Friday 07-23-2010 10:22am PT
On this date in 1962, America launched its first communication satellite- TELSTAR. Russia was winning the early days of the space race. They sent up SPUTNIK in October of 1957, they sent the first animal in space- a dog named Laika in Sputnik2, and the first human being- Yuri Gagarin. So, we were playing catch-up ball for the first few years of the space program.
It wasn’t until TELSTAR went into orbit that America could hold its head high and know it was part of the space race. It was an important turning point for American technology and began a new era of communications.
The TELSTAR satellite inspired legendary English record producer Joe Meek to write and record an instrumental song that captured the sci-fi nature of the achievement. The group he put together was the TORNADOS, but there already was a band called the Tornados in America, so he had to change the name of the group to the LONDON TORNADOS. They recently made a feature length movie about TELSTAR and life of Joe Meek- a true original.
I bought that record when I was a kid- I loved it! I loved the space sounds at the beginning and end of the record. I played it on my little record player a thousand times.
Many years later, when the Greg Kihn Band was on tour in Germany in the 1970’s, we actually did a version of TELSTAR live. It was a fun encore number, and Dave Carpender, our lead guitarist did a great job on it. Watching the video again after all these years, I noticed that at the end of the song Dave leans his guitar up against the amp and turns it up so it will sheik with feedback… AND HE JUST WALKS AWAY- with the guitar howling through the amp like a banshee. The German roadies didn;t know what to do. They ran around shouting things in German, and eventually one of the braver ones reached over and cut the volume on the guitar.
This was recorded for a Eurovision TV special, live at the Audimax in Hamburg, Germany 1978 on a show called ROCKPALAST. I remember that our equipment didn’t make it through customs and we had to use all rented equipment- that’s why I’m not playing my vintage 1964 Rickenbacker 12-string, but another Ricky not nearly as nice. We had a great time on that tour. We were part of an all-Beserkley package tour including The Rubinoos, Tyla Gang, and Earth Quake. Beserkley of German released the concert as a double live album with one side by each band. That piece of vinyl is notable for the only recorded version of the song “Future Girl” which did not appear on any other record ever. That makes it a rarity.
I found the video on YouTube. Check it out!
Have a great weekend!