Don't know how this got under my radar, but the hit of last week's 52nd London Film Festival was a bio-pic on one of the most fascinating, if still little known in America, pop music figures of the 60s -- eccentric producer/songwriter Joe Meek. Telstar: The Movie, named after its auteur's multi-million selling world-wide 1962 instrumental smash (Margaret Thatcher claims it's her favorite record of all time), stars Con O'Neill, who first played Meek in an acclaimed 2005 West End stage play; also on hand are Kevin Spacey (as Meek's possibly crooked financial manager) and Swinging London cinema icon Rita Tushingham as a psychic.
For those unfamiliar with Meek, suffice it to say that he was both the first important independent record producer in England and the most consistent UK hitmaker before the advent of The Beatles. A genuine visionary, his records have a sound (based on canny use of primitive tape echo and early electronic instruments) as readily identifiable as those of his contemporary Phil Spector; the vast majority of them, however, were crafted in a hole-in-the-wall homemade studio on the floor above a leathergoods store on London's Holloway Road. An eccentric with an interest in UFOs and the occult (his unreleased for years 1960 solo album I Hear a New World was a bizarre concept record about Outer Space), Meek was also a flamboyant yet closeted gay man who committed suicide, ten years to the day after the death of his idol Buddy Holly, by blowing his brains out with a borrowed shotgun (but only after first murdering his landlady).
What did his music sound like? Perhaps the best example I can think of is the British Invasion classic "Have I the Right" by The Honeycombs, probably the Meek record most Americans remember ("Telstar" notwithstanding).
In any case, reviews of the film from the festival have been overwhelmingly positive; there's no American release date yet, and no official trailer, alas, but we'll keep you posted as things develop.