The Tornados

Telstar [Castle Pie]

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The Beatles are almost universally cited as the band that launched the British Invasion on the American pop charts, but the truth is, another U.K. band managed to top the Billboard Hot 100 a little more than a year before the Fab Four broke through in the United States. The Tornados were a combo put together by Joe Meek, a British independent record producer with an eccentric streak and an ear for unusual sounds. While the Tornados were the backing group for some of Meek's studio sessions and became the road band for British rock icon Billy Fury, in 1962 Meek had them record an instrumental tune he'd written, with keyboard man Roger LaVern playing the melody on a cheap battery-powered organ called a Clavioline. Run through Meek's banks of homemade electronics, the recording had an unusual sound that stood out from other tunes on the radio, and "Telstar" became a massive international hit, and the first single from a U.K. rock band to go to number one in America. The Tornados never had another hit, but they made plenty more memorable recordings with Meek, and Telstar brings together 19 songs that show off the band's breezy style and Meek's strange but wonderful ways in the recording studio.

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