We end 1962 with one of the great instrumentals of the early-rock era. “Telstar” is named after the first communication satellite that was put into orbit around the earth to relay television and radio signals to various places. That satellite was launched on July 10, 1962 and British producer Joe Meek was very interested in electronic things like that. He decided to write a song which would simulate the sounds of the satellite as it orbited the earth. Of course, no one really knew what the satellite sounded like up in space, but that was part of the fun.
Meek had a backup band who worked on many of the records he produced in 1962 and 1963. They were called the Tornados and they primarily worked behind British singer Billy Fury in the early Sixties. Meek wanted an instrumental group who could compete with The Shadows, who the backing band for Cliff Richards. Try as they might, The Tornados never reached the notoriety that the Shadows had.
The original Tornados consisted of four guys that Meek put together, Alan Caddy on lead guitar, Heinz Burt on bass, George Bellamy on rhythm guitar, Roger LaVerne on organ and Clem Cattini on drums. Personnel changed frequently over the years and by the end of 1963 all of the original members were gone and a whole new set of guys were calling themselves The Tornados.
It needs to be said that The Tornados were the first English group to hit number one in the United States. We met Mr Acker Bilk earlier this year who was the first Brit to hit number one in this country, but he was technically not a group. The Tornados were the first and the only group from England to hit number one here until The Beatles arrived in early 1964.
Four of the original five members (without Caddy) recorded an updated version of Telstar in 1975, but it failed to chart. Of the original five members, only two of them continue to work in the music business to this day (Bellamy and Cattini) and in 1967, producer Joe Meek, who is responsible for the group and for the song, apparently committed suicide by a gunshot to the head.
“Telstar” entered the pop charts in America on November 17, 1962 and spent three weeks at number one. They never had another hit in America.