‘Who the hell is Joe Meek?’
Why Nick Moran is resurrecting the life of a gay junkie Satanist record producer for his directorial debut, Telstar...
“I was in a cab and saw the blue plaque at 304 Holloway Road. My friend said, ‘Oh yeah, some mad old poof used to live there and took loads of speed and worshipped the devil and wrote songs and then killed himself.’ It turned out that another friend’s grandmother’s best friend was Joe Meek’s song-writing partner for four years so I got a fast-track into his life.”
“I wrote a play about Joe in 1997 because at the time I was an underemployed actor. Jude Law, Samantha Morton and Kathy Burke did the first readthrough in a disused pub in Stockwell. It went into the West End but 7/7 killed us: we were playing to audiences of 40 people. But the ambition was always to make a film.”
“It’s all down to [Crystal Palace Football Club chairman] Simon Jordan. He phoned me up when I was in LA and said, ‘What you doin’?’ I was thinking about doing an episode of Stargate and he goes, ‘Nah, fuck that, come home – let’s make the film.’ He literally just started signing cheques then and there. He signed a lot more than he anticipated!”
“It’s Joe’s lack of talent that makes him so talented. It’s the fact that he couldn’t read or write music and compensated for his piss-poor education by trying to be prolific. I don’t think he could differentiate between a good song and a bad song. But with his strong, tight sense of rhythm, what he was doing is the basics of all dance music today.”
“He turned down The Beatles, he fired Rod Stewart... He couldn’t move with the times and he was always hankering back to his earlier success instead of appreciating the here and now. Like for me, it’s not 1999 and the Lock, Stock days of being the It Boy. At the end, he was no longer Mighty Joe Meek, creator of the biggest-selling record in 1962 (‘Telstar’ by The Tornados) – he was just some guy who couldn’t pay the rent.” [Meek shot his landlady before turning the gun on himself.]
“There’s a whole wave of contemporary pop stars – like Franz Ferdinand, The Libertines, The Arctic Monkeys – that are into the Meek wave. Duffy’s done a re-recording of The Cryin’ Shame’s ‘Please Stay’ for the last scene of the film. The fact that Joe Meek is overlooked is gonna change – it’s not going to stay that way for long.”