Telstar: An Iconic Pop Instrumental From 1962…And 1984

This morning I saw Steve For The Deaf’s posting on The Tornadoes iconic “Telstar” single from 1962 and immediately got pulled into its orbit. It reminded me that the conic instrumental came into my Record Cell a few years back in an unlikely cover version helmed by Peter Hook of New Order and Lindsay Reade who worked at Factory Records. All under the nom-du-disque of Ad Infinitum. But before we discuss the re-make, let’s have Steve For The Deaf wax eloquent on the many merits of the ahead-of-its-time single from 1962. Click his avatar then come back for the counterpoint.

Steve For The Deaf is a Lemmy fan…

There’s a great little low budget British film about this record and the characters around its recording. Telstar: The Joe Meek Story involves home science project ingenuity, incredible creativity, studio trickery, countless cups of tea, suppressed (and on occasion rampant) homosexuality and murder. It’s a sad little English pop cautionary tale that in real life gave the world a shining optimistic nugget of ageless inspiration.

Steve For The Deaf

ad infinitum telstar
Factory Records | UK | 7″ | 1984 | FAC 96

Ad Infinitum: Telstar – UK – 7″ [1984]

  1. Telstar
  2. Telstar In A Piano Bar

The track began with an upward creeping synth pulse before a clattering drum machine set the foundation for that soaring melody to appear on less primitive synthesizers that still don’t have the pull of the original’s clavioline [or Univox organ if the counter rumor was true]†. But where the original let the melody prevail, the rhythm track hobbled this version from the very start. Speaking of hobbling, there were also the new lyrics written [and sung] by Ms. Reade. Songwriter Joe Meek’s publisher would not allow the new lyrics over the music, so that’s when Peter Hook was brought in to salvage the track by mixing the vocal out and upping the dancefloor factor.

† – I actually prefer the theory that Mr. Meek mixed the clavioline and the Univox together for the unique sensations that “Telstar” offered.

For Hooky’s involvement, his deep gravitational bass was nowhere to be found here with only bass sequences on synth to be found. And the melody, so similar to that which would be used in four years as the Star Trek original series theme, should have been the star here. But this remained a cover version where the details got in the way of the song’s point. Other Factory personnel aiding here were Andy McConnell then of A Certain Ratio [but not for much longer] and Tim Kellett of The Durutti Column. The seemingly incongruous trumpet solo was down to Lindsay Anderson of the Stockholm Monsters.

I have to say that the B-side, “Telstar In A Piano Bar,” was far more interesting! This was strictly a showcase for McConnell and Anderson hitting a perfect late night Jazz Club vibe on the song. Transporting it to the other side of the 1962 milieu from which it originally sprang into the world. The liberties taken by McConnell with the melody were all worth our time and the mournful trumpet from Anderson hit a smoky Chet Baker target!

I had to think that the unique holographic sticker on the sleeve of Ad Infinitum’s “Telstar” must have been a wholesale item that Tony Wilson bought in bulk to apply to the record sleeves. I can’t believe that any record would otherwise have a bleeding edge holographic image custom made for a sleeve as these images were still exotic in the 1984 environment of this record. The generic quality of the image was perhaps the most telling thing. Other than the inner groove etching on the record, which simply stated “INCLUDE ME OUT.” Still, it was worth it for the B-side.


About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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5 Responses to Telstar: An Iconic Pop Instrumental From 1962…And 1984

  1. I am loving this. Loving it. Thanks for stowing away on Space Week. I appreciate the appreciation too


  2. tot taylor says:

    referring to your ‘Trelstar’ are you still actually referring to the original title TELSTAR ??



    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tot Taylor – Welcome to the comments! Pardon, sir! I got mired down in the mechanics of trying to embed Steve For The Deaf’s original post and was too hasty with the publish button since I’m racing against time in my lunch hour. We’ll endeavor to do better!


  3. Gavin says:

    There is a great version by my dear friends The Loved One,who featured on the original Some Bizarre Album. They released it as a 7″ single back in 1981.
    I wasn’t aware of this version you mention though!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – You would think that with Hook mixing it on Factory Records it would have a higher profile but it’s just a record I found unknown and unaware over 30 years later.


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