Wednesday, December 22, 2010
(From the soon-to-be published novel Copyright Donald Riggio 2011):
In the summer of 1962, the United States, Great Britain and France
financed a multi-national project commissioning NASA to launch
a satellite into permanent elliptical orbit around the earth. The satellite,
designed to transmit telephone calls and live television broadcasts
around the world, was called Telstar….
…Not long after Telstar became operational, an avid space buff and
record producer in London, England named Joe Meek came up with
an infectious melody line and hard driving beat that he transformed
into a song he called “The Theme From Telstar.” He gave the song to
an instrumental group he’d formed, the Tornadoes. After the initial
session, Meek shortened the name to “Telstar.” He also added several
special effects to further fill out the sound. By overdubbing the
melody track using a Clavioline, an electronic keyboard, the song
took on an eerie, spaced out sound. The record zoomed to the top
of the U.K. record charts. Then, in December 1962, the Tornadoes
became the first English rock and roll group to top the American
charts. “Telstar” remained there for three consecutive weeks.
Greatly influenced by radio broadcasts, records, and films imported
from America, British teens became familiar with the work
of Teddy Boyette, Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and Chuck Berry. A huge
rock and roll market emerged in Great Britain.
Unlike their more affluent American cousins, aspiring musicians
couldn’t afford musical instruments so they formed skiffle bands.
The term skiffle dated back to the early 1900’s defined as good time
music utilizing simple, homemade instruments like a washboard,
whistle jug or kazoo, to create its unique sound. If you added a guitar
or banjo to the razzle-dazzle mixture, you had the makings of a real
One such Liverpool skiffle band called themselves the Quarrymen.
The group honed its craft playing long hours in raunchy strip clubs
and beer halls in Hamburg, Germany. They signed as a back-up band
for singer Tony Sheridan, using the name of the Beat Brothers. They
performed behind Sheridan in many appearances and in the summer
of 1961 they recorded a song called “My Bonnie,” released on the
Polydor Record label in October attaining some moderate success
both in Germany and back home in England.
The record came to the attention of Brian Epstein, the proprietor
of the North East Music Store, a business venture his family
owned. He discovered that the band no longer provided back up for
Sheridan and had changed their name to the Beatles.
They played to packed houses of frantic fans at the Cavern Club,
a dank subterranean Jazz Club that had become a haven for the local
music scene. On seeing them there, Epstein recognized their raw talent
gave them the potential to become something special. He signed
them to a five-year contract as personal manager. Under Epstein, the
Beatles developed a new and refined look and style, wearing matching
suits and adopting uniform pageboy haircuts.
After rejections by several major record labels, Epstein had the
group audition for George Martin, the head of EMI’s Polyphone
Records. Martin signed them to a one-year contract with a royalty
payment of one farthing per record, amounting to one quarter of a
penny for each of them. Martin made some further refinements and
a personnel change at drummer. He guided them as producer to three
hit singles and an album, which hurled them to star status as they
toured all over England.
Vee-Jay Records, a popular R&B label based in Chicago acquired
the US rights to early Beatles songs as part of a licensing
agreement they had with several other EMI performers. They released
the Beatle’s single, “Please, Please Me,” and placed the record
into the rotation at the City’s top radio station WLS in February
1963. It failed to impress anyone. When Dick Clark featured another
of their singles, “She Loves You,” on American Bandstand later that
summer, the audience laughed and ridiculed the act because of their
offbeat hairstyle. In New York City, popular radio deejay, Murray
the K, played the song on his 1010 WINS record revue in October.
Once again it garnered little response.
It appeared American audience had little interest in these four
mop top, faggy looking performers from Liverpool, England.