February 3, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of pioneering record producer/engineer Joe Meek.
No stepping around this -- the tragedy involved more than just a creative genius taking his own life — he took the life of his landlady, Violet Shenton, as well.
Our documentary, A LIFE IN THE DEATH OF JOE MEEK can’t explain away or trivialize such a moment, such a horror — nor should it ever try to — but it can shed diverse angles of light on a man whose influence and impact on modern music business, culture and creative practice was as profound as his signature production (the 1962 Tornados blockbuster, TELSTAR) was symbolic and prophetic.
We’ve been at this project for a long time, and we’re excited to say that we now are looking forward to the day where, indeed, a new life can emerge from Joe’s death.
This Kickstarter only goes until Dec. 30th, 2016 -- that's just about 2 weeks!! We can’t make it happen without your help. Please pledge. Spread the word -- as wide and far as you can. Let’s do all we can to see this documentary released in 2017. It's now or never.
As always, we appreciate your patience, generosity and trust.
If anyone feels that they can help in any way to extend our outreach on this last, defining, leg of our journey, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Kickstarter as well as:
Who is Joe Meek?
Born in 1929 and raised in rural Newent, England, Joe Meek spent his youth working on his family's farm while dreaming of recording sound, creating music and making records. Realizing that he didn't fit in, either socially (he was a closeted homosexual) or professionally, Joe eventually made the necessary move to London to explore his true, driven ambition.
By the mid-1950's, Joe Meek was one of the UK's most requested recording engineers (working for producers like George Martin) – an upstart talent who refused to play by anyone else’s rules in an industry that was ALL rules.
By the end of the decade he had broken away from the major studios and did the unthinkable: he became England’s first independent pop record producer. By the early 1960’s, he was recording #1 chart hits from a converted home studio in a then-dodgy area of London – including his masterpiece, TELSTAR; to this date the most successful pop instrumental ever recorded.
Considered a Svengali by some in the industry, Joe nurtured hundreds of teen artists such as Jimmy Page (The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin), Steve Howe (Yes and Asia), Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple and Rainbow), session guitarist extraordinaire Big Jim Sullivan and Chas Hodges (Chas 'n Dave) that helped define new, exciting, commercial sounds and produced pop/rock records that were the first specifically targeted at the post-WWII teen market.
By 1967 he was dead.
This feature documentary chronicles the rise, fall and resurrection of Joe Meek. It shows, due in equal measures to his pioneering DIY recording techniques, hit-making philosophy and a life full of social, psychological and sexual obstacles, how Joe managed to leave an indelible stamp, not just on the recording industry, but on modern pop culture as well. Over 40 years after his tragic and mysterious death, Meek has been reborn as an inspirational icon for anyone in search of the Independent Spirit.
The project is a labor of love. We've had no outside production help -- no crew, no interns, no corporate sponsors, no distributor set. Up until our successful 2012 Kickstarter, aside from frequent flyer miles donated from loving family members, its been 100% self-financed. This is as independent as you can get. A documentary produced with the same DIY spirit in which Meek produced his music.
Our project covers a history of a time that is quickly being forgotten and is often, sadly, misrepresented. We feel an obligation to make sure many sides and perspectives have been given voice in order to create an intimate and balanced portrait, that, to be honest, hasn't really been done before.
We've traveled across the UK and the US to speak with over 70 friends, family members, colleagues, employees, enthusiasts, critics and biographers of Meek (many of whom, sadly, are no longer with us) -- including rock luminaries Jimmy Page, Steve Howe, Big Jim Sullivan, Edwyn Collins, Alex Kapranos (of Franz Ferdinand), Keith Strickland (of The B-52's) and Huw Bunford (of Super Furry Animals) in addition to members of Meek's vast stable of artists such as Chas Hodges, Mike Berry, John Leyton, members of The Tornados, The Outlaws and The Honeycombs, as well as Joe's colleagues: Jimmy Lock (engineer, producer, former General Manager of Decca Classical Records), Allen Stagg (former General Manager of Abbey Road Studios, then Head of Sound at MGM and Director of Recording for the PolyGram Group), Adrian Kerridge (engineer, producer, former General Manager of Lansdowne Studios) and Keith Grant (engineer, former General Manager/owner of Olympic Studios).
