As much as Joe respected and idolised Spector, he would have resented the above remark. Spector worked in up-to-date state-of-the-art multi-million dollar studios in LA while Joe cranked them out from a 3-storey flat above a leather goods shop in a particular downmarketarea of North London. Spector concentrated all his efforts on a handful of numbers to ensure sublime pop perfection. Meek churned them out at virtually a rate of one a week (significantly, he produced few albums - even by his top-selling artists). That Meek thrived in the few pre-Beatles' years of the 60's is also significant. Rock n'roll was an indigenous musical form to the States - evolving out of native forms such as country and western and r n'b. In Britain not only was it a learnt form - so were the musical genres it evolved from. Everyone was trying to emulate America from a standing start and so it was hardly surprising that, with honourable exceptions like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates first few rockers and billy Fury's "Sound of Fury" LP, most of it was a pale shadow of the Yanks. Its main practitioners were callow, inexperienced kids - not the experienced, authoritative Jazz musicians Joe worked with in the 50's - so this was fertile ground for a man of Joe's control freak nature - and unbridled libido. Joe's music - without its roots in African-American musical forms - represents an intriguing dead end in British rock. When the Beatles and Stones burst upon the scene, rock was still a learnt musical form in Britain, but they had learnt it in greater depth and understanding as well as offshoots like Motown. A cursory listen to the 4 CD RGM LEGACY confirms that Joe really needed was a songwriter on the order of Jagger-Richard or Ray Davies - even a Reg Presley. He briefly kept pace with the Honeycombs joyous HAVE I THE RIGHT but - like too many of Joe's acts - they hadn't the staying power to capitalise on its success. The fact that the Tornados were prevented from a lucrative tour of the States by the jealousy of their co-manager Larry Parnes highlights the ramshackle cottage industry state of the British pop scene at that point in time. Who knows if the Yanks would have embraced Heinz, Roger, Clem, Alan and George as they did John, Paul, George and Ringo? Joe's main Achilles heel was his business sense. He had none. For all the hindsight criticism of Brian Epstein, the Beatles were all living in nice big houses in stockbroker belt by the mid-60's with few reported occasions of them sharing plate of egg and chips in a transport café as the Tornados did while Telstar was at its height. Joe's later freak beat recordings have passed into legend - probably because they reflected the increasing turmoil of his mental state. DIGGING FOR GOLD and YOU'RE HOLDING ME DOWN cannot be listened to without an awareness of what was going on in Joe's life (and head) at this juncture. He could have done with Spector's quality control. For every SOMETHING I'VE GOT TO TELL YOU, MY FRIEND BOBBY or EARLY BIRD that should have charted, there were too many that should never have seen the inside of a recording studio. Still, this excellent documentary was a worthy of Joe's life and - having enjoyed Nick Moran's and James Hicks' play - cannot wait for the film version.
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