Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Joe Meek's legacy

Probably the most celebrated and intriguing UK record producer of the 60s was Joe Meek, whose recording studio in Holloway Road, London, created dozens of hits, including John Leyton's Johnny Remember Me, Michael Cox's Angela Jones and the Honeycombs' Have I The Right. Other artists that he recorded included The Tornados, Heinz, Mike Berry, Gene Vincent, Billy Fury, Cliff Bennett and many more.
Joe led a troubled life, being gay at a time when it was illegal in the UK, and ensured immortality by killing his landlady and then himself with a shotgun in 1967. Many of his recordings are now highly collectable and his rather home made but innovative recording techniques are legendary. His unreleased 'tea chest tapes' fetched £200,000 in an auction in 2008.
Among some records that I bought today in charity shops were a couple of Joe Meek productions, both of which are interesting in their own way.
1. Heinz - Heinz EP. Released in 1963. Decca DFE 8545. Mint value - £60.
Heinz Burt was the bass guitarist in the Tornados, but became Joe's 'protege', even though his vocal skills were distinctly limited. He had a big hit with Just Like Eddie, but I well remember seeing him perform on a show with Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon and joining in the loud booing he received. This was his first EP and is hard to find these days. Heinz died in 2000.
2. Houston Wells & The Marksmen - Western Style. LP released in 1963 on Parlophone PMC1215. Mint value - £50.
Another Joe Meek artist, Houston Wells recorded a number of rather unconvincing country numbers including Shutters and Boards and, his biggest success, Only The Heartaches. This LP included a variety of country songs recorded originally by Johnny Horton, Hank Lochlin and Jimmy Dean, among others. Houston had a pretty good voice and the Joe Meek inspired backings added a degree of interest to these otherwise ordinary numbers.
Given the sad demise of Joe Meek, this photo of Joe apparently forcing Houston Wells to sign his contract at the point of a shotgun is somewhat ironic.
3. The Beatles - Extracts From The Album A Hard Day's Night EP. Parlophone GEP 8924. Mint value - £30.
Nothing to do with Joe Meek (in fact he turned them down, claiming they were 'just another bunch of noise, copying other people's music'), this was the second EP to be issued comprising tracks from the Hard Day's Night album and is surprisingly rare. Tracks are Any Time At All, I'll Cry Instead, Things We Said Today and When I Get home, none of which were featured in the film itself.


At 8:06 pm , Anonymous John S said...

Haven't seen the picture of Joe and Houston before; he doesn't look very comfortable with that gun - probably best he puts it down before he accidentally shoots someone.

At 1:15 am , Anonymous Alan said...

I didn't think much of Heinz's voice but Just Like Eddie had some curious appeal.
I don't think I would have enjoyed him doing a live appearance.


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