Joe Meek- I Hear A New World


Joe Meek photographed by David Peters, copyright David Peters (sorry for not posting the copyright originally).

While writing last week’s post on Heinz Burt, lazy fuck that I am, I clicked on my Itunes (I run my computer’s earphone jack through a Cayin T-50 Tube amp with some old ADS speakers a friend spotted on Ebay for me) and let the 91 song Joe Meek playlist play all day (normally I keep the thing on shuffle so the 22,587 songs can come up in the strangest order) and after a day or so lost in Meekdom I decided I really should hip those who have never heard it to what most of his fans agree to be as close to a masterpiece as Joe Meek ever created– I Hear A New World. I Hear A New World was originally issued as a promo only EP under the name of the Blue Men, and later restored in 1991 by the folks at RPM to the twelve song album that Meek originally envisioned (and then re-restored and inserted into the book Joe Meek’s Bold Techniques by Barry Cleveland (Mix Books, 2001).

If you’re gonna buy the thing, look for the book version w/the CD, it’s a better buy, since you also get the book (which is an excellent book if you like to read about reverb and tape echo), and I prefer the “warts and all” version, taken from the original test pressing to the digitally fixed up version RPM issued. Where was I? I think I started out with a point here…
Right, Joe Meek, and I Hear A New World. Meek, who was Britain’s first independent rock’n’roll producer recorded this thing in 1959 and originally thought it might be marketed as a stereo test record. A four song EP was pressed in extremely limited quantities (probably less than one hundred copies), a second EP was planned but never issued and a test pressing of the 12 song LP exists although there’s probably only a couple of copies in existence.
The EP, I Hear A New World Part 1 (Triumph), was issued under the name of The Blue Men, while the re-issue credited The Blue Men with Rod Freeman (the group’s leader, who also served as Meek’s musical transcriber, since Meek didn’t play an instrument and couldn’t sing in key, Freeman had the unenviable job of turning Meek’s off key humming into musical riffs and melodies). What it is, is an outer space pop music concept album, long before LSD, Pink Floyd, laser light shows, and all that made such things a common place part of American suburban growing up which came in the wake of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon in the early 70’s. Meek’s idea was to create a recording of what he imagined music would sound like on the moon. And he recorded it in stereo, although he was using his home studio at Arundel Gardens (pre-Holloway Road), which was outfitted with three mono recording machines. No one has been able to figure out how he recorded the thing in stereo, although many theories are bandied about in Cleveland’s book.
It’s not a rock’n’roll record, I guess it would fit closer into the category of electronic exotica
of the Dick Hyman (of Moon Gas infamy) sort. Much use is made of the clavioline, an early electronic keyboard (much like the Solovox Sun Ra played), as well as steel guitar, and what we now called sampled sounds– dripping water, toilets flushing, etc. all manipulated with Meek’s array of homemade echo, reverb, delay boxes and oscillators. On top of this the voices are all overdubbed and run at various speeds, giving it a definite “other worldly” feel. Kinda like the Ran-Dells’ Martian Hop. In fact, it sounds sort of what I’d imagine the Teletubbies would sound like if they were a band (long time readers know I loved the Teletubbies and me and my wife watched them every morning for years). Anyway, I.H.A.N. W. was a bit ahead of its time, as Meek would top the charts worldwide with another outer space themed disc– Telstar by the Tornadoes, three years later. No matter, It’s a lot of fun to listen to, especially if you’re a pot head. So here it is:
I Hear A New World, Glob Waterfall, Entry Of the Globbots*, Valley Of The Saroos*, Magnetic Field*, Orbit Around The Moon*, The Bulblight, March Of The Dribcots, Love Dance Of The Saroos, Dribcot’s Space Boat, Disc Dance Of the Globbots, Valley Of No Return, I Hear A New World (alternate mix). As I said in the Heinz post (below), Joe Meek’s music may be an acquired taste, but I Hear A New World is some of his best, all that’s missing is the rock’n’roll part. While I’m on the subject of Joe Meek, you garage band lovers should invest in a copy of RPM’s Joe Meek’s Groups Crawdaddy Simone which includes the amazing title track from the Syndicats (Meek’s answer to the Yardbirds/Stones/Pretty Things), and Diamond’s Intergalactic Instro’s, 31 instrumental tracks including the Moontrekkers’ Night Of The Vampire, some live Tornadoes tracks and Meek humming the demo for Telstar.
* These four tunes were on the original I Hear A New World Part. 1 EP.

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.
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