Photograph of Joe Meek by David Peters (used with permission)
Robert George "Joe" Meek (1929-1967) born in Newent, Gloucestershire, was a pioneering British record producer and engineer. Meek also wrote many songs and used the aliases Joe Meek, Meeksville Sound, Peter Jacobs, Robert Baker and Robert Duke.
After serving in the RAF as a radar technician, Joe started to record local musicians and singers. He was gay, and a gay man in the 1950s didn't only face being beaten up by narrow-minded thugs, but also being arrested as homosexuality was outlawed. Joe moved to London in 1953.
He took a series of studio jobs and then set up his own independent label, Triumph in 1960. It was for this label he created the first-ever concept album I Hear A New World. Meek later licensed many Triumph recordings to labels such as Top Rank and Pye. Meek went on to set up his own production company known as RGM Sound Ltd (later Meeksville Sound Ltd). He operated from his home studio, constructed at 304 Holloway Road, Islington, a three-floor flat above a leather-goods store.
He pioneered multiple over-dubbing on one-and two-track machines, close miking, direct input of bass guitars, the compressor, and effects like echo and reverb in recording as well as sampling. Meek was one of the first producers to fully exploit the possibilities of the modern recording studio. His innovative techniques-physically separating instruments, treating instruments and voices with echo and reverb, processing the sound, combining separately-recorded performances and segments into a painstakingly constructed composite recording-comprised a major breakthrough in sound production. Up to that time, the standard technique for pop recording was to record all the performers in one studio, playing together in real time.
His best-remembered hit is the Tornados' "Telstar" (1962), which became the first record by a British group to reach No.1 in the US. It also spent five weeks atop the UK singles chart, with Meek receiving an Ivor Novello Award for this production as the "Best-Selling A-Side" of 1962.
His commercial success as a producer was short-lived and Meek gradually sank into debt and depression. On 3 February 1967, using a shotgun owned by musician Heinz Burt, Meek killed his landlady and then himself.