Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Roger Kynard

Roky Erickson was born Roger Kynard Erickson on 15 July, 1947. Roky Erickson is an American singer, songwriter, harmonica player and guitarist from Texas. Roky Erickson was a founding member of the 13th Floor Elevators and pioneer of the psychedelic rock genre.

Roky Erickson was interested in music from his youth: he played piano from the age of 5 and took up guitar at the age of 12. Roky Erickson attended school in Austin and dropped out of Travis High School in 1965, 1 month before graduating, rather than cut his hair to conform to the school dress code. Roky Erickson’s 1st notable group was The Spades, who scored a regional hit with Roky Erickson’s song “We Sell Soul”; this song is included on the compilation album Highs in the Mid 60s, Volume 17(although the songwriter is identified as Emil Schwartze on the track listing on this album).

Roky Erickson co-founded the 13th Floor Elevators in late 1965. Roky Erickson and bandmate Tommy Hall were the main songwriters. Early in her career, singer Janis Joplin considered joining the Elevators, but Family Dog’s Chet Helms persuaded her to go to San Francisco, California, USA instead, where she found major fame.

In 1966 (Roky Erickson was 19 years old) the band released their debut album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. Psychedelic Sounds had the band’s only charting single, Roky Erickson’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” A stinging post-romantic breakup song, the single remains probably Roky Erickson’s best-known work: it was a major hit on local charts in the U.S. southwest, and appeared at lower position on national singles charts as well. Critic Mark Deming writes that “If Roky Erickson had vanished from the face of the earth after The 13th Floor Elevators released their epochal debut single, ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me,’ in early 1966, in all likelihood he’d still be regarded as a legend among garage rock fanatics for his primal vocal wailing and feral harmonica work.”

In 1967, the band followed up with Easter Everywhere, perhaps the band’s most focused effort, featuring the epic track “Slip Inside This House”, and a noted cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

After the band’s 3rd album, Live, which featured audience applause dubbed over studio recordings of cover versions and older material, The 13th Floor Elevators released their 4th and final album Bull of the Woods in 1968. Due to Roky Erickson’s health and legal problems, his contribution to the album is limited, with guitarist Stacy Sutherland taking more of a leading role.

In 1968, while doing a stint at Hemisfair, Roky Erickson started speaking nonsense. Roky Erickson was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sent to a Houston psychiatric hospital, where he involuntarily received electroconvulsive therapy.

The Elevators were vocal proponents of mescaline (peyote), LSD, and marijuana use, and were subject to extra attention from police. In 1969, Roky Erickson was arrested for possession of 1 marijuana joint in Austin. Facing a 10 year prison term, Roky Erickson pled not guilty by reason of insanity. Roky Erickson was 1st sent to the Austin State Hospital. After several escapes, he was sent to the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he was subjected to more electroconvulsive therapy and Thorazine treatments, ultimately remaining in custody until 1972.

When released from the state hospital, Roky Erickson’s mental outlook had changed. In 1974, he formed a new band which he called Bleib Alien, Bleib being an anagram of Bible and/or German for Stay, and “Alien” being a pun on the German word “Allein” (“alone”) – the phrase in German therefore being “Remain alone”. Roky Erickson’s new band exchanged the psychedelic sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators for a more heavy metal sound that featured lyrics on old horror film and science fiction themes. “2Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)” (produced by The Sir Douglas Quintet’s Doug Sahm) was released as a single.

The new band renamed itself Roky Erickson and the Aliens. In 1979, Roky Erickson recorded 15 new songs with producer Stu Cook, former bass player of Creedence Clearwater Revival. These efforts were released in 2 “overlapping” LPs – TEO/CBS UK, and The Evil 1/415 records. Stu Cook also played bass on 2 tracks, “Sputnik” and “Bloody Hammer.” Roky Erickson also performed with The Nervebreakers as his backup band at The Palladium in Dallas in 1979. A recording was issued on the French label New Rose and was recently re-issued elsewhere. In 1982, Roky Erickson asserted that a Martian had inhabited his body. Roky Erickson later reported to friends that aliens were coming to Earth to harm him, and asked a Notary Public to witness an official declaration that he was himself an alien, hoping that this would convince the aliens to leave him alone.

