Joe Meek - a portrait
Part 8: General trend: downwards
No hits to come
Have I The Right was the last hit from Joe Meek's factory; there were no big successes to follow anymore. Suddenly Meek was hardly able to sell his new productions, several doors that usually had been opened were kept closed now. After a while Meek began to panic about this. Finally he offered his productions so indiscriminately that even good recordings that could well have been hits went down. The Telstar royalties remained blocked, and the hits of former seasons didn't generate any money anymore.
Often has been said that at latest in 1965 Meek musically lost the plot. A look at the photo top left shows a rock 'n' roller - but the picture was taken in 1966. On the other hand: A little research on the then music scene reveals that Meek was not the only producer being in trouble. His haircut may show the era he came from, but it was a minor reason (if any) for his sudden downswing.
One important reason has been mentioned already in chapter 5 in the connection of Phil Spector: Meek produced an unbelievable number of recordings. Instead of zooming in on a manageable number of really sustainable bands, artists and compositions, he again and again grappled with new talentless singing starlets and invested endless amounts of time and energy in second- and third-rate compositions simply not being worth the effort. (The 2 CD set They Were Wrong! shows it, see here.)
There were a couple of general changes in the mid-sixties pop scene. The most important one: The big time of task sharing between songwriters and singers ended. Since especially the Beatles and Bob Dylan became more and more successful, an increasing number of bands and solo singers started writing their own songmaterial and took over the helm.
Of course this put the role of music producers into question. The traditional producer who decided by fiat about "his artists" and dictated songs, image, styling and pseudonyms to them was no longer helpful for these new musicians. They needed producers able to recognize their individual talents and willing to build up the right working conditions to bring out the musician's ideas.
Without doubt, Joe Meek was a traditional producer, and like many of his colleagues he had no idea at first what to do with this new kind of artists. It's useless to speculate about the question what Meek probably would have done in the medium and long term. After all, a couple of his productions from 1965 and 1966 show that Meek gave more autonomy to them and tried to adapt his sound and his working methods to the new realities. Too waveringly, of course, but at least he reacted.
The fatal error
Seen from now it's easy to say this; Meek of course couldn't see this. Anyway, he made his probably most fatal error in the end of 1964 when he threw 14000 Pounds out the window to pay off his business partner "Major" Banks from RGM Sound Ltd. (see also chapter 2). This was practically his complete profit share from Have I The Right, and with this expenditure Meek pulled the rug out from under himself. One simply has to convert the amount into today's earning capacities to see this clearly: Today the amount would be equivalent to 450,000 Pound (= nearly 500,000 Euros or 730,000 US Dollars). This pretty penny could have saved Meek's life for quite a few years without any further income.
Meek, that's part of his tragedy, never realized in his permanent distrust that the "Major" was not his enemy or opponent. Banks was a pretty good businessman and, as he knew very well that Meek wasn't able to do this, he simply watched the money. As pointed out in chapter 2, RGM Sound Ltd. became very successful with this kind of task sharing.
Unfortunately, money wasn't the only problem Meek had to deal with.
Sources see chapter 13
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© 2006 Jan Reetze
last update: Dec 28, 2009