Help me remember a documentary
December 3, 2008 10:31 PM   Subscribe

Many years ago I either heard or read a documentary about an American rock 'n' roll producer who was—according to this documentary—highly influential but never particularly famous, but whose name I cannot now recall.

There are only two details of his life I remember:
1. He once talked a bunch of children in his neighbourhood into jumping up and down on a wooden staircase in his house to record a backbeat, and
2. He eventually died in a shootout with his landlord.
I would love to know if this is a figment of my imagination, and if it was genuinely a documentary I remember, I'd love to know more about this person.
posted by Fiasco da Gama to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not American, but has to be Joe Meek?
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:23 PM on December 3, 2008

That'd be Joe Meek, who was English. Very influential, and not too famous in America, but a well-known name in the UK. His big American hits were "Telstar," an incredible instrumental by the Tornados, and "Have I The Right?" by the Honeycombs. He had more - and better - hits in the UK. I especially like "Just Like Eddie" by Heinz, and "Johnny Remember Me" by John Leyton.

Joe Meek was pretty obviously gay during a time in the UK when there was some sort of gay murder spree occurring; the police were hauling people in almost randomly. Joe was pretty paranoid about this, and had been taking all sorts of uppers and downers too . . . the result was a kind of freak-out that resulted in him shooting his landlady and then himself. He was a bit hard up for money too, and the popular belief is that he was increasingly seen as an archaic producer with a dated sound . . . though his last productions were pretty cool.

Joe Meek was an "independent" producer at a time when producers were pretty stiff, by-the-formula types. He recorded with all sorts of crazy techniques in his own flat - that weird space sound at the start of "Telstar" is apparently a toilet being flushed and played back at slow speed. Considering what other Brits like the Beatles were doing at the same time, Joe was a real pioneer.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:34 PM on December 3, 2008

There have been a few documentaries about him, by the way. My favorite was a BBC one in which they questioned his brothers (as I remember it) - rural farm types - about Joe's early years and his homosexuality. They couldn't comprehend the idea of a family member being gay at all (and not in a homophobic way as much as you can't imagine your best friend being from the planet Celestion 9) . . . they said he was simply "an indoor lad." It was sort of sweet, in the sense that it made Joe's maverick ways even more impressive, knowing the sort of limited-experience childhood he had.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:37 PM on December 3, 2008

The BBC documentary mentioned above is on YouTube: The Strange Story of Joe Meek.
posted by misteraitch at 12:24 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thank you, you all of you are awesome.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:54 AM on December 4, 2008

Lew Ashby...
posted by prozach1576 at 6:11 AM on December 4, 2008

A movie starring Kevin Spacey has just been made about his life, actually.
posted by tiny crocodile at 7:01 AM on December 4, 2008

He eventually died in a shootout with his landlord.
He shot and killed his landlady, Violet Shenton who ran a leather goods store on the ground floor of 304 Holloway Rd., when she complained about the noise. Then turned the shotgun on himself.
posted by Dr.Pill at 9:24 AM on December 4, 2008

Here are some of his interesting home recordings.
posted by robotot at 3:33 PM on December 4, 2008

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