on 25 June 2009
The slickness of the music industry nowadays makes this film all the more fascinating, revealing as it does that Britain's most successful instrumental single (the Telstar of the title), one of the first British number one records in America, was recorded in a seedy little flat above a leather goods shop by the somewhat unbalanced Joe Meek.
Meek was a pioneer, a maverick and clearly rather unhinged. Con O'Neal's superb performance with its quirky Gloucester accent provokes fear and pity in equal amounts, but you can't help admiring Meek's energy and ideas. It all ends rather horribly but I won't reveal too much if you don't know the story.
It is the little details that fascinate. Without Meek, we wouldn't have heard Johnny Remember Me, Have I the Right?, Just Like Eddie or that Screaming Lord Sutch shocker Jack the Ripper (Sutch's life, like Meek's, ended tragically). However, this didn't stop him turning down The Beatles and Tom Jones! While his lover Heinz crashed and burned, many of his session musicians went on to greater things. Clem Cattini (played here by the ever-amusing James Corden) went on to drum on countless chart-toppers, Ritchie Blackmore went on to form Deep Purple and, perhaps most endearingly, Chas Hodges, portrayed by Ralf Little, is seen complaining about having to do 'novelty records' which is so much funnier when you realise that he went on to be half of Chas 'n' Dave!
An excellent recreation of a bygone time and bygone tunes. All this and Kevin Spacey too!
on 4 January 2010
I wasn't sure what to expect from this, given the wildly differing comments from critics/fans/associates etc. but having finally watched it after getting it for Christmas I'm firmly with those who reacted positively. 'Telstar' is a brilliant film, perfectly capturing the era and look of the period, and bringing Joe Meek to life more than a fan could wish for. The story of Joe's life is pretty well known- how a country boy from Newent, Gloucestershire created sounds far beyond what anyone had ever heard before from a dingy first floor flat above a leather goods shop on London's Holloway Road, with home-made equipment and a whole lot of imagination, before descending into near insanity and a tragic, messy demise. The film was adapted and directed by Nick Moran from his own, very well-received stage play and crucially transports the lead actor- Con O'Neill- from the stage to the movie adaptation. The plaudits showered on O'Neill are well deserved, as he is simply magnificent. The volatile personality and violent mood swings of Joe Meek are conveyed brilliantly, by turns humourous, tender, histrionic and outright deranged, it's a huge challenge to pull off with conviction but O'Neill carries it off superbly. The supporting cast also acquit themselves well, with the likes of Kevin Spacey and Pam Ferris excellent as usual, good support from Ralf Little (Chas Hodges) and lesser known actors like JJ Feild (Heinz),and Tom Burke (Geoff Goddard) also impressing. Even James Cordern (who i'm not a fan of), scores highly as drummer Clem Cattini. Several of Joe's former artists crop up in bit parts, notably Jess Conrad, John Leyton and Chas Hodges- whose altercation with Meek is brief but hilarious. The big criticism of the film is the totally unfair and untrue portrayal of Heinz. Yes, Joe was in love with him and spent more time and money on him than he should have done, as he wasn't greatly talented, but to depict Heinz as an arrogant egomaniac belittling anyone who dares to question him and acting like a spoiled child is totally wrong and leaves a bit of a bad taste. (this is no fault of the actor of course, who plays the part as written and does it very well) I'm a member of 'The Joe Meek Society' and I know a lot of people within it have really savaged the film for various reasons, most of which (except for the Heinz angle) are unjust. Yes, there are liberties taken (The Moontrekkers 'Night Of The Vampire' was recorded before 'Telstar' but is shown much later in the film with the wrong musicians) and certain episodes have been changed or exaggerated but thats nothing new in movies. As the director John Ford once said " If you have to choose between truth and the legend, print the legend." Anyway, there are plenty of bizarre episodes of Joe's life that are NOT shown, such as running down Holloway Road in pink pajamas or destroying his T.V. with a shotgun because a drummer ate his dinner! On a financial level,'Telstar' was a box office disaster and there was talk of it not even getting a DVD release. Thankfully, this didn't happen and I hope it becomes one of those movies like 'Withnail & I' or 'Blade Runner' that are ignored and misunderstood at the time but gain a fanatical cult following later. I recommend 'Telstar' very highly for a number of reasons, most notably Con O' Neill's astonishing performance, but also for the excellent supporting cast, the near perfect depiction of the era and of course the music. Make sure you leave the credits rolling for The Syndicats 'Crawdaddy Simone', which pops up at the end and has the most deranged and unhinged middle section you will ever hear, as if Joe had channeled all his paranoia, anger and occult dabblings into a musical maelstrom of white noise that sounds as if it will literally explode. No other producer would have gone that far and ultimately, for all his failings as a person, Joe Meek was a true genius, ahead of his time and much imitated since. We will never see his like again and for those of us who were not around at the time 'Telstar' goes a long way towards placing us in his company, if only for two hours, but thats better than nothing.
