Heinz

Heinz’ attempting to insert his left hand into his ear the hard way.


His best record.

Heinz & the Wild Boys, 1965


The Tornadoes (Heinz on bass) doin’ the Robot, 1963

Part 4 of BBC’s The Strange Story Of Joe Meek, Heinz appears 1:01 into this clip….(the whole thing can be seen in six ten minutes clips on Youtube, if you haven’t seen it, take the time to watch full screen).


Heinz Burt was born Heinz Henry Georg Schwartze in Detmold, Germany in 1942. At age seven his family moved to Eastleigh, Hampshire, England where nothing much happened for him until he began playing the bass guitar and joined an instrumental combo called the Tornadoes. The Tornadoes were discovered by producer Joe Meek and are best remembered for their worldwide smash– Telstar in 1963. The story of the Tornadoes and Joe Meek has been told before, Meek himself, one of the most fascinating characters in British rock’n’roll history has been the subject of an excellent biography– The Legendary Joe Meek: The Telstar Man by John Repsch (Woodford House, UK, 1989), a BBC documentary (clip above), a West End musical and bio pic (both called Telstar, I’ve seen neither, the film wasn’t released in the U.S.). Meeks fans should check out the website of the Joe Meek Appreciation Society and also recent postings over at Rockabilly Ranch.
But today’s subject, Heinz, was just a small, but in his own way, quite interesting part of the Meek story. He also made a few really great records. Although he only had one real hit (Just Like Eddie, a tribute to Eddie Cochran which rose to #5 on the U.K. charts in ’63), he made some of the best records that Joe Meek ever produced (and some awful ones too), but his good sides deserve a listen, and his career deserves a reassessment, which is exactly what I shall do right now.
Heinz looked like he stepped out of a Leni Riefenstahl Nazi propaganda movie if Kenneth Anger had been put in charge of casting (Meek had him dye his hair platinum blonde after seeing Village Of The Damned). With his Nordic good looks and blond brush cut, he quickly became the obsession of his gay mentor– Joe Meek, who liked to get behind young talent, so to speak. Meek pulled Heinz out of the Tornadoes and launched him on a solo career, originally grooming him as a British answer to Eddie Cochran, the late U.S. star who was another of Meek’s obsessions. Unfortunately, Heinz was straight, and therefore had to do a delicate dance, keeping Meek interested in producing his records and pushing his career while saving wear and tear on his sphincter. Heinz didn’t have the greatest voice in the world, but he could deliver a rock’n’roll song convincingly enough. He was also astute enough to know that Meek was his best shot a stardom, and was soon living with Meek at his flat in Hollaway Road which doubled as a recording studio.
Meek got Heinz a deal with Decca and his first solo record, a fairly dreary piece of pop drek– Dreams Do Come True b/w Been Invited To A Party, a light weight but enjoyable rocker not quite ruined by the goofy girl chorus, was released in May of ’63. Two months later, Just Like Eddie b/w You Knock At My Door was released and began its fifteen week run up and down the U.K charts, it would be the height of his commercial success. Meek would also issue a Heinz EP– Live It Up later that same year . 1964 saw Heinz’ first LP– A Tribute To Eddie. A mixture of Eddie Cochran covers, weepy ballads aimed at teenage girls and a few rockers thrown in, the best tunes are the moody Rumble In The Night and a Billy Fury styled rocker Don’t Keep Pickin’ On Me.
Oct. ’64 saw a new Heinz single on a new label– Questions I Can’t Answer on Columbia, probably his best record. Questions… is based around the classic Louie Louie I-IV-V chord progression and sports a twangy guitar solo by Barry Tomilson, the often brilliant leader of Heinz’ new backing band– The Wild Boys. Questions peaked at #39 on the NME charts and was forgotten within two weeks. His next single, issued in early ’65, a version Washboard Sam’s (better known in the UK from Lonnie Donnegan’s hit rendition) Diggin’ My Potatoes given the full Joe Meek treatment, including a twangy 12 string guitar solo from Jimmy Page, at #49 it was his last chart entry. He also had two tracks on Decca’s under rated Live At The Cavern LP, I Got A Woman and Somebody To Love, both are credible rockers. Two months later Meek released Heinz doing a rather tepid reading of Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, but the flipside– Big Fat Spider, is a killer in the style that is now known as Freakbeat (I kinda hate that term, but I’m also lazy so I’ll use it, just this once). With a fat, reverb laden Duane Eddy type guitar riff riding over a refrain of clavolin and backing vocals, the guitar solo, short, nasty and distorted seems to come out of nowhere and slice the song in half. I think it is, along with Questions I Can’t Answer, Heinz’s greatest moment.
His next two singles were pop ballads, and his final disc, issued in June of ’66 was a return to the Billy Fury styled pop-rockers he started out with– Movin’ In b/w I’m Not A Bad Guy. The flipside features the guitar work of Ritchie “Smoke On The Water” Blackmore (who had played on Just Like Eddie), Blackmore had recorded for Meek with his group the Outlaws as well as a session man. Blackmore would go on to be one of the most arrogant and unlikable cretins in a business full of arrogant cretins, but that’s a whole different story. As Meek began to unravel, Heinz’ career came to a standstill. I think you know how the story ended, on February 3, 1967, Meek took a shotgun (Heinz’ shotgun in fact) and blew his landlady’s brains all over the walls of the stairwell at Hollaway Road, then turned the gun on himself. Heinz disappeared from music for a few years, then hit the supper club/oldies circuit to make a living.
It was said he worked in theater and as a mime (I’m a die hard believer that mime should only be practiced on radio), he was married and divorced twice, and in the late nineties was diagnosed with a rare motor-neurone disease, his last show, just weeks before his demise, was performed from a wheelchair. He passed away in April of 2000, age 57. With the Joe Meek revival, Heinz is probably better known, and more popular than any time since Just Like Eddie charted in 1963, too bad he wasn’t able to enjoy it. Life’s funny that way.
Heinz wasn’t the most savage of rockers, he was no Kid Thomas or Andy Starr, but at his best (and Joe Meek must be given much of the credit) he did wax a few genuine classics, along with some very enjoyable if light weight rockers (and some truly dismal drivel), you can put him in my “guilty pleasures” category, but when I hear Questions I Can’t Answer or Big Fat Spider, I don’t feel guilty at all, they’re just great discs. But then again, Meek, at least for American ears may be something of an acquired taste (or lack there of), he was fond of goofy girlie choruses and syrupy strings, and most of his tunes have a definite show tune (or dance hall) feel to them. If you can get by that, or if that sorta thing doesn’t bother you, his records were almost always interesting. Meek was fond of all sorts of extreme compression, gigantic echo, bubbling reverb and all manner of strange guitar sounds and outer space effects, all used to good purpose. Many of his effects boxes were self made (he began his career as a radio repair man), in fact today you can buy several types of Joe Meek Compressors. An entire CD of Heinz tunes might just drive you up the wall, but to repeat myself, his best records are great, pop, throwaway trash with a real rock’n’roll feel buried under the layers of Meekdom. Hey, we can’t all be Howlin’ Wolf.