In an unmedicated state, Roky Erickson began a years-long obsession with the mail, often spending hours poring over random junk mail, writing to solicitors and celebrities (dead or living). Roky Erickson was arrested in 1989 on charges of mail theft. Roky Erickson picked up mail from neighbours who had moved and taped it to the walls of his room. Roky Erickson insisted that he never opened any of the mail, and the charges were ultimately dropped.

Several live albums of his older material have been released since then, and in 1990 Sire Records/Warner Bros. Records released a tribute album, Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye produced by WB executive Bill Bentley. It featured versions of Roky Erickson’s songs performed by The Jesus and Mary Chain, R.E.M., ZZ Top, Julian Cope, Bongwater, John Wesley Harding, Doug Sahm and Primal Scream. According to the liner notes, the title of the album came from a remark Roky Erickson made to a friend who asked him to define psychedelic music, to which Roky Erickson reportedly replied “It’s where the pyramid meets the eye, man!” (the quote is also a reference to the Eye of Providence).

In 1995, Roky Erickson released All That May Do My Rhyme on Butthole Surfers drummer King Coffey’s label Trance Syndicate Records. Produced by Texas Tornado bassist Speedy Sparks, Austin recording legend Stuart Sullivan and Texas Music Office director Casey Monahan, the release coincided with the publication of Openers II, a complete collection of Roky Erickson’s lyrics. Published by Henry Rollins’s 2.13.61 Publications, it was compiled and edited by Casey Monahan with assistance from Henry Rollins and Roky Erickson’s youngest brother Sumner Erickson, a classical tuba player.

Sumner Erickson was granted legal custody of Roky in 2001, and established a legal trust to aid his brother. As a result, Roky Erickson received some of the most effective medical and legal aid of his life, the latter useful in helping sort out the complicated tangle of contracts, which had reduced royalty payments to all but nothing for his recorded works. Roky Erickson also started taking medication to control his schizophrenia.

A documentary film on the life of Roky Erickson titled You’re Gonna Miss Me was made by director Keven McAlester and screened at the 2005 SXSW film festival. In September of the same year, Roky Erickson performed his 1st full-length concert in 20years at the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival with The Explosives.

In the 30 December, 2005 issue of the Austin Chronicle, an alternative weekly newspaper in Austin, Texas, Margaret Moser brings up to date the story of Roky Erickson’s recovery with the aid of his brother Sumner. According to the article, Roky Erickson weaned himself off his medication, played at 11 gigs in Austin that year, obtained a driver’s license, owns a car (a Volvo), voted the previous year, and planned to do more concerts with The Explosives in 2006.

In 2007, Roky Erickson played his 1st ever gig in New York City, as well as California’s Coachella Festival and made a stunning debut performance in England to a capacity audience at the Royal Festival Hall, London. Roky Erickson continued to play in Europe, performing for the 1st time in Finland at Ruisrock festival. According to the article in Helsingin Sanomat 8 June 2007, the performance was widely considered the highlight of the festival day.

According to an interview on Sound Opinions on Chicago Public Radio with You’re Gonna Miss Me director Kevin McAlester (7/24/07), Roky Erickson is currently working on a new album with Billy Gibbons, singer and guitarist of ZZ Top, and a longtime admirer of Roky Erickson; Billy Gibbons’ earlier band The Moving Sidewalks had a hit with “99th floor”, which was a tribute of sorts to the Elevators.

On 8th September 2008, Scottish post-rock band Mogwai released the ‘The Batcat EP’. Roky Erickson is featured on 1 of the tracks, ‘Devil Rides’.