on 22 June 2009
I saw this film at the cinema yesterday and i was blown away. I had been anticipating its release for a while as i wanted to see how they would convert Joe Meeks life story to the big screen, plus the fact i'm a fan of the majority of music orientated films.
Con O'Neill plays independant record producer Joe Meek. The film documents his rise to fame through 60s Tornados Hit 'Telstar', then his fall into depression, paranoia, heartbreak, poverty and ultimatley murder and suicide. As dark as all that sounds, Nick Moran has created a beautiful mix of satirical comedy and drama, keeping you hooked for the duration.
Many familiar faces new and old appear in the cast, including Kevin Spacey (Major Banks), Pam Ferris (Meek's landlady) and JJ Field (Meek's love interest Heinz Burt). With notable British comedy actors James Corden (Clem Cattini) and Ralf Little (Chaz Hodges), and an added cameo appearance from Jimmy Carr. Music fans will have noticed Caral Barat (The Libertines) and Justin Hawkins (The Darkness) also taking minor roles as other notable musicians of the 60s, Gene Vincent and Screaming Lord Sutch. Jess Conrad, John Layton, Chas Hodges and Clem Cattini appear in cameo roles as well.
The acting is superb as is the soundtrack. I urge you to buy this DVD, if you are interested in Joe Meek or the uncredited geniuses who work behind the scenes of those hit tracks or infact just music, it is a must buy!
I can't say that I was a big fan of Joe Meek's music but you can't take away his achievements working from makeshift premises with bits and pieces of cobbled-together equipment. There haven't been many good films about the British music scene but this film is an excellent memorial to Joe and also a great snapshot of British rock and roll in the late 50s/early 60s. As the film explains tragically Joe never got the recognition that he deserved and also never got the money he was owed for 'Telstar'. Con O'Neill is superb as Meek, portrayed as a character without many redeeming features but who you still end up sympathetic to. Kevin Spacey is surprisingly good as an English major and Pam Ferris, James Horden, Ralf Little, JJ Field and Tom Burke are all excellent as Meek's various associates.
The film looks great, perfectly capturing that down-at-heel sleaziness of the late 50s and early 60s and I think that the costumes in particular were very well done. I also think that this was a much better and truer film than the feel-good 'The boat that rocked' and that it not only tells the story of Joe Meek but also comments on the role of the individual versus the big corporations and on the law's ridiculous attitude to homosexuality at the time. An excellent British film.
I came to this film with high expectations knowing of the history of Joe Meek and the history of the film and the play that led to it. I'd been alerted to the potential of Nick Moran by his post 'Lock-Stock..' film 'Christie Malry's Own Double Entry' and that seemed a good omen, and although I'd never seen him live, Con O'Neill's reputation as a stage actor preceded him.
The high expectations were surpassed - it would have been easy to make a gentle comedy from the tales of Joe and to have lost the spirit of an extraordinary man, a troubled genius with a unique touch. This film is pretty much an accurate retelling of key moments of his life and Con is outstanding in the role of Joe, alongside a cast who performed exceptionally well.
This is one of the best British films I've seen for many years - it's a fascinating tale of a unique man, the kind of character we don't celebrate enough in this country and hearty congratulations to all involved.
See this. Buy this. Get the soundtrack.
on 14 October 2009
This is a wonderful film that has made it, swiftly, onto my list of favourites.
