“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!