Wednesday, 13 June 2012


Telstar: The Joe Meek Story is a film about a murder – or, rather, the events leading up to it. Same concept as Agatha Christie’s Towards Zero, I suppose, though it would be hard to imagine two more different stories. And one reason for this is that the Joe Meek story is taken from real life. It’s a story that I’ve always found macabre, poignant and extraordinary.

Meek was a record producer with a very distinctive style who was responsible for the first records I ever liked – Telstar and Globetrotter, the chart-topping instrumentals recorded by The Tornados just before the Beatles came on the scene in a big way. He had many successes, and his cover version of the Bacharach-Hilliard classic Please Stay, performed by Duffy, plays as the final credits of the movie roll. He was a deeply troubled man, and of course therein lies the fascination of his story, probably the most remarkable of Sixties pop music.

A good many years ago, a TV documentary based on John Repsch’s  excellent book The Legendary Joe Meek made a huge impact on me, and influenced my approach in writing a Harry Devlin novel about the 60s pop scene, Yesterday’s Papers (which remains a personal favourite.) The stranger-than-fiction story of Meek’s life and death makes it perfect material for a movie.

And yet. I must confess that, although Telstar has received some good reviews elsewhere, I was disappointed with it. The comic book tone of most of the screenplay contrasted weirdly with the tragic later scenes, and I’m afraid I didn’t think the transition was well handled. Similarly, I found Con O’Neill’s portrayal of Meek, though energetic, to be a bit random and unconvincing. And as for the great Kevin Spacey, bizarrely miscast as Meek's business partner, don't get me started. So, a film that I regard as a missed opportunity – but an utterly fascinating story. If you don’t know it, read Repsch’s book, which is packed with intriguing period detail.


Deb said...

Among many other songs, he also produced one of my favorites from the sixties, "Have I the Right?" by the Honeycombs.

A life sadly crippled by depression and drug abuse (which only exacerbated his paranoia).

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Deb. A very good song! It really is a very sad story, and of course one feels especially for the luckless person he killed.