Con O'Neill's portrayal of Joe Meek is astounding. The man himself died four years before I was born, so of course I have no recollection of him so can't say if the story is accurate or full of fiction, but that aside I love everything. From O'Neill's raspy, camp West Country accent, to his gradual descent into madness via his great love affair with the vacuous and big headed Heinz (played sublimely by JJ Field). Even James Corden as drummer Clem Cattini is believable and Tom Burke as the ultra camp Geoff Goddard is a revelation.
From what I have read about Meek, this is a pretty accurate reconstruction of his life, but leaves out the seedier aspects, like his association with the underworld and his possible involvement in the murder of Bernard Oliver, a young boy whose body was found in a suitcase. Telstar concentrates mostly on the music and the soundtrack is fantastic. Seeing the heavy stomping chorus on `Have I the Right' by The Honeycombs played with brooms and feet and Lord knows what else, brings a whole new light to a song that has been a perennial favourite of my mother's!
Watch out for cameos from Jimmy Carr, Marcus Bridgestock and author Jake Arnott and the scene where Heinz confronts Jess Conrad (Nigel Harman, who looks spookily like Conrad), resulting in a fight, where the increasingly vile Heinz's bandmates cheer on Conrad.
Fabulous film, just a shame Meek isn't around to see it.
I had wanted to see this film at the cinema but it came and went before I had a chance - interesting to read other reviews where they state that they had watched the film in a sparsely populated cinema. Found this sad because this film deserved a better distribution as it is well worth seeing. Con O'Neill is absolutely superb, capturing the genius, madness and torment that made up Joe Meek, and I feel that his performance is worthy, at the very least, of an Oscar nomination. The supporting cast is also very strong but this is definitely O'Neill's show.
In these days of high technology, to see how Meek put his records together is nothing short of mindblowing bizarreness, the process taking place over a handbag shop in the Holloway Road. How Meek managed to put this all together is quite beyond me and, in modern times where it often appears that a product is put together as opposed to the music ("X Factor" springs to mind), current producers would do well to view this film.
It's a British film with a British cast (apart from Kevin Spacey as the Major) and tells the story of someone who played a big part in the history of 60s music, someone who perhaps has been overlooked in the past.
on 21 February 2010
We spent an enjoyable Saturday night watching this great little film. Top marks to all concerned, there are some great performances here especially Conn o'Neil as Meek. It's easily as good as recent Ian Dury biopic and it's to the eternal shame of the British film distribution system that the film was only shown in a handful of cinemas nation wide. So don't miss this opportunity to see a quality British film for the price of a bucket of disgusting popcorn and a half a gallon of watered-down cola as sold by your local multiplex
on 5 January 2010
The film TELSTAR is as close to the truth as you're gonna get to the life of Britain's first independant record producer Joe Meek.
He made records in his upstairs flat in Holloway Rd London, which took the world by storm, before computers were invented!
It's a funny (at times),fast moving (continuosly), sad and dark story, sprinkled with great music of the '60's, made in the unmistakeable Meek way.
Con O'Neil is simply amazing as Joe. So true to life. I know because I worked with the man himself. I made 3 records with him in the band named THE PACKABEATS.
One of them called "The Traitors" is the openning title music.
This is a piece of British Pop Music history. It's Great!
on 29 September 2009
As it sadly got a limited run at the cinema I could`nt wait to get it on DVD. I can say nothing more than brilliant. Once was`nt enough I watched it twice. I was on the music scene at the time and can relate to some of the incidents. I remember seeing Heinz on a bill with Vince Eager & Wee Willie Harris who were both very good and deserved to go much further than they did. Heinz being top of the bill came on after Wee Willies incredible performance. Sadly after hearing one number he was so bad the majority of the crowd left. Saying that you can never take away his JUST LIKE EDDIE a classic british pop song.It was nice to see Jess Conrad and John Leyton making an appearance. The guys who played Sutch and Gene Vincent were perfect sadly I was`nt impressed with Billy Fury. Apart from Chas Hodges Clem Cattini John Leyton Jess Conrad & Ritchie Blackmore the majority of the people mentioned in the film sadly left us tragically or at a young age.
Joe certainly was a troubled genius and every praise possible to Con O` Neill who deserves every award available for playing him.. Not forgetting Kevin Spacey his accent was perfect.. Even if you were`nt about at the time watch this movie.
A true story of classic British pop and proving there was music before The Beatles and it did`nt all come from Liverpool.