Legendary British producer and innovative recording genius Joe Meek—the man behind the global hit “Telstar”—has become a cult figure since his death in 1967, with Meek fan clubs, CD collections, and retrospectives growing in popularity every day—and a major documentary film on the way.
Although much attention has been paid to his unusual life story and tragic passing, Joe Meek’s Bold Techniques is the first book that details the methods that led to Meek’s influential hits.
Written by veteran music journalist Barry Cleveland, this book takes an industry perspective on Meek’s life. It explores his 12-year professional career in great depth, with special attention paid to the equipment and techniques he used, and the effect that his work had on the people around him.
Also included is a newly restored and remastered version of Meek’s extraordinary 1959 stereo album about life on the Moon, I Hear a New World, made available in its original form for the first time (via digital streaming).
Also available on Amazon.
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Reviews of the First Edition
"This is the ultimate Joe Meek book, with less emphasis on what an oddball he was, and instead there's immaculate research on the gear and techniques Joe employed to achieve his studio nirvana. Known for his echoing, distorted pop songs (everyone knows his big hit, "Telstar"), he was a pioneer in close-miking, freelance engineering, home studio running, and a million other aspects of recording that we take for granted these days. Author Barry Cleveland (who writes for Mix and other mags) meticulously researched every aspect of Joe's gear and techniques and, thank God, is an engineer like us so he doesn't make stupid technical mistakes like "rock journalists" always do. Barry even went as far as to locate and remaster a new version of Meek's long lost masterpiece, I Hear A New World, which comes with this book. This book really opened my eyes to what an innovator Joe Meek was and even gave me ideas to toy with in future sessions of my own. Everyone reading Tape Op would enjoy this book!"
—Larry Crane, Editor
"Barry Cleveland's Creative Music Production: Joe Meek's Bold Techniques ($34.95) is likely to have the broadest appeal. The volume profiles the strange and astounding life and career of legendary '50s-'60s British producer/engineer Joe Meek, but its main thrust is analysis of his unusual and groundbreaking studio techniques. Meek's infamous secretiveness about his methods makes it impossible to know exactly what he was doing at any given time, but Cleveland provides good projections about his subject's inventive use of echo, reverb, delay, compression, distortion, tape loops and otherworldly sound effects, in particular as regards Meek's biggest hits, The Tornados' 1962 international phenomenon "Telstar" and The Honeycombs' 1964 British Invasion smash "Have I the Right."
Detailed discussion of the equipment Meek used, as well as his own homemade electronic innovations, is bolstered by some fascinating archival photos, including those that show Meek in his element. Further anecdotal reportage covers Meek and his peculiar world of independent production, which included his affiliations with then completely unknown musical personages such as Ritchie Blackmore (later of Deep Purple), Steve Howe (later of Yes), Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, and others.
Meek was a bit of a freak--an extremist, a paranoiac, an occultist of sorts and a tortured homosexual at a time when the world was less sexually open. Yet his forward-thinking approach to record-making earned him the status of "genius," on a par technologically and creatively with pioneers such as Les Paul and Phil Spector.
AMAZON REVIEWS (All 5 Stars)
"The British record producer Joe Meek has attained posthumous cult status and rightly so: his innovative work broke the highly conservative mould of studios where engineers sported white coats as though they were in a science laboratory and everything was done "by the book". In Meek's case the circumstances of his life — and more to the point his death—have created a lot of urban myth. After all, Spector may have discharged revolvers at ceilings, but Meek ended his own life—and that of his landlady—with a large shotgun and all on the anniversary of Buddy Holly's death! With those factors in mind, it's refreshing to discover a book which traces Joe Meek's life, not for the sake of cheap scandal, but through the music he made through his innovative recordings and equipment creations/modifications.
Barry Cleveland has achieved the near impossible by delivering a book which is both an enjoyable work for the non-technical reader and highly satisfying for the studio "anorak" who wants to know the fine details of Meek's home studio in London's Holloway Road. Cleveland has tracked down the closest surviving sources who bring to life a picture of the cluttered apartment where Joe Meek took on the mighty forces of EMI, Decca and the like and won—for a while at least—with hits like "Telstar," "Johnny Remember Me," and "Have I The Right." If the words are top class, the layout is every bit the match for them, with many photos I've never seen before (and believe me, I've seen a lot of Meek-related photos!) and a full discography. I can't reccomend this book enough... how about 6 stars out of 5?!" —John Cavanagh, Glasgow Scotland
"This book shares some of the tricks and techniques of this legendary producer and shows how all pop recording and record production since has been influenced by them. The included recording and notes are especially helpful." —Richard L. Uhl
"I am very impressed by Barry Cleveland's book. He provides a great deal of specific information about Joe Meek's recording techniques and equipment. However, be not afraid, this is not done in a pedantic technical manner; it's very readable for the non-technical.
Being well familiar with most of Meek's recorded output, I especially enjoyed Cleveland's detailed commentaries on certain of Meek's recordings. For my taste, Cleveland could have gone on for many more pages on the same subject with different tracks.
I perceive Cleveland to be outside of the intense (mostly English) Meek cult which brings some fresh perspective on his work.
What more can I say? This was a good read that I raced through and will no doubt revisit frequently. The CD of I Hear a New World is a great bonus. It's surprisingly different from the RPM release. It makes me appreciate the work Roger Dopson and his associates did to bring out the RPM version." —Randall E. Adams
"To anyone who is old enough to remember hearing the original "Telstar" on the radio, this is a wonderfully researched bio on the life and work of a vastly underappreciated godfather of audio engineering. Also being a huge Deep Purple fan, I was surprised to learn that the great Ritchie Blackmore, was a first call session player for Joe (as a member of the Outlaws) and that there are some enticing recordings he made that I now have to spend the rest of my life searching for!
Great stuff. The equipment & discography are very well researched, in addition to the personal stuff. And you just can't beat the included disc of studio experiments, on the bizarre factor." —Wedge
"This is a great book! I've been waiting for a book like this one for a long time. Joe Meek made major contributions to the recording industry, and this book brings them all together into one place for the first time. There's more information here than I ever imagined could be gathered about this visionary producer and his gear and recording techniques. The included CD is also a great bonus, as it presents Meek's seminal stereo recording in its original unedited and unaltered form for the first time since the LP was "released" (there were 20 copies) in 1960. Check it out!" —Annonymous Reader
Feature Article by Barry Cleveland in the February 2002 issue of Electronic Musician.
Letters to the Editor
"The article about Joe Meek ("Production Values: Meek First") in the February 2002 issue was one of the finest pieces I've read in a music tech magazine. Thanks so much for printing it. I hope it gives more people insight into the extraordinary artistry of this strange figure from modern recording's infancy. Bravo to author Barry Cleveland for making a potentially complex subject so simple."
"The article about Joe Meek was spellbinding." —Frank Lewin
"Barry Cleveland's article about Joe Meek was one of the most enlightening articles I've read in a music magazine in a long time. It was great to learn about Meek's story, both the technical and personal info, and to discover that he was behind two songs from my musical childhood that left distinct impressions on me.'Telstar' was a song I always remembered hearing but never knew anything about-not even its title. 'Have I the Right' was another one of those songs I recall jumping right out of the radio, stark and clear. I was amazed to find out that Joe Meek had a hand in this and was also so far ahead of his time as an innovator of music and technology. Why I haven't heard more about him, other than the Joemeek line of products, baffles me. Thanks for a great article. It is definitely a keeper." —Rob Chanter