chart 1
Canadian Singles Chart[11] 1
Dutch Singles Chart[12] 3
German Singles Chart 6
Irish Singles Chart 1
New Zealand (ONZMC)[13] 1
Norwegian Singles Chart[14] 3
South African Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart[15] 1
US Billboard Hot 100 1
US Billboard Black Singles[16] 5

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Stranger on the Shore" did make number one on the Billboard Hot 100, the Record Mirror and NME weekly charts and also topped the end of year charts.
  • According to OCC it is the second instrumental number one of 1962 in the UK, the first being "Wonderful Land" by The Shadows which was No 1 for more weeks than any other single that year (eight).


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Molanphy, Chris (April 14, 2023). "The British Are Charting Edition". Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia (Podcast). Slate. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  3. ^ Breihan, Tom (November 15, 2022). "The Beach Boys - "Good Vibrations". The Number Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal the History of Pop Music. New York: Hachette Book Group. p. 88.
  4. ^ a b c 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.
  5. ^ "Kenny Hollywood". Retrieved 13 February 2007.
  6. ^ a b "Roger LaVern". Telegraph. London. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
  7. ^ Wheeler, Tim (August 2007). "Sci-fi rocks". Q. p. 117.
  8. ^ "Austerlitz (1960)". Retrieved 2014-04-05.
  9. ^ "The JOE MEEK Page | Joe Meek: A Portrait - 7. The cases Telstar, Heinz, Madras Place, Howard/Blaikley". Retrieved 2014-04-05.
  10. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 142–3. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  11. ^ "CHUM Hit Parade - December 3, 1962".
  12. ^ van Slooten, Johan, ed. (2005). Top 40 Hitdossier 1965-2005. J.H. Gottmer/H.J.W. Becht. p. 328. ISBN 90-230-1144-9.
  13. ^ "flavour of new zealand – search lever". Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  14. ^ "The Tornados - Telstar". Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  15. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Tornados - Telstar". Official Charts. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 585.

External links[edit]