I can’t take any of Joe Meek’s futurist cred away, and I wouldn’t want to try. But with forty-years of hindsight it’s also obvious how bound some of his records are to the past. “Johnny Remember Me” comes at us, bodice heaving, straight out of the Victorian gothic – “when the mists are rising and the rain is falling and the wind is blowing cold across the moors”. It’s a ghost story! But more than that, it’s a country ghost story – Leyton’s accent slips into pseudo-prairie and the urgent gallop of the music shares a bloodline with western standard “Ghost Riders In The Sky”. And more still, it’s a love song – a haunted, desperate love song. As the dead beloved’s vocals ring out high and clear Leyton’s own replies become more crazed – “Yes I’ll always remember – till the day I die I’ll hear her cry!”. Meek’s use of echo here is perfect – Leyton’s voice has a tint of it but the dead woman’s words are sharp and true; out on these moors we have slipped more than halfway into the beyond and it’s the living who sound muffled and eerie.
Gothic, western, romance – a pulp trinity, and “Johnny Remember Me” is on this list because the British love a melodrama. The best melodrama is played with an intensity which dares you, snarling, to take it lightly. The best melodrama is also often a little camp. Leyton doesn’t let his audience down – as he rips through those wonderful opening lines you can almost hear his nostrils flare. By the end of the song, as his spectral lover keeps calling he sounds genuinely doomstruck. A rich treat and a remarkable record.