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The Recording Of The Worldwide Hit "Telstar"
Roger LaVern and The Tornados were enjoying the summer of 1962 backing superstar Billy Fury at the Windmill Theatre in Great Yarmouth, on Norfolk's North East coast. They played 6 shows every week for the whole of the summer season
They worked from Monday to Saturday performing two shows a day, and three shows when there was a matinee. This had been the regular pattern for many weeks, but now something was about to occur that would become a landmark in British music history.
Joe Meek had already sent a copy of the instrumental that he wanted to be the next "Tornado" single. It was a track that he had written, and with a drum track heavily drowned in "echo" he had "La la la-ed" the lead line. The group had to play this tape over and over again until they had worked out the notes of the melody line, and, had to find chords that accompanied this melody line.
This weekend, after the Saturday evening performance the four musicians, Roger LaVern, organ; Alan Caddy, lead guitar; George Bellamy, rhythm guitar; Heinz Burt, bass guitar and Clem Cattini, drums, traveled down to London in Roger's cream Austin A35 van, registration number 901 DOM. Sunday was spent resting, but on Monday morning at 10 am the boys were at Joe Meek's Studio in Holloway Road, North London, ready for a day's recording.
After setting up the instruments and balancing the sound volume the first "take" for "Telstar" was with Roger playing a piano that Joe Meek had modified. He had added drawing pins to every piano hammer. This had the effect of making the piano sound very 'jangley'.
No eight track recording back in 1962. Everything had to be recorded live with one or two overdubs added later. The same 'piece' was played time and time again until Joe Meek was happy with the recording. "This was recorded very quickly", remembers Roger, "as we had to drive back to Great Yarmouth for the evening show. Joe also wanted the track finished and released while everybody was talking about the "Telstar Satellite", so we had to record it in that one day".
Two tracks were recorded that day, "Telstar" and "Jungle Fever". However at 3:30 pm the lads had to pack up, get everything into the A35 van and drive back up the A12 to Great Yarmouth, leaving Joe Meek to finish off the tracks.
When they group themselves first heard the finished 'Telstar' track they didn't like it, but, the record buying public certainly did.
It was released on 17 August, and during that month and September 1962 "Telstar" by "The Tornados" slowly rose up the UK charts. By the week ending 6th October it had reached number one, and stayed there for an astonishing five weeks! The same story was true all around the world.
In the United States Of America "Telstar" became the first record by a British group to reach number one.
Much debate has surrounded what instrument was used for the organ sound on that record breaking track. Well, Roger LaVern can now reveal that he played a "Clavioline". Many have thought that a "Vox Continental" organ was used on the recording. It is true that, as the "Clavioline" was very temperamental, Roger did start to use the "Vox Continental" organ for live shows. However he did not use it to record "Telstar".
As the Vox Continental was a prototype model, it also let him down on important occasions.
In the UK "Telstar" b/w "Jungle Fever" was released on Decca Records F11494 on 17 August 1962.
This event, along with others, will be included in Roger LaVern's autobiography, "Despite Everything - I'm Still Here!" that will be available soon.
Joe Meek also made a vocal version of "Telstar" titled "Magic Star" with vocalist Kenny Hollywood. Several sources suggest that Kenny Hollywood was Joe Meek. Others say that the vocalist was Marc Bolan. Coda can reveal, however, that Kenny Hollywood is Welwyn Garden City vocalist and keyboard player Kenny Plows. To see a photo of the first meeting of Roger LaVern with Kenny in Feb 2006 click here.
Click here for pics taken during the recording of the new CD single "Piano".
rare photo from the summer of 1962 of Billy Fury (in the blanket) with The Tornados.
They are pictured in the garden of the Great Yarmouth home Billy rented
while he was performing at The Windmill Theatre, Great Yarmouth.
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