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Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Bob Mosley

Bob Mosley was born James Robert Mosley, on 4 December, 1942, in Paradise Valley, California, USA. Bob Mosley is principally known as the bass player and one of the songwriters and vocalists for the band Moby Grape. Bob Mosley has also developed a career as a solo artist. 3 of his best known songs with Moby Grape are “Mr. Blues”, from the 1st Moby Grape album (1967), “Bitter Wind”, from Wow/Grape Jam (1968) and “Gypsy Wedding”, from 20 Granite Creek (1971). Bob Mosley has had a varied career, including a period in 1977 playing with Neil Young in a band called The Ducks, which had a brief life and lamented demise.

Bob Mosley’s career has been plagued by the challenges of schizophrenia, as was the case with Moby Grape bandmate Skip Spence. Both musicians were homeless for several years. Bob Mosley’s schizophrenia was 1st diagnosed after he left Moby Grape in
1969,following the release of Moby Grape ’69. Bob Mosley shocked the remaining band members, in leaving the band to join the Marines. It was during basic training with the Marines that Bob Mosley was 1st diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Bob Mosley was discharged from the Marines 9 months after basic training.

In 1996, 3 of Bob Mosley’s fellow band members, Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis and Don Stevenson, in part reformed Moby Grape with the objective of helping Bob Mosley recover emotionally and financially. Bob Mosley describes the circumstances as follows: “In 1996, Peter Lewis picked me up along the side of a San Diego freeway where I was living, to tell me a ruling by San Francisco Judge Garcia gave Moby Grape their name back. I was ready to go to work again.”

Unlike bandmate Skip Spence, whose musicial output largely ceased within a few years of the onset of schizophrenia, Bob Mosley has been able to continue to write songs and record music for much of his life. Bob Mosley’s most recent solo release is True Blue, released on the Taxim label in 2005.

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Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Meera Popkin

Meera Popkin is a star of Cats and Miss Saigon on Broadway and in London’s West End. Meera Popkin was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Meera Popkin’s life went from centre stage and limos to waiting tables at Wendy’s, but she’s now back and is doing well. “I’ve had quite a year. I thought the highlight would be getting married. I thought the highlight would be having my baby girl. Now it looks like the highlight is being completely recovered from schizophrenia. Did I ever have it? Was I misdiagnosed? Am I the one in a thousand that recovers from this illness? These are the questions my doctor is asking.”

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Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Alexander “Skip” Spence

Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence was born on 18 April, 1946 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and died on 16 April, 1999 from lung cancer. Alexander “Skip” Spence was 52, just 2days shy of his 53rd birthday.

Alexander “Skip” Spence was a musician and singer-songwriter best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and as a solo artist. Alexander “Skip” Spence and his family relocated to San Jose, California in the late 1950s. Alexander “Skip” Spence’s career was plauged by drug addictions coupled with mental health problems, and is described by a biographer as man who “neither died young nor had a chance to find his way out. Unlike the advice in the Neil Young song, he both burned out and faded away;” yet during his tenure in the public eye, he had a profound impact on the outsider music and psych-folk genres.

Alexander “Skip” Spence was a guitarist in an early line-up of Quicksilver Messenger Service before Marty Balin recruited him to be the drummer for Jefferson Airplane. After 1 album with Jefferson Airplane, their debut Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, he left to co-found Moby Grape, once again as a guitarist. It was with Moby Grape that Alexander “Skip” Spence found his greatest musical fame, writing among other songs, “Omaha”, from Moby Grape’s 1st album (1967) a song identified in 2008 by Rolling Stone Magazine as 1 of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.

Alexander “Skip” Spence is acknowledged as having been instrumental in the formation of the Doobie Brothers, by way of introducing John Hartman to Tom Johnston, and encouraging their musical development.

