- Telstar (song)
German picture sleeve
Single by The Tornados B-side "Jungle Fever" Released 17 August 1962 Format 7" vinyl Recorded RGM Sound, London, 1962 Genre Space rock Length 3:15 Label Decca (UK)
Writer(s) Joe Meek Producer Joe Meek The Tornados singles chronology "Love and Fury
"Telstar" is a 1962 instrumental record performed by The Tornados. It was the first single by a British band to reach number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and was also a number one hit in the UK. The record was named after the AT&T communications satellite Telstar, which went into orbit in July 1962. The instrumental was released five weeks later on 17 August 1962. It was written and produced by Joe Meek, and featured a clavioline, a keyboard instrument with a distinctive electronic sound. "Telstar" won an Ivor Novello Award and is estimated to have sold at least five million copies worldwide.
This novelty record was intended to evoke the dawn of the space age, complete with sound effects that were meant to sound "space-like". A popular story at the time of the record's release was that the weird distortions and background noise came from sending the signal up to the Telstar satellite and re-recording it back on Earth. It is more likely that the effects were created in Meek's recording studio, which was a small flat above a shop in Holloway Road, north London.
A French composer, Jean Ledrut, accused Joe Meek of plagiarism, claiming that the tune of "Telstar" had been copied from "La Marche d'Austerlitz", a piece from a score that Ledrut had written for the 1960 film Austerlitz. This led to a lawsuit that prevented Meek from receiving royalties from the record during his lifetime, and the issue was not resolved in Meek's favour until three weeks after his death in 1967. Austerlitz was not released in the UK until 1965, and Meek was unaware of the film when the lawsuit was filed in March 1963.
"Magic Star" and other vocal versions
Meek produced later in 1962 a vocal version of "Telstar" titled "Magic Star", sung by Kenny Hollywood. It was released as a single by Decca Records (cat. nr F11546), with on the B-side "The Wonderful Story of Love", written by Geoff Goddard. The musical direction for both songs was done by Ivor Raymonde. "Magic Star" was covered by Margie Singleton, released by Mercury Records (cat. nr 72079) in January 1963, backed with "Only Your Shadow Knows".
Two Spanish vocal versions were released by Alberto Cortez and The Latin Quartet, titled "Magica Estrella."
In 1986, Scottish duo The Knits sampled the original sounds and mixed them with text excerpts from Marx's "18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon". Their song was called "Passivism".
With French lyrics by Jacques Plante, the song was released by Les Compagnons de la chanson under the title "Telstar - Une étoile en plein jour" (a star in broad daylight).
- UK: Decca F11494
- USA: London Lon 9561 (as The Tornadoes)
- France: Decca 72.009 Simple
- West Germany: London 20654
Side one No. Title Writer(s) Length 1. "Telstar" Joe Meek 3:15 Side two No. Title Writer(s) Length 1. "Jungle Fever" Geoff Goddard 2:15
- Clem Cattini – drums
- Alan Caddy – lead guitar
- Roger LaVern – additional keyboards
- George Bellamy – rhythm guitar
- Heinz Burt – bass
- Joe Meek – composer, producer
- Geoff Goddard – clavioline (on both sides), plus subtle vocals towards the end of "Telstar"
- Dave Adams – transcription of Meek's composition recording
The record was an immediate hit after its release, remaining in the UK pop charts for 25 weeks, five of them at number one, and in the American charts for 16 weeks. "Telstar" was the first U.S. number one by a British group. Up to that point, and since World War II, there had only been three British names that topped the U.S. chart: in May 1962 "Stranger on the Shore" by clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk; the second was "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" by Laurie London (1958), whilst the first was "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" by Vera Lynn (1952). See List of songs by British artists which reached number-one on the Hot 100 (USA).
