Joe Meek: Compositions and pseudonyms (1/2)
Joe Meek was not only producer but also wrote a lot of music and/or lyrics, among them his undoubtedly most famous one: Telstar, released in August 1962 by the Tornados and still one of the biggest instrumental hits of pop history. Listed here are 220 tunes which can be seen secured as composed or co-composed by Joe Meek. However, it is possible that further ones are still buried in the tea chests (see also here) or were released under still undeciphered pseudonymes.
Meek, as mentioned already here, didn't play an instrument and couldn't read or write music. So there was no choice for him but to sing his ideas on tape. As a memo this was sufficiant enough for his good ghosts Geoff Goddard or Dave Adams to sit down with him at the piano, listen to the demo, sift out the melody line and develop the chords. Meek couldn't sing, so his demos sounded strange, but this shouldn't hide the fact that in his head he knew exactly what he wanted, and he did not finish the session until Goddard or Adams had found and fixed the result he heard in his inner ear.
It has to be said that as a songwriter, Meek could not keep up with the real great ones of his time - like Goffin/King, Bacharach/David or Lennon/McCartney, to name a few. Apart from his space fantasy suite I Hear A New World (more here), most of his songs consist of simple diatonic melodies, his stock of melodic phrases is limited, many motifs can be heard several times in slight variations. Also in terms of time there is no real development; melodically and structurally there are no big differences between the songs Meek wrote in the mid-sixties and those he wrote in the late fifties. Besides this, we don't know how big the influence of his editors Goddard and Adams on the final compositions really was.
But beyond all musical limitations, some of his songs hit the spot; Meek penned some first-rate ear candy (Put A Ring On My Finger, Magic Wheel, Telstar, Globetrotter, to name just a few tunes). Other songs are dead boring, or their melodies are meandering all over the place (like With This Kiss or The Kennedy March); his lyrics are often rhymed by taking the sledgehammer approach, sometimes they are pure kitsch. Not to forget Meek's quirk to recycle some melodies under different titles and arrangements (a couple of those are mentioned in brackets in the list, but it's incomplete), as well as he liked to invent new melodies for existing backing tracks.
Meek published tunes under his real name as well as under a couple of pseudonyms; the main one was Robert Duke which he used exclusively until April 1962. In the first place Meek tried to hide his royalties from his RGM Sound Ltd. business partner "Major" Banks, because as stipulated he had to share them with Banks. Later this paragraph was deleted from their contract (more info see here). After that, for a couple of months Peter Jacobs and Robert Baker appeared, probably to shield the identity of the royalties receiver from the fiscal authorities. At the end of 1963 Meek sent more or less all his pseudonyms into retirement and turned to using his real name.
The pseudonyms Aldis, Dandy Ward, Crosley and Knight are used only one time each; the latter shouldn't be mixed up with The Moontrekker's keyboard player Peter Knight. The name Lawrence, which shows up a couple of times, is unclear. It might be that Meek sometimes wrote lyrics under this pseudonym, but today there's no way anymore to find out exactly whether this is true or not.
If a song has been recorded by more than one artist, the oldest version is listed here.
Next page: Chart of Meek's compositions and pseudonyms >>
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© 2006 Jan Reetze
last update: May 1, 2013