During the recording session of Moby Grape’s 2nd album, Wow, in 1968, Alexander “Skip” Spence attempted to break down a bandmate’s hotel room door with a fire axe, while under the influence of LSD. Alexander “Skip” Spence’s deterioration in New York and the “fire axe incident” are described by bandmate Jerry Miller as follows: “Skippy changed radically when we were in New York. There were some people there that were into harder drugs and a harder lifestyle, and some very weird shit. And so he kind of flew off with those people. Skippy kind of disappeared for a little while. Next time we saw him, he had cut off his beard, and was wearing a black leather jacket, with his chest hanging out, with some chains and just sweating like a son of a gun. I don’t know what the hell he got a hold of, man, but it just whacked him. And the next thing I know, he axed my door down in the Albert Hotel. They said at the reception area that this crazy guy had held an ax to the doorman’s head.”

As described by bandmate Peter Lewis, it appears that both Jerry Miller and bandmade Don Stevenson were targets of Alexander “Skip” Spence: “We had to do (the album) in New York because the producer (David Rubinson) wanted to be with his family. So we had to leave our families and spend months at a time in hotel rooms in New York City. Finally I just quit and went back to California. I got a phone call after a couple of days. They’d played a Fillmore East gig without me, and Skippy took off with some black witch afterward who fed him full of acid. It was like that scene in The Doors movie. He thought he was the anti-Christ. He tried to chop down the hotel room door with a fire axe to kill Don (Stevenson) to save him from himself. He went up to the 52nd floor of the CBS building where they had to wrestle him to the ground. And Rubinson pressed charges against him. They took him to the The Tombs (and then to Bellevue) and that’s where he wrote Oar. When he got out of there, he cut that album in Nashville. And that was the end of his career. They shot him full of Thorazine for 6 months. They just take you out of the game.”

During his 6 months in Bellevue, Alexander “Skip” Spence was diagnosed with schizophrenia. On the day of his release, he drove a motorcycle, dressed in only his pajamas, directly to Nashville to record his only solo album, with no other musicians appearing on it, the now-classic psychedelic/folk album Oar (1969, Columbia Records).

Alexander “Skip” Spence continued to have minor involvement in later Moby Grape projects and reunions. Alexander “Skip” Spence contributed to 20 Granite Creek(1971) and Live Grape(1978), though his bandmates always included at least 1 of his songs on group recordings, irrespective of whether he was capable of performing with the group at the time. Alexander “Skip” Spence had been similarly remembered by Jefferson Airplane, whereby his song, “My Best Friend” was included on the group’s definitive Surrealistic Pillow album (1967), despite his departure from the group.

Due to his deteriorating state and notwithstanding that he was no longer functioning in the band, Alexander “Skip” Spence was supported by Moby Grape band members for extended periods. Voluminous consumption of heroin and cocaine resulted in a further involuntary committal for Alexander “Skip” Spence, based on “Aqualung”-like behaviours. As described by Peter Lewis, “Skippy was just hanging around. He hadn’t been all there for years, because he’d been into heroin all that time. In fact he actually ODed once and they had him in the morgue in San Jose with a tag on his toe. All of a sudden he got up and asked for a glass of water. Now he was snortin’ big clumps of coke, and nothing would happen to him. We couldn’t have him around because he’d be pacing the room, describing axe murders. So we got him a little place of his own. He had a little white rat named Oswald that would snort coke too. He’d never washed his dishes, and he’d try to get these little grammar school girls to go into the house with him. He was real bad. One of the parents finally called the cops, and they took him to the County Mental Health Hospital in Santa Cruz. Where they immediately lost him, and he turned up days later in the women’s ward.”

Mental illness, drug addiction and alcoholism thus prevented Alexander “Skip” Spence from sustaining a career in the music industry. Much of his life was spent in third party care, as a ward of the State of California, and either homeless or in transient accommodations in his later years. Alexander “Skip” Spence remained in and around San Jose and Santa Cruz, California. Peter Lewis regularly visited Alexander “Skip” Spence during the latter years of his life: “The last 5 years I’d go up‚ he lived in a trailer up there‚ Capitola. I used to hang around with him; we’d spend the weekends together. But he just basically kind of hit the…he was helpless in a way in terms of being able to define anything or control his feelings.”

