Telstar (instrumental)

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"Telstar" is a 1962 instrumental written and produced by Joe Meek for the English band the Tornados.[2] The track reached number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in December 1962 (the second British recording to reach number 1 on that chart in the year, after "Stranger on the Shore" in May), and was also a number one hit in the UK Singles Chart. It was the second instrumental single to hit number 1 in 1962 on both the US and UK weekly charts.[note 1]

German picture sleeve
Single by The Tornados
from the album Telstar - The Sounds of The Tornados
B-side"Jungle Fever"
Released17 August 1962 (1962-08-17)
Format7" vinyl
Recorded22 July 1962
StudioRGM Sound, London
GenreSpace age pop[1]
LabelDecca (UK)[2]
London (USA)
Songwriter(s)Joe Meek[2]
Producer(s)Joe Meek[2]
The Tornados singles chronology
"Love and Fury"
Audio sample


The record was named after the Telstar communications satellite, which was launched into orbit on 10 July 1962. Written and produced by Joe Meek, it featured either a clavioline or the similar Jennings Univox, both keyboard instruments with distinctive electronic sounds. It was recorded in Meek's studio in a small flat above a shop in Holloway Road, North London. "Telstar" won an Ivor Novello Award and is estimated to have sold at least five million copies worldwide.[3]

"This was one of the first sci-fi-influenced pop songs," observed Tim Wheeler of Ash. "For its time it was so futuristic and it still sounds pretty weird today. It features Matt Bellamy's dad George on guitar… You can hear traces of it in Muse. 'Knights of Cydonia' was definitely him tipping his hat to his dad."[4]

Plagiarism claimEdit

A French composer Jean Ledrut accused Joe Meek of plagiarism, claiming that the tune of "Telstar" had been copied from "La Marche d'Austerlitz", a piece from a score that Ledrut had written for the film Austerlitz (1960). This led to a lawsuit that prevented Meek from receiving royalties from the record during his lifetime, and the issue was not resolved in Meek's favour until three weeks after his suicide in 1967. Austerlitz was not released in the UK until 1965, and Meek was unaware of the film when the lawsuit was filed in March 1963.[5][6]

"Magic Star" and other vocal versionsEdit

Later in 1962, Meek produced a vocal version of "Telstar" titled "Magic Star", sung by Kenny Hollywood. It was released as a single by Decca Records (cat. nr F11546), with "The Wonderful Story of Love" on the B-side, written by Geoff Goddard. The musical direction for both songs was done by Ivor Raymonde.[7] "Magic Star" was covered by Margie Singleton, released by Mercury Records (cat. nr 72079) in January 1963, with "Only Your Shadow Knows" on the B-side.

Luxembourg-born German language singer Camillo Felgen recorded the German vocal version as "Telstar (Irgendwann Erwacht Ein Neuer Tag)" (literally, "Someday a new day will awake") with lyrics by Carl Ulrich Blecher in 1963.[8]

The song was re-recorded in 1975 by four of the original Tornados members – Cattini, LaVern, Burt and Bellamy – who briefly reunited as the Original Tornados.

Piero Umiliani, under the name L'ingegner Giovanni e famiglia (Engineer Giovanni And His Family), made a Moog version in 1975.

Two Spanish vocal versions were released by Alberto Cortez and the Latin Quartet, titled "Magica Estrella".[citation needed]

Poet and musician Robert Calvert wrote lyrics[9] to accompany the song, which he performed in 1981.

In 1986, Scottish duo the Knits sampled the original sounds and mixed them with text excerpts from Marx's "18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon". Their song was called "Passivism".

With French lyrics by Jacques Plante, the song was released by Les Compagnons de la chanson under the title "Telstar - Une Étoile en Plein Jour" (A Star in Broad Daylight).

