THE BLUE MEN – “I Hear A New World”
GLENDA COLLINS – “It’s Hard To Believe It”
(all in RealAudio from here)
As I may have written somewhere else on Freaky Trigger, Joe Meek would never have been a fraction of the genius he was had he pretended that the British people in 1960 could understand Rockism. Even when his protege, Heinz, covered and imitated Eddie Cochran, it was in a uniquely airy, open, British style. His genius was to grasp the cosy, affluent optimism of the era and translate it into space – a kind of halfway meeting of Harold Macmillan and Bob Moog. If Stevenage wasn’t big enough for the dreams of 1960, then it had to be somewhere far beyond.

“I Hear A New World” is perhaps his definitive early statement, recorded in late 1959. With its “alien” vocals and impossibly appealing melody line, it’s one of the most promising and forward-looking songs ever recorded in Britain. It still invites you into an intoxicating utopia, perhaps simultaneously a New Town and another planet (it’s difficult to believe that this is from the era of Cliff Richard’s “Voice in the Wilderness”, let alone that the two songs have almost the same pace and guitar sound …). But this music could only work as everything gently flowed forward – when it was sped up by socialism and the Beatles, it would suddenly appear like a relic of a cancelled future, revised into the first incarnation of British Rockism. Geoff Goddard’s “Sky Men” – a sub-Telstar arrangement and melody line accompanied by an incredible, inspirational high vocal register, was already sounding dated in 1963, due to the malign influence of the exaggeratedly proletarian and “everyday” Merseybeat movement. You can sense the poignancy creeping in by this point, and apart from The Honeycombs’ “Have I The Right” (a 1964 Number 1, largely because of its sub-Dave Clark Five “stomping” rhythm rather than its mind-blowing production) Meek would fall into commercial obscurity from here on in. The fact that various regressive blues-rock troglodytes usurped Meek’s futurism caused an incredible personal sadness to creep into his life.

Recorded the year before Meek’s death, “It’s Hard To Believe It” is the man’s great lost single, a heartbreaking lament for the demise of the dreams that opened the decade, beginning with a nuclear explosion, a cry, and into a mournful elegy for Meek’s entire career, an utter inversion of his 1960-63 work, recorded in a style which was knowingly outdated and aware of its utter commercial unsuitability to 1966. This song (and the comparison is, I admit, bleeding obvious) can only be described as “Ashes to Ashes” to the “Space Oddity” of “I Hear A New World”. I never thought I’d say this (as someone who idolises Wilsonian social democracy) but if Harold Macmillan’s cosy futurism could (however accidentally) give us Joe Meek and Wilson gave us The Yardbirds, then I’d have chosen an extension of the early 60s into the middle years of the decade. And I know that “Sky Men” is infinitely more important than “She Loves You” in my personal history.