As 1 of his 4 children, son Omar Spence, recalls, “When I saw my dad, it broke my heart. …There were moments of clarity when he was genius smart, and then he’d wander off having a conversation with himself. Here’s a homeless guy that most people would walk past and pity, and he’d say, ‘I’ve been working on a song’, and he’d scratch out some bar chords and musical notes on a napkin.”

Spence died More Oar: A Tribute to Alexander “Skip” Spence, an album featuring contributions from Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Beck, among others, was released a few weeks after his death. Prior to its release, the CD was played for Alexander “Skip” Spence at the hospital, in his final stages before death. As Peter Lewis recalls, “He was in a coma‚ and the last thing to go is your hearing. And they had More Oar in there and were playing it for him as they pulled the plug and we were holding his hands. I mean‚ it was like this death of Van Gogh or something. That’s the drama of it. You know…it was just so intense.”

Alexander “Skip” Spence’s “Land of the Sun”, one of the only post-Grape recordings he ever completed, was nearly placed on the X-Files soundtrack, Songs In The Key of X. Alexander “Skip” Spence had been commissioned to write the song.

In June, 2008, an Alexander “Skip” Spence Tribute Concert was held in Santa Cruz. The concert featured Alexander “Skip” Spence’s son, Omar Spence, who has sung with various configurations of Moby Grape in recent years. Omar Spence, singing his father’s songs, was backed by the Santa Cruz White Album Ensemble, with Dale Ockerman and Tiran Porter, both formerly of the Doobie Brothers, and both of whom have played with various members of Moby Grape in several bands over the past 3 decades. Keith Graves of Quicksilver Messenger Service played drums. Peter Lewis joined the group onstage for the finale. An additional Alexander “Skip” Spence tribute concert is planned for October, 2008.

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Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Tom Harrell

Tom Harrell was born on 16 June, 1946 in Urbana, Illinois, USA. Tom Harrell is a renowned American post bop jazz trumpeter and composer. Tom Harrell suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

Tom Harrell began playing the trumpet at the age of 8. Tom Harrell soon moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and was gigging with local bands by the age of 13. In 1969 he graduated from Stanford University with a music composition degree and joined Stan Kenton’s orchestra, touring and recording with them throughout 1969. After leaving Stan Kenton’s orchestra, Tom Harrell played with Woody Herman’s big band (1970-1971), Azteca (1972), the Horace Silver Quintet (1973-1977), the Sam Jones big band, the Lee Konitz Nonet (1979-1981), George Russell, the Mel Lewis Orchestra (1981), and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra. In addition, he recorded albums with Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Ronnie Cuber, Bob Brookmeyer, Lionel Hampton, Bob Berg, Bobby Shew, among others. From 1983-1989 he was a pivotal member of the Phil Woods Quintet, with whom he toured the world and made many recordings.

Since 1989 Tom Harrell has led his own groups; usually quintets but occasionally big bands. Tom Harrell has appeared at virtually every major jazz club and festival, and recorded under his own name for such record labels as Pinnacle, Blackhawk, Criss Cross, SteepleChase, Contemporary Records, Chesky, and RCA.

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Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Andrew Goram

Andrew Lewis Goram was born on 13 April, 1964 in Bury, Lancashire, England. Andrew Goram is a former professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper. Andrew Goram currently works for Clyde as a goalkeeping coach. Andrew Goram started his career with Oldham Athletic and Hibernian, but he is best remembered for playing for Rangers during the 1990s, when he earned the monicker “The Goalie”. In 2001 he was voted Rangers’ greatest ever goalkeeper by the Rangers fans. After his time with Rangers he played for many clubs, most notably at Motherwell and a brief loan spell at Manchester United. Andrew Goram also represented Scotland at cricket, but was banned from playing that sport after moving to Rangers.

