Thursday, 13 November 2008

Meek shall inherit the earth


Joe Meek is a name synonymous with uncompromising creative innovation in the history of independent music production. One of the first to use electronic sound effects and drum loops, Meek’s songs create an atmosphere sometimes bizarre and ridiculous, but always original. His works of musical pioneering genius include ‘Telstar’ by The Tornadoes and John Leyton’s haunting ‘Johnny remember me.’

The new documentary ‘A life in the death of Joe Meek’ explains the complicated and fascinating history and personality of this unique individual, without demonising him as others have. A homosexual, at a time when it was illegal in Britain, and also a practicing member of the occult, who believed he had a trans-dimensional psychic link with the deceased Buddy Holly, Meek is frequently written off as a maniac. This documentary not only demonstrates the significance and vast diversity of his work but also reveals the man behind the mincing, satanic persona the tabloids created.

Director, Howard Berger explains how he got hooked on Meek over 10 years ago, “I first heard of Joe Meek in a capsule review for the first and only US compilation of tracks on Razor and Tie. It just said his work was unorthodox and that he was responsible for the murder of his landlady resulting in his immediate suicide at 37 years of age. That alone was enough to peak interest.” Howard and his editor Susan Stahman originally set out to make a fictional biography based on Meek’s life, but as they learnt more about his perplexing story the idea was dropped and a more straight forward approach was adopted. “Sue suggested reviving Joe Meek in documentary form.” Howard explains. “She informed me of a bunch of recent deaths of some key Joe Meek performers like Screaming Lord Sutch and Heinz, and she said, ‘It's pretty much now or never,’ if we were to hope for interviews from first-handers.”

The film features an impressive selection of interviews with these ‘first handers’, as well as some modern music legends who have been influenced by Meek. “It's difficult not to be a little star struck.” Howard admits, “I mean, we find ourselves talking to people like Steve Howe from Yes or Keith Strickland from the B-52s.” But when asked if he is proud of accumulating this high-profile content, he answers modestly, “I'll be proud when it finds the right distributor. I'll be proud when I see it permeate culture the way I think it has a right to.” You can follow the progress of the film at: www.myspace.com/meekmovie where festival screenings and distribution deals will be listed.

published: The Stool Pigeon, December 2008

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