Chart (1962) Peak
UK Singles Chart 1 Belgian Singles Chart 1 Dutch Singles Chart 3 German Singles Chart 6 Irish Singles Chart 1 Norwegian Singles Chart 3 South African Singles Chart 1 US Billboard Hot 100 1 US Billboard Black Singles 5 Preceded by
"She's Not You" by Elvis Presley
UK number one single
4 October 1962 (five weeks)
"Lovesick Blues" by Frank Ifield
"Big Girls Don't Cry" by The Four Seasons
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
22 December 1962 (three weeks)
"Go Away Little Girl" by Steve Lawrence
There have been numerous other artists who recorded "Telstar", most notable are:
- Ad Infinitum (1984)
- Apollo 100
- Bitch Boys (2002)
- The Challengers
- The Champs
- Alberto Cortez (Spanish vocal version, titled "Magica Estrella")
- The Eagles (1960s)
- Camillo Felgen (German vocal version, titled "Telstar (Irgendwann Erwacht Ein Neuer Tag)")
- Les Fradkin (2008)
- The Gaylads (vocal version called "Red rose", includes the Studio One band doing an organ version)
- Hot Butter
- The Ashley Hutchings Big Beat Combo (1994)
- Ricky King
- Laika and the Cosmonauts
- James Last (1966)
- The Lively Ones
- Stephan Mathieu
- Midnight Oil (live, from "Oils on the Water")
- Takako Minekawa (1998)
- Jackie Mittoo
- Monsters From Mars
- Ronnie Montrose (The Speed Of Sound) 1988
- Not Breathing (2000)
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) (1979)
- Portsmouth Sinfonia
- The Residents (1974)
- The Rockin' Rebels
- The Roosters (1981)
- The Routers
- The Shadows (1981)
- Margie Singleton (vocal version, titled "Magic Star (Tel-Star)", 1963)
- The Spotnicks
- Los Straitjackets
- The Supertones
- Susan and the Surftones (1996)
- The Television Personalities (1993)
- The Ukrainians
- Caterina Valente
- Billy Vaughn ("1962's Greatest Hits," first track)
- Velvett Fogg ("Telstar 69", 1969)
- The Ventures
- Wolfman Jack
Use in popular culture
- This song was utilised as ongoing theme music for the 1979 film Mr. Mike's Mondo Video in the same vein as the song "More" was used in this film's inspiration, Mondo Cane.
- The Finnish rock band Eppu Normaali borrowed the opening of "Telstar" as the guitar solo for their song "Science Fiction" (1979).
- In the movie The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000), the angel Gabriel, played by Christopher Walken, plays trumpet to this song while driving on the highway.
- A "sound-alike" of this song appears in the film Strangers with Candy (2006). According to the audio commentary for the film, they were unsuccessful in getting the rights to the actual song.
- The song was used on a second season episode of the AMC series Mad Men entitled "The Inheritance" (2008).
- A modern version of the song is used as the intro for the Flemish comedy TV series Willy's en Marjetten (2006).
- "Knights of Cydonia", a 2006 song by rock band Muse, was influenced by "Telstar". Lead guitarist and vocalist Matthew Bellamy is the son of The Tornados' rhythm guitarist, George Bellamy.
- A number of football teams, such as East Fife and Telstar walk out on to the field of play to this song.
- The former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher named "Telstar" as one of her favourite pop songs.
- The WFMU Radio Show Seven Second Delay used this song as a theme song. It was picked by a listener who won a contest to pick the theme song during one of WFMU's pledge drives in 2001. They used it as a theme for one year, up through early 2002.
- The song and the life of its composer Joe Meek, was the basis of Nick Moran's directing debut in the 2008 film Telstar.
- ^ Austerlitz (1960) at IMDb
- ^ The cases Telstar, Heinz, Madras Place, Howard/Blaikley
- ^ "Kenny Hollywood". www.coda-uk.co.uk. http://www.coda-uk.co.uk/kh.htm. Retrieved 13 February 2007.
- ^ "The Spirit Of The P/age". http://www.aural-innovations.com/robertcalvert/words/performancepieces.htm.
- ^ "Camillo - Telstar (Irgendwann Erwacht Ein Neuer Tag) (7", EP) at Discogs". http://www.discogs.com/release/1203134. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- ^ "Chart Stats - Tornados - Telstar". http://www.chartstats.com/songinfo.php?id=3245. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- ^ van Slooten, Johan, ed (2005). Top 40 Hitdossier 1965-2005. J.H. Gottmer/H.J.W. Becht. p. 328. ISBN 90-230-1144-9.
- ^ "charts-surfer.de search results". http://www.charts-surfer.de. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- ^ "irishcharts.ie search results". http://www.irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- ^ "norwegiancharts.com - The Tornados - Telstar". http://norwegiancharts.com/showitem.asp?interpret=The+Tornados&titel=Telstar&cat=s. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- ^ a b "allmusic - The Tornados > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p5672. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- ^ "Bitch Boys' "...In Heat" album reviews and audio samples". The Guitar Nine. http://www.guitar9.com/inheat.html. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
- ^ "Rock and Roll Jam Sandwiches - Twangin' n' A-Traddin'". http://jamsandwiches.tripod.com/twanginnatraddin.html. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- ^ "Official OMD website - downloads". http://www.omd.uk.com/html/downloads.html. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- ^ "BBC NEWS - Ifans to play '60s pop mogul Meek". www.bbc.co.uk. 2006-11-11. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/6132464.stm. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
- ^ "Letter from Margaret Thatcher to Roger LaVern of the Tornados". http://www.coda-uk.co.uk/mt_letter.htm. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
- Roger LaVern: The Recording Of The Worldwide Hit "Telstar"
- http://www.telstar-archives.com/ a (fan) site dedicated to the song
- http://www.the-tornados.com/telstar.html a fan page
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