Andrew Goram joined Oldham Athletic as a teenager and spent 7 years with the English club, winning his 1st Scotland caps and selection for the 1986 World Cup. In 1987, he moved to Hibernian, where his father had also been a goalkeeper, for a fee of £325,000. Andrew Goram was a great success at Hibs and achieved the remarkable feat of scoring a goal in a Premier Division match, against Morton.

Andrew Goram was sold to Rangers in 1991 for £1,000,000 and went on to help the club to win 6 of their 9 Scottish League titles in a row between 1989 and 1997. Andrew Goram was also involved in Rangers’ notable run in the European Cup in 1992-93, as they came within 1 point of reaching the final.

Andrew Goram was also an important player for the Scotland national team, winning 43 caps. Andrew Goram had a long-running rivalry with Jim Leighton for the goalkeeping position in the Scotland team. Craig Brown controversially selected Andrew Goram ahead of Jim Leighton for Scotland’s matches in Euro 96, despite the fact that Jim Leighton had played in most of the qualifiers. Craig Brown then selected Jim Leighton for France 98, which prompted Andrew Goram to walk out of the squad completely.

After it was reported in the press that Andrew Goram had a mild form of schizophrenia, fans responded with a chorus of “Two Andy Gorams, there’s only 2 Andy Gorams”. This chant quickly gained popularity, and became the title of a book documenting humorous football chants.

While playing for Dumfries club Queen of the South in 2002, he won the Scottish Challenge Cup. This made Andrew Goram the 1st player to collect a full set of winners medals from the 4 senior Scottish football competitions.

Andrew Goram is now an after-dinner speaker and regularly attends Rangers’ fan gatherings. Andrew Goram has also worked as a goalkeeping coach, joining Airdrie United in March 2006 and then Clyde in February 2008.

Also a cricketer, Andrew Goram represented the Scottish cricket team 4 times: twice (1989 and 1991) in the annual first-class game against Ireland and twice (again in 1989 and 1991) in the NatWest Trophy.

A left-handed batsman and right-arm medium-pace bowler, he never achieved any great success, and his most significant act was probably to bowl England Test player Richard Blakey in a NatWest Trophy game against Yorkshire in 1989.

Andrew Goram was also a league cricketer, appearing as a wicket-keeper and batsman for various Oldham clubs in the Saddleworth League including Delph & Dobcross, Moorside and also East Lancashire Paper Mill in Radcliffe, Bury.

Recently Andy Goram has been making a cricketing comeback. Andrew Goram has played for the Freuchie Cricket Team and their most recent match was against the Sussex Ladies.

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Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Joe Meek

Joe Meek was born Robert George Meek on 5 April 1929 and died on 3 February 1967 in London. Joe Meek was a pioneering English record producer and songwriter acknowledged as 1 of the world’s 1st and most imaginative independent producers.

Joe Meek’s most famous work was The Tornados’ hit “Telstar” (1962), which became the 1st record by a British group to hit #1 in the US Hot 100. It also spent 5 weeks atop the UK singles chart, with Joe Meek receiving an Ivor Novello Award for this production as the “Best-Selling A-Side” of 1962.

Joe Meek’s other notable hit productions include “Don’t You Rock Me Daddy-O” and “Cumberland Gap” by Lonnie Donegan (as engineer), “Johnny Remember Me” by John Leyton, “Just Like Eddie” by Heinz, “Angela Jones” by Michael Cox and “Have I the Right?” by The Honeycombs, “Tribute to Buddy Holly” by Mike Berry. Joe Meek’s concept album I Hear a New World is regarded as a watershed in modern music for its innovative use of electronic sounds.

