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Film / Telstar: The Joe Meek Story

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Telstar: The Joe Meek Story is a 2008 British biopic about legendary record producer Joe Meek, based on James Hicks' and Nick Moran's play Telstar. The film tells of his successes producing songs such as worldwide hits "Telstar" (The Tornados) and "Have I The Right" (The Honeycombs) and British hits such as John Leyton's "Johnny Remember Me". But mainly, it paints the picture of a severely tortured man coping with his homosexuality in a time when it was strictly taboo in the U.K., dealing with creative, personal, and financial problems, and ultimately succumbing to his demons in the worst way possible.

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The film was topbilled by Con O'Neill as Joe Meek, reprising his role on stage in the movie. It also starred Kevin Spacey as Meek's business partner Major Wilfred Banks, Pam Ferris as his landlady Violet Shenton, J.J. Feild as Tornados bassist/solo artist Heinz (Burt), and a young, largely unknown James Corden as Tornados drummer Clem Cattini.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: In several scenes, Joe's songwriting partner Geoff Goddard appears to show an unrequited love for him. The scene portraying the fallout between Geoff and Joe also has Geoff railing bitterly about Joe's young, blonde, and handsome protege/lover Heinz.
    • In real life, Goddard's sexuality was never confirmed. He died in 2000 from a heart attack.
  • Artistic License:
    • Mitch Mitchell is portrayed as wearing an Afro hairdo at the time he's part of what appears to be a new version of The Outlaws. In reality, he didn't start wearing an Afro until he became part of The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
    • The real Mitchell was part of Meek's band from 1963 to 1964, but the scene where he pisses his pants after having a shotgun pointed at his head by Meek is depicted as taking place around 1965 or 1966.
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    • As such, it would have been impossible for Mitchell, Ritchie Blackmore, and Chas Hodges to have left Joe Meek en masse, as shown in the movie. Blackmore left The Outlaws sometime in 1964, while Hodges was part of that band until its final incarnation in 1965.
    • As stated below, Heinz's family denied he was ever gay, while the real-life Patrick Pink denied being Joe Meek's lover as he is portrayed in the film.
    • Clem didn't really part with Joe because he was worried about, and exasperated by his boss' increasing paranoia. He left because he was tired of dealing with the Tornados' always-changing lineup.
    • Speaking of Clem Cattini, he's portrayed as the drummer of three Meek house bands — The Tornados, The Outlaws, and Heinz's backing band, The Wild Boys. He was only part of The Tornados in real life.
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    • The "watch scene" where Joe coldly crushes the watch Geoff gave to him as a gift didn't happen. While Joe was upset that the watch wasn't inscribed — which is shown in the movie — he nonetheless accepted it.
    • An in-depth list of alleged creative liberties can be found on this forum post.
  • Atomic F-Bomb: Joe screaming "FUCK THE KINKS!" at Clem when he finally has enough of his producer and leaves The Outlaws/Tornados to work for The Kinks.
  • Ax-Crazy: Joe gets this way in several scenes where he's angry with someone. For instance, he launched into violent rages at Outlaws guitarist Billy Kuy (who complained about his pay), songwriter Geoff Goddard (who claimed Joe's new writers plagiarized his composition for the song "Have I the Right"), and Heinz (ostensibly gay man/Joe's lover who married a woman for the sake of his image).
    • Heinz also gets this way toward the end of the film, when he demands that Joe pay him what he's been owing for years.
  • The Beard: As Joe is beating him up for getting married to a woman, Heinz claims, between yelps of pain, that he got married to protect his image as a teen heartthrob and deflect rumors of his homosexuality.
  • Big Fun: Clem Cattini. And why not, as he's played by James Corden.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Meek's musicians, especially Clem Cattini and Chas Hodges, swear up a storm in normal, light-hearted conversation.
  • Darkest Hour: The first half of the film, while showing several examples of Meek as a mentally-unstable individual, is chock full of classic hits, including the titular "Telstar", "Johnny Remember Me", and Gene Vincent's "Temptation Baby". We also see some fun scenes with Justin Hawkins of The Darkness playing Screaming Lord Sutch and Carl Barât of The Libertines playing Vincent, and the hi-jinks of Meek's in-house musicians such as Clem Cattini, Chas Hodges, and Ritchie Blackmore. But the second half is as dark as you can get, as Meek falls out with several individuals, falls deeper into depression and paranoia, and loses his hitmaking magic as a producer.
  • The Ditz: Heinz. Aside from being portrayed as being less musically-gifted (if better-looking) than his fellow Meek musicians, he also isn't very smart.
  • Downer Ending: Joe, in the middle of a nervous breakdown, shoots his landlady Violet as she follows up on his unpaid rent. He then shoots himself, with all of this happening in front of a clearly traumatized Patrick.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Everyone's hairdo stays the same or similar throughout the film, except for Patrick's. He switches from having his hair combed up pre-1964 to wearing it combed down, to coincide with the British Invasion of that year.
  • Faux Yay: In the final confrontation between a now-broke and desperate Heinz and a similarly broke and desperate Meek, Heinz admits that he was merely pretending to be gay back when they were lovers. But as Heinz was raging mad at Joe at that point (to say little of the Real Heinz being Ambiguously Gay), he may or may not have been making that up.
  • Freak Out: Mitch Mitchell is so freaked out when Joe points a gun at his head and demands that he play a certain drum pattern right. After struggling to play the pattern, he stops playing, and starts crying and babbling, even pissing his pants in the process.
  • I Am the Band: Despite joining Joe Meek's team of musicians later than many others, Heinz develops a prima donna attitude once he starts getting billed as a solo star. This culminates in a fistfight with teen idol Jess Conrad, whom Heinz and his band is touring with.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: Heinz, who is extremely unpopular with his bandmates. He plays bass for the Tornados, but his bass-playing skills, or lack thereof, are referenced multiple times in the film. It also doesn't help that he's sleeping with his boss, and thusly getting a big push as a solo teen idol.
  • Only One Name: Heinz. He was born Heinz Burt, but is billed only under his first name.
  • Straight Gay: Patrick Pink.
    • Pink, now known as Robbie Duke, had spoken out to the press about being portrayed as Meek's gay lover in the film, claiming it wasn't true. Strangely, the real Pink/Duke appears in the film as a stage hand.
  • Sycophantic Servant: Patrick. He's often yelled at by Joe and has to witness his boss at his worst while working as his personal assistant. But he's extremely loyal to Joe and is always there to explain, defend, and/or apologize for his actions, especially when Joe's mental instability becomes a problem. Joe and Patrick eventually become lovers.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: To commemorate the anniversary of their partnership, Geoff gives Joe a watch as a gift. Joe asks if the watch has his initials enscribed on it. When Geoff says it doesn't, Joe coldly steps on the watch and crushes it, in front of a man who considered him a friend, and possibly even more than that.
  • Un-person: In separate scenes, Geoff Goddard, Clem Cattini, Major Banks, Chas Hodges, Ritchie Blackmore and Mitch Mitchell, and Heinz all are shown literally disappearing into thin air as they permanently sever their ties with Meek. This symbolizes how both sides no longer see the other as a part of their lives.
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