Nov 04

THE TORNADOS – “Telstar”

Popular35 comments • 6,925 views

#141, 6th October 1962

“Telstar” leads the instrumental beat boom to the wonderful land, packs it on a rocket and sends it to the stars – its all-or-nothing optimism is inspiring and bittersweet. Inspiring because Joe Meek wrote a hymn for a better future than he or we got, and the world heard it. Bittersweet because the valves and echo chambers, the clockwork, spit and blu-tack that Meek built his future out of were already beginning to creak and decay. “Telstar” – a beautiful modernist shock to the charts – still sounds thrilling now but also seems ancient and time-lost, as proud and sad as old Dan Dare comics.

But the thing with satellites is how many of them never come back to Earth. They just stay up there, blinking silently in the dark – the professionals forget about their signals and move on, leaving amateurs and enthusiasts to pick up the traces briefly through the static. Telstar itself went dead less than a year after launch; but “Telstar” was a sort of satellite too, opening channels back to America and rising up that country’s charts while its namesake beamed live into British living rooms. And after Joe Meek faded and died his satellite kept on transmitting, telling anyone who could pick it up (an Italian songwriter in Munich, a floppy-haired Sheffield fop, a Cornish mentalist) that here was a different way to make pop music. “Telstar” promised music which would walk forward hand in hand with technology, using it to do what pop does best – amplify the buzz of being alive. Here comes tomorrow!



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  1. 26
    Jimmy the Swede on 8 Oct 2013 #

    [referred to deleted posts, seemed best to cut it also, apologies to JtS]

    [this is an admin note^^^]

  2. 27
    Patrick Mexico on 3 Nov 2013 #

    [removed at poster’s request]

  3. 28
    Patrick Mexico on 24 Nov 2013 #

    Admin, please can you remove comments 25 and 27. I’m adamant linking to those threads, rather than simply being a fun distraction, undermines the hard work Tom has put into this. Cheers.

    P.S. I won’t ask for this cleaning up any more. From now on, I will never ask anything else I write on Freakytrigger to be deleted or retconned. Sorry for any inconvenience and thanks for your understanding.

  4. 29

    I’m Adam Ant!
    No, I’m Adam Ant!

  5. 30
    Jimmy the Swede on 25 Nov 2013 #

    And I am not responsible for the comment at #26.


  6. 31

    Apologies Jimmy, the admin note was not clearly written. #26 was removed because it referred only to the vanished #25 and now made no sense.

    This is why we dislike doing this.

  7. 32
    Jimmy the Swede on 26 Nov 2013 #

    Thanks, Mark. J

  8. 33
    hectorthebat on 8 Mar 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    San Antonio Express-News (USA) – Rock ‘n’ roll timeline (2004)
    Shredding Paper (USA) – The 50 Greatest Singles Ever (2002) 14
    Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields) – The Best Recordings from 1900 to 1999
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1960s (2008)
    Mojo (UK) – The Ultimate Jukebox: 100 Singles You Must Own (2003) 51
    Q (UK) – 100 Songs That Changed the World (2003) 18
    Q (UK) – 50 Years of Great British Music, 10 Tracks per Decade (2008)
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  9. 34
    lonepilgrim on 22 Jan 2015 #

    this still sounds thrillingly modern – somehow it manages to harness a rock and roll energy to something streamlined and futuristic

  10. 35
    Phil on 20 May 2015 #

    A 10 from me, because of how wonderful it is.

    When my father died I wasn’t able to do very much for a few days – everything seemed either far too hard, far too distressing or far too trivial. By chance I found some score-writing software that I’d installed and forgotten about, and spent two full days writing out the whole of Telstar from memory, drum track, guitar solo, key change and all. I survived, and – perhaps surprisingly – so did Telstar; it still sounds utterly wonderful, like the fulfilment of a promise of something indescribable. Thanks, Joe.

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