Joe Meek was also producing music for films, most notably Live It Up! (US title Sing and Swing), a 1963 pop music film starring Heinz Burt, David Hemmings and Steve Marriott, also featuring Gene Vincent, Jenny Moss, The Outlaws, Kim Roberts, Kenny Ball, Patsy Ann Noble and others. Joe Meek wrote most of the songs and incidental music, much of which was recorded by The Saints and produced by Joe Meek.

Joe Meek’s commercial success as a producer was short-lived and Joe Meek gradually sank into debt and depression. On 3 February 1967, using a shotgun owned by musician Heinz Burt, Joe Meek murdered his landlady before turning the gun on himself. Aged only 37, he died 8 years to the day after his hero, Buddy Holly.

A stint in the Royal Air Force as a radar operator spurred a life-long interest in electronics and outer space. From 1953 he worked for the Midlands Electricity Board. Joe Meek used the resources of his company to develop his interest in electronics and music production, including acquiring a disc cutter and producing his 1st record.

Joe Meek left the electricity board to work as a sound engineer for a leading independent radio production company that made programmes for Radio Luxembourg, and made his breakthrough with his work on Ivy Benson’s Music for Lonely Lovers. Joe Meek’s technical ingenuity was 1st shown on the Humphrey Lyttelton jazz single “Bad Penny Blues” (Parlophone Records, 1956) when, contrary to Humphrey Lyttleton’s wishes, he ‘modified’ the sound of the piano and compressed the sound to a greater than normal extent. The record became a hit. Joe Meek then put enormous effort into Dennis Preston’s Landsdowne Studio but tensions between Dennis Preston and Joe Meek soon saw Joe Meek forced out.

In January 1960, together with William Barrington-Coupe, Joe Meek founded Triumph Records. The label very nearly had a #1 hit with Joe Meek’s production of Angela Jones by Michael Cox. Michael Cox was one of the featured singers on Jack Good’s TV music show Boy Meets Girls and the song was given massive promotion. Unfortunately, Triumph Records, being an independent label, was at the mercy of small pressing plants, who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep up with sales demands. The record made a respectable appearance in the Top Ten, but it proved that Joe Meek needed the muscle of the major companies to get his records into the shops when it mattered.

Despite an interesting catalogue of Joe Meek productions, indifferent business results and Joe Meek proving difficult to work with eventually led to the label’s demise. Joe Meek would later license many of the Triumph recordings to labels such as Top Rank and Pye.

That year Joe Meek conceived, wrote and produced an “Outer Space Music Fantasy”‘ concept album I Hear A New World with a band called Rod Freeman & The Blue Men. The album was shelved for decades, apart from some EP tracks taken from it.

Joe Meek went on to set up his own production company known as RGM Sound Ltd (later Meeksville Sound Ltd) with toy importer, ‘Major’ Wilfred Alonzo Banks as his financial backer. Joe Meek operated from his now-legendary home studio which he constructed at 304 Holloway Road, Islington, a 3-floor flat above a leather-goods store (currently empty).

Joe Meeks’ 1st hit from Holloway Road was a UK #1 smash: John Leyton’s Johnny Remember Me (1961). This memorable “death ditty” was cleverly promoted by John Leyton’s manager, expatriate Australian entrepreneur Robert Stigwood. Robert Stigwood was able to get John Leyton to perform the song in several episodes of the popular TV soap opera Harpers West One in which he was making a series of guest appearances. Joe Meek’s 3rd UK #1 and last major success was with The Honeycombs’ Have I The Right? in 1964, which also became a No.5 hit on the American Billboard pop charts. The success of John Leyton’s recordings was instrumental in establishing Robert Stigwood and Joe Meek as 2 of Britain’s 1st independent record producers.

When his landlords, who lived downstairs, felt that the noise was too much, they would indicate so with a broom on the ceiling. Joe Meek would signal his contempt by placing loudspeakers in the stairwell and turning up the volume.

A blue plaque has since been placed at the location of the studio to commemorate Joe Meek’s life and work.