Commercial performanceEdit

The record was an immediate hit after its release, remaining in the UK Singles Chart for 25 weeks, five of them at number 1,[10] and in the American charts for 16 weeks. "Telstar" was the first U.S. number one by a British group. Up to that point, and since World War II, there had only been three British names that topped the U.S. chart: in May 1962 "Stranger on the Shore" by clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk; the second was "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" by Laurie London (1958), whilst the first was "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" by Vera Lynn (1952).

Track listingEdit

  1. "Telstar"
  2. "Jungle Fever"

Credits and personnelEdit

The TornadosEdit



Chart (1962) Peak
Belgian Singles Chart 1
Dutch Singles Chart[11] 3
German Singles Chart 6
Irish Singles Chart 1
Norwegian Singles Chart[12] 3
South African Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart[13] 1
US Billboard Hot 100 1
US Billboard Black Singles[14] 5

Cover versionsEdit

There have been numerous other artists who recorded "Telstar". Most notable are:

Use in popular cultureEdit

Other usesEdit

  • A number of football teams, such as East Fife and Telstar walk out on to the field of play to this song.[citation needed]
  • The former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher named "Telstar" as one of her favourite pop songs.[22][23]
  • The WFMU Radio Show Seven Second Delay used this song as a theme song. It was picked by a listener who won a contest to pick the theme song during one of WFMU's pledge drives in 2001. They used it as a theme for one year, up through early 2002.
  • The song and the life of its composer Joe Meek, was the basis of Nick Moran's directing debut in the 2008 film Telstar.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Stranger on the Shore" did make No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the Record Mirror and NME weekly charts and also topped the end of year charts.
  • According to OCC it is the second instrumental number one in the UK of 1962, the first being "Wonderful Land" by The Shadows which was No. 1 for more weeks than any other single that year (eight).


  1. ^ Nardi, Carlo (July 2011). "The Cultural Economy Of Sound: Reinventing Technology In Indian Popular Cinema". Journal on the Art of Record Production (5). ISSN 1754-9892. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 67. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
  3. ^ a b "Roger LaVern". Telegraph. London. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
  4. ^ Wheeler, Tim (August 2007). "Sci-fi rocks". Q. p. 117.
  5. ^ "Austerlitz (1960)". Retrieved 2014-04-05.
  6. ^ "The JOE MEEK Page | Joe Meek: A Portrait - 7. The cases Telstar, Heinz, Madras Place, Howard/Blaikley". Retrieved 2014-04-05.
  7. ^ "Kenny Hollywood". Retrieved 13 February 2007.
  8. ^ "Camillo - Telstar (Irgendwann Erwacht Ein Neuer Tag) (7", EP)". Retrieved 24 February 2009.
  9. ^ "Robert Calvert - WORDS: performance pieces". Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  10. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 142–3. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  11. ^ van Slooten, Johan, ed. (2005). Top 40 Hitdossier 1965-2005. J.H. Gottmer/H.J.W. Becht. p. 328. ISBN 90-230-1144-9.
  12. ^ "The Tornados - Telstar". Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  13. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Tornados - Telstar". Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  14. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 585.
  15. ^ "The Shadows - Hits Right Up Your Street". Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Bitch Boys' "...In Heat" album reviews and audio samples". The Guitar Nine. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
  17. ^ "T.H.X. - Telstar". Discogs. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  18. ^ "Telstar - Les Compagnons de la chanson". Encyclopédisque. Retrieved 19 May 2012.
  19. ^ "Twangin' n' A-Traddin'". Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  20. ^ "Outlet Bertoni, Bison, Camp David, Carhartt Online - Nyeste Kollektioner Med Billige Pris I Danmark". Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  21. ^ "The Ventures Play Telstar, The Lonely Bull - The Ventures - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  22. ^ Dermody, Nick (2006-11-11). "BBC NEWS - Ifans to play '60s pop mogul Meek". Retrieved 4 March 2008.
  23. ^ "Roger LaVern". Retrieved 5 January 2018.

External linksEdit