15 thoughts on “Heinz”

  1. This morning I was wondering what I was in the mood to listen to, kinda floundering.Now I know: Heinz, Meek, Tornadoes, Honeycombs, etc.!PS: I wish Meek had produced The Hullaballoos. He was just what they needed to give the final push, so to speak, to their Buddy Holly sound.

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  2. “Unfortunately, Heinz was straight, and therefore had to do a delicate dance, keeping Meek interested in producing his records and pushing his career while saving wear and tear on his sphincter.” – Very well put and hilarious.

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  3. The biopic, Telstar, is by turns hilarious and really tense, both in an exemplary way! It really raises the bar for proper r'n'r flicks and is kinda on a par with rare'n'gritty big screen rock flicks like “That'll Be The Day”, “Stardust” & “Slade In Flame”… the guy who plays Heinz is absolutely brilliantly funny, as are the rest of the cast. A coupla liberties aside, it's amazingly great…My thoughts onnit be 'ere:http://www.rocksbackpagesblogs.com/2009/06/joe-meek-lives/

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  4. “The biopic, Telstar,…it's amazingly great…”I doubt we'll ever see it in the States unless it shows up on one of the cable channels, in fact I just noticed that the movie version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road has already come and gone (in one week, it played in two theaters in NYC) and I already missed it. I guess I'll have to spring for a UK DVD (which will only play on the DVD player in the living room, the one in the bedroom only plays region 1 format).