Joe Meek was obsessed with the occult and the idea of “the other side”. Joe Meek would set up tape machines in graveyards in a vain attempt to record voices from beyond the grave, in one instance capturing the meows of a cat he claimed was speaking in human tones, asking for help. In particular, he had an obsession with Buddy Holly (claiming the late American rocker had communicated with him in dreams) and other dead rock and roll musicians.

Joe Meek’s professional efforts were often hindered by his paranoia (Joe Meek was convinced that Decca Records would put hidden microphones behind his wallpaper in order to steal his ideas), drug use and attacks of rage or depression. Upon receiving an apparently innocent phone call from Phil Spector, Joe Meek immediately accused Phil Spector of stealing his ideas before hanging up angrily.

Joe Meek’s homosexuality – illegal in the UK at the time – put him under further pressure; he had been charged with “importuning for immoral purposes” in 1963 and was consequently subjected to blackmail. In January of 1967, police in Tattingstone, Suffolk, discovered a suitcase containing the mutilated body of Bernard Oliver, an alleged rent boy who had previously associated with Joe Meek. According to some accounts, Joe Meek became concerned that he would be implicated in the murder investigation when the Metropolitan police stated that they would be interviewing all known homosexuals in the city.

In the meantime, the hits had dried up and as Joe Meek’s financial position became increasingly desperate, his depression deepened. On 3 February, 1967, the 8th anniversary of Buddy Holly’s death, Joe Meek killed his landlady Violet Shenton and then himself with a single barreled shotgun that he had confiscated from his protegé, former Tornados bassist and solo star Heinz Burt at his Holloway Road home/studio. Joe Meek had flown into a rage and taken the gun from Heinz Burt when he informed Joe Meek that he used it while on tour to shoot birds. Joe Meek had kept the gun under his bed, along with some cartridges. As the shotgun had been registered to Heinz Burt, he was questioned intensively by police, before being eliminated from their enquiries.

Joe Meek was subsequently buried in plot 99 at Newent Cemetery in Newent, Gloucestershire. Joe Meek’s black granite tombstone can be found near the middle of the cemetery.

Despite not being able to play a musical instrument or write notation, Joe Meek displayed a remarkable facility for writing and producing successful commercial recordings. In writing songs he was reliant on musicians such as Dave Adams, Geoff Goddard or Charles Blackwell to transcribe melodies from his vocal “demos”. Joe Meek worked on 245 singles, of which 45 were major hits (top 50 or better).

Joe Meek pioneered studio tools such as multiple over-dubbing on 1 and 2 track machines, close miking, direct input of bass guitars, the compressor, and effects like echo and reverb, as well as sampling. Unlike other producers, his search was for the ‘right’ sound rather than for a catchy musical tune, and throughout his brief career he single-mindedly followed his quest to create a unique “sonic signature” for every record he produced.

At a time when many studio engineers were still wearing white coats and assiduously trying to maintain clarity and fidelity, Joe Meek, the maverick, was producing everything on the 3 floors of his “home” studio and was never afraid to distort or manipulate the sound if it created the effect he was seeking. For Johnny Remember Me he placed the violins on the stairs, the drummer almost in the bathroom, and the brass section on a different floor entirely.

Joe Meek was 1 of the 1st producers to grasp and fully exploit the possibilities of the modern recording studio. Joe Meek’s innovative techniques — physically separating instruments, treating instruments and voices with echo and reverb, processing the sound through his fabled home-made electronic devices, the combining of 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, jazz and classical recordings alike was to record all the performers in one studio, playing together in real time, a legacy of the days before magnetic tape, when performances were literally cut live, directly onto disc.

Joe Meek’s style was also substantially different from that of his contemporary Phil Spector, who typically created his famous “Wall of sound” productions by making live recordings of large ensembles that used multiples of major instruments like bass, guitar and piano to create the complex sonic backgrounds for his singers.

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