'The Independent Music Show Magazine' September 2018 - Page 24

Graham Sclater

Musician - Author

The beginning of indie record producers


Graham Sclater

During the early sixties the new style record companies were still in their infancy and were reluctant to allow the new wave of groups or some members to sing or play on their recordings. Studio costs were high and the companies allowed only limited time for the groups to record.

Recordings were initially made in mono with limited overdubs so time was of the essence. For years studios had been booked by companies for a three hour session during the day: 10.00 to 1:00 or 2:00 to 5:00 and it was expected that at least two tracks would be recorded and completed in that time.

Record companies took a while to change their way of thinking and this was primarily due to the success of one of the first independent sound engineers and producers, Joe Meek. Robert George Meek was born 5th April 1929. He was ahead of his time and whilst he had little recording experience, he had no fear. He pioneered new ways of recording with the innovation of sampling and overdubs. Extensive use of reverb and echo and of recorded distortion, brought about by Joe was soon to become an integral part of the sound of the new wave of groups and musicians. Backed financially by toy importer, Major W A Banks, he set up his own production company, RGB Sound Ltd, in London, situated above a shop, in a three floor flat at 304 Holloway Road Islington.

Meek’s first hit was “Johnny Remember Me”, written by Geoff Goddard, and recorded in 1961 by John Leyton, a little known actor, managed by the legendary Robert Stigwood. Although the BBC initially refused to play it due to its dark lyrics, following a guest appearance by Leyton on the Monday night soap television series, Harpers West One, where he sang the song, everything changed.

I remember seeing that episode and telling my mother that I felt it would be a hit, and it was soon a number 1 hit - the first of many for Meek. It also reached number 5 in the American Billboard pop charts several years later.

Geoff Goddard and Joe Meek were a great team resulting in hits that included, “Johnny Remember Me”, and “Wild Wind “ by John Leyton, “Have I the Right,” by the Honeycombs, and the instrumental “Telstar” recorded by the Tornadoes and written by Meek. These were followed by more than fifty productions that reached the British and music charts around the world.

Like so many highly creative people, there is a fine line between madness and genius and Meek suffered from the fear that some of major record companies were spying on him with microphones around his flat as they tried to steal his innovative processes and ideas.

Surprisingly, the unknown artists that passed through Meek’s hands included, among others, David Bowie who was a singer and sax player with the Konrads, The Beatles, (Brian Epstein asked his opinion on the Beatles demo tape), Mitch Mitchell,  Gene Vincent, Denny Laine, Billy Fury, Tom Jones, Jimmy Page, Mike Berry, Ritchie Blackmore, and Screaming Lord Sutch.

On 3 February 1967, Meek killed his landlady Violet Shenton and then shot himself with a shotgun owned by musician Heinz Burt, a member of the Tornadoes.

He won an Ivor Novello award for “Telstar,” the best-selling A-Side single in 1962 which also the first record by a British rock group to reach Number 1 in the US Hot 100.

His recording legacy can still be heard every day on radio stations around the world and I do wonder where the industry would have gone if Joe Meek hadn’t created such innovative recording techniques back in the early sixties.

Graham Sclater is a music publisher, record producer and author and is the CEO of Tabitha Publishing Limited.


Graham Sclater, the author of this book, spent much of the sixties living and working as a musician in Hamburg. Ticket to Ride is an account of some of the events that many English groups experienced and wished to forget. It is dedicated to the many musicians who failed to survive the trauma and returned to England.

During the mid-sixties, at the peak of the English group scene in Germany, dozens of

groups made the short trip across the English Channel to northern Europe in search of fame and fortune. This novel follows the exploits of a naïve under-age five-piece group from the South West of England as they make the futile search for success in Germany.

Although they set out to follow the path of the Beatles, they soon fall deep into the world that their contemporaries were fortunate enough to escape.

Based predominantly on the Reeperbahn, the Red Light district of Hamburg, the group is soon dragged down, their lives affected forever by the everyday world of prostitution, sex, drugs and violence, resulting in a total breakdown of the values that they once believed in. Realising too late that they have no way out, the story charts their desperation and untimely failure.

‘Given the opportunity, I would do it all over again.’

Reg Simms - Organist - The Cheetahs.

Available from www.tabithabooks.webs.com or Amazon

Interview with Steve Flynn and Graham Sclater talking about those heady days in the sixties: