Joe Meek Freakbeat: You’re Holding Me Down (30 Freakbeat, mod & R&B nuggets)

Meek_mod_1There is no questioning the genius of Joe Meek. Meek was Britain’s first, and possibly finest, eccentric studio genius. His life is all too well documented; recording and reversing the sound of a toilet flushing for Telstar (his biggest seller), madness, involvement with London’s underworld (well, they used to beat him up), the killing of his landlady and subsequent suicide. So news of a compilation of some of his more rocky output had this writer in a bit of a giddy haze. The promise of the biggest oddball to grace British pop tackling wild eyed beat groups… well… it’s a bit too much to handle. Thankfully, the LP lives up to expectations.

The comp kicks off with a fierce freakbeater ‘You’re Holding Me Down’ by The Buzz. It’s a marked difference from his stuff with The Tornadoes… but still retains a gonzoid inventiveness and ends up in swathes of screaming and overdriven… well… everything. The comp also holds the pretty well known ‘Crawdaddy Simone’ by The Syndicats (featuring Steve Howe from Tomorrow and latterly, Yes) which, if I’m being honest, didn’t know it had anything to do with Meek. On re-evaluation, the intro gives it away. For years I’ve kept coming back to the song for the insane noise that kicks off proceedings. Then, it’s pretty standard mod-ish freaky business apart from a completely mental guitar solo that sounds like Syd Barrett being chased down a flight of stairs. Joyous and bonkers… just what you expect from a Meek production.

The LP dips and peaks, with some tracks feeling a little weaker than others (such as the not-so-great ‘Love Gone Again’ by The Birds of Prey) but they usual give way to something insanely brilliant like David John & The Mood’s ‘Love To See You Strut’. Typically, it sounds familiar, but like nothing else. It’s definite standard 12 bar blues structured… but the double back echo and elastic band guitars make it sound just a little too out there. Meek’s fingerprints are all over the tracks, none more-so than ‘Summer Without Sun’ by The Kingsley Charles Creation which has hallmarks of Telstar and Ice Cream Man with it’s brain melting organs and layers of rhythm. In fact, most of the instruments that you can hear on this track don’t fall into an easy placement. It’s probably the best indication of Meek’s homemade DIY sound… and a must for Meek aficionados.

‘Big Fat Spider’ by Heinz & The Wild Boys is another cracking example of Meek’s schizoid pop. A creepy jangle of a tune with an almost garage vocal rasping over the top. It powers along with great pomp before exploding into a dizzying middle section that shifts slightly towards some kind of vertigo madness. It’s absolutely brilliant. Then for the straightest tune on the comp and best candidate for a club dancer, ‘Come On Baby’ by Jason Eddie & The Centremen which is pure snot fuelled fuzz pop with The Champs styled guitars that buckle under the weight of the production. It’s a surefire winner with an infectious ‘yeah yeah yeeeeaaah‘. Fighting for the title of champion on the comp is Tornados ’66 and the jaw dropping ‘No More You and Me’ which is a mod hip pulveriser. Part surf, part R’n’B, part Brian Auger, part completely mental Meek-isms. It’s a head turner and contains more ideas than your average long player. Northern Soulies will go for The Hotrod’s teen stomp of ‘I Don’t Love Her No More’ which skips along nicely in a blue eyed way.

That’s the thing with Joe Meek’s Freakbeat. Half of it isn’t Freakbeat… nor is it Mod… nor anything. It’s uniquely Meek. Quintessentially English with potty ideas, trailblazing ideas and weird abstract structures. It’s almost impossible to tell someone who has never heard a Joe Meek record what it sounds like. People wanting to dip their toes into the far out world of Meek will do well to start here before working up to his ‘I Hear A New World’ masterpiece, and already hardy fans will find enough to get reanimated all over again. It’s a near perfect collection of killer tunes. A must. To buy, click here.

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