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  5. I had aquired a Heinz LP once & having never seen him or his work before, I was too frightened to play it, & thus traded it in at the local vinyl shop.

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  6. “I had aquired a Heinz LP once & having never seen him or his work before, I was too frightened to play it, & thus traded it in at the local vinyl shop.”Timid Timmy!Jesus! Too afraid to play a record?!? I think you're at the wrong blog.

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  7. “I guess I'll have to spring for a UK DVD (which will only play on the DVD player in the living room, the one in the bedroom only plays region 1 format).”Most DVD players from the past few years have the region control fixed by software (rather than on the chips themselves) – have you tried to 'crack' it? Just put the model, make etc and 'multi-region code' or 'crack code' (plus variations thereof), and someone will prolly have posted one on a blog. Usually, you switch the machine on, open the tray, tap in some numbers on the remote, then a hidden menu pops up and you switch it to multi-region…Honest injun!BTW, Another great Heinz track is “I Get Up In The Morning”, which the Tell-Tale Hearts even did a spiffy versh of in the '80s.

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  8. Thanks for the posts Hound, I really enjoy reading your blog!I have absolutely nothing to actually back the following up, but, I've heard it suggested from hardened Meek fanatics (when I lived in Edinburgh there was a once a year Joe Meek night at a pub off the Royal Mile), that it was Heinz that murdered Meek/his landlady. I think the reasoning was as follows: it was Heinz gun, Heinz was a mad bastard, he had a beef with Meek over money, he looks super dodgy when discussing the death in the BBC doco, and that it was easy for the police to blame it on a crazy homosexual and not have to investigate a double murder….I kinda like the idea, but it's probably rubbish!

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  9. “I think the reasoning was as follows: it was Heinz gun, Heinz was a mad bastard, he had a beef with Meek over money, he looks super dodgy when discussing the death in the BBC doco, and that it was easy for the police to blame it on a crazy homosexual and not have to investigate a double murder….I kinda like the idea, but it's probably rubbish!”I like your theory, but keep in mind at the time of Meek's suicide he was being investigated by Scotland Yard over the murder of a sailor whose body was found chopped up and stuffed into a steamer trunk. I didn't know he was a “mad bastard”, got any stories to substantiate that?

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  10. “got any stories to substantiate that?”No, I'm afraid it was basically a third hand argument I was retelling- though I would add that 'mad bastard' was meant in the British way, as in a bit of geezer who you probably wouldn't argue with in a pub (who also liked guns, which i guess would not be unusual in the states, but is here), rather than crazy in the psychiatric sense.To be honest, a quick search on the internet did not back up the argument, other than with the fact that Heinz was extensively questioned by police at the time. Most of the stories I found merely emphasised Meek's poor mental health at the time. I do remember some stuff bout Heinz threatening Meek because of a boat (?) but could find nothing about this! As for the sailor thing I think most of the known homosexuals in London got questioned, was there something specific to link it to Meek? My favourite Joe Meek story, which again sounds too good to actually be true, is that in the mid 60s Phil Spector phoned Meek to chat, as Spector was supposedly a fan of Meek's work, and that Joe shouted back that he was a thieving bastard and slammed the phone on him. Anyone know if this is true?It's probably the case that in the pre internet 80s lack of real information about Meek, Syd Barrett, Arthur Lee, Skip Spence, Beefheart, et al, led to some pretty far fetched stories and myth making!

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  11. “As for the sailor thing I think most of the known homosexuals in London got questioned, was there something specific to link it to Meek? “Actually, I was wrong, the body in the trunk wasn't a sailor but a warehouse worker named Bernard Oliver (age 17) who was “known to Joe” according to John Repsch. Meek was questioned by the police and his name was mentioned in the press. Also, Meek had been found beaten up and hanging off of his own car in November of '66. Since he had just lost the plagiarism lawsuit over Telstar and was broke, Lord knows what state of mind Meek was in in his final months. The Spector story also comes from the Repsch book, I don't know who his source was but like the rest of the book, it's totally believable.

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