I’ve become a bit obsessed with Joe Meek recently.
For those who aren’t already acquainted, the Newent-born Robert George ‘Joe’ Meek was the studio genius behind such hits as Telstar and Johnny Remember Me. He was also a crazed loon (his paranoia knew no bounds); quite possibly an undiagnosed schizophrenic or suffering from what we now recognise as bi-polar syndrome. Sadly Joe was unable to get the medical help he so clearly needed: using the shotgun left in his flat by his muse Heinz Burt he took his own life, and the life of his long-suffering landlady, in February 1967.
Joe wrote, arranged, engineered and produced an amazing body of work: although it did not receive a full release during his lifetime (just 99 copies of one EP and 20 test pressings of the full album were ever produced) I Hear a New World, his visionary 1960 outer space opera, is now recognised as the first true concept album of the rock era. It’s a record I’ve been in love with ever since I first heard it more than 20 years ago.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading the rather excellent biography Joe Meek: the Telstar Man, listening again to his recorded legacy and re-watching the 1991 BBC documentary about him. In short, alongside the docu-drama Telstar and other material I’ve been drowning in a sea of Joe Meek material. A lot of it is simply fantastic. Unfortunately there’s a fair amount of dross in there too, which brings me quite succinctly to this week’s record.
Girl Bride was written and performed by Geoff Goddard, produced by Meek and arranged by him too (under his regular pseudonym Robert Duke). As Duke Joe composed the B-Side, For Eternity. Released in October 1961 on HMV, Goddard was better known as a songwriter and musician than as a performer (although he would issue four singles under his own name between 1961 and 1963), writing Johnny Remember Me and the Heinz hit single Just Like Eddie, playing (uncredited) keyboards on Telstar and, after falling out with Meek, writing for Cliff Richard.
His deep interest in spiritualism, an interest shared by Meek, influenced much of his work. The pair are supposed to have warned Buddy Holly of that date on which he would die and, once he did, have regular conversations with him from beyond the grave. Certainly a large percentage of Meek/Goddard material shows a heavy Holly influence, vis the Mike Berry hit Tribute to Buddy Holly and the hiccoughing vocal on Girl Bride.
Girl Bride is a horrible song. The subject matter is dodgy, to say the least – an adult has run off with an underage girl and made her his wife despite the protestations of her family and community - and Goddard’s attempt at falsetto cannot fail to make you cringe. Unsurprisingly, and despite what other sources may claim, it was not a hit. The B-side is equally appalling; certainly not one of Meek’s better efforts. It’s hard to think how anyone at HMV could have considered Goddard as teen idol material – his voice is simply appalling. For his last 45, Sky Men (Meek was obsessed with space travel and the idea of life on other planets) Joe sped up Geoff’s voice and slapped on thick coats of echo and reverb in an attempt to disguise its weaknesses. It too failed to chart.
Goddard and Meek’s successful partnership was brought to an end when Goddard attempted to sue Joe over Meek’s song Have I The Right, which was recorded by the Honeycombs and provided Joe with his last chart hit, which Goddard believed was cribbed wholesale from his own song Give Me The Chance – although, unfortunately, no recording of that song has surfaced to date so it’s impossible for us to compare and contrast the two. They would never speak again. At least not in this world. The story has it that, burned by his association with the music industry, Geoff voluntarily retired: his final job was working in the kitchen at Reading University. While there he discovered that Johnny Remember Me had been covered by Bronski Beat (with Marc Almond), had been a major hit and that there was a large royalty cheque and a platinum disc waiting for him.
Geoff died in 2000: if anyone out there fancies a spot of table tapping and manages to make contact please say ‘hi’ for me.
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