Everyone has generously laid their memories, speculations and opinions on the table to form a fresh, frank perspective on this important and enigmatic innovator.
Over the years we've had several work-in-progress screenings across the United States, Canada and the UK to gauge how the film plays, not just to fans, but also to people who've never heard nor cared about Meek before - and the response was helpful, heartening and incredibly enthusiastic.
Here is a sampling of the critical response to the project's final work-in-progress screening at 2014 Reel Indie Film Fest, Toronto, Canada:
Exclaim! -- "It was well worth the wait; A Life In The Death of Joe Meek is a wonderful documentary.""...an enthralling film."
Panic Manual -- "Ultimately, A Life in the Death of Joe Meek aims to paint a complete picture of Joe Meek as a studio genius, a gifted and inventive recording pioneer, as well as a flawed human being—and in that respect it is a resounding success. Those already familiar with Meek’s work will find in this documentary a detailed oral history of a fascinating period in British music that is too often overshadowed by the emergence of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. For everyone else, A Life in the Death of Joe Meek will serve as the perfect introduction to one of popular music’s most idiosyncratic character—and one of its most unique back catalogues."
The Winehouse Mag -- "A Life in the Death of Joe Meek is a provocative, intriguing and incredibly frank documentary about a music visionary that many of us may never have heard of." "A Life in the Death of Joe Meek is a must see music documentary."
The Toronto Film Scene -- "A fascinating look at a man that very few people may actually know. In the world of music documentaries, this is one of the most interesting films out there, and is a can’t miss film."
And we believe that since our work-in-progress has screened, a more positive shift in how the world looks at Meek has begun. The UK's MPG (Music Producer's Guild), in 2009, had created an annual Joe Meek Award for Innovation in Production (winners include Brian Eno and Mark Ronson). And (not without controversy), on April 18th 2012, the esteemed music publication, NME (New Musical Express) named Joe Meek the Number One record producer of all time.
An example is this nice article about Meek and our humble documentary in the Winter 2014/2015 issue of Jocks & Nerds magazine.
Believe me, there is nothing more rewarding than to have members of our audience (of an incomplete project, mind you) come up to us and say how inspired they were by the film. It's worth every sacrifice, every road-bump, every setback -- because inspiration is what it's all about. Well, after 13 years, we'd like to finally share that inspiration with everybody…but the sacrifice isn't over just yet…
This is where you and Kickstarter can step in and lend a helping hand -- in a big, big way! And please remember, we've set our goal at $18,000 - but that goal only goes so far. We've kept it low to give us a better chance of succeeding with this fundraiser in the short time allotted. We REALLY need upwards of TWICE that amount to guarantee the soonest possible release date in 2017. (see Risks and Challenges, below)
So if you care about music, the '60's, DIY recording, human rights, cultural history and seeing Joe Meek's story finally told without judgement or sensationalism, then give what you can and ask others to do the same. We really can't verbalize just how appreciative we would be -- although, of course we'll certainly try! ;)
Risks and challenges
The first dilemma we encounter is, obviously, reaching our definitive monetary goal. It would be great to expect that all music aficionados, recording boffins, pop music and Joe Meek fans would instinctively pledge to our project — but reality sometimes doesn’t move the way logic begs… The rules of Kickstarter are that if the goal isn’t met all monies are refunded and the fundraiser is closed. And if the goal is met, don't forget a portion of the money goes to Kickstarter, another portion to create and ship all the backer incentives and yet another for any applicable taxes. In other words, every dollar counts.
So let’s be blunt — if we can’t raise enough money to cover our remaining expenses, we will have two options: 1) take MORE time in preparing the release for a LATER date as we work to put aside more of our own personal funds to invest in completing the project (including the all-important music licensing) OR 2) re-cut the film - removing crucial sequences or dramatically revising them so as to NOT require the usage of many of the tracks that we cannot afford. This would cause a negative ripple-effect in the power of the narrative and spirit of the essay. We would rather NOT give in to either option.
Having said that: we feel it is important that we preserve and improve on the existing cut that has touched so many people who have seen it in preview at international festivals these past few years rather than compromising it’s value and effect because of budgetary inadequacy. We hope you agree that damaging the film’s existing integrity is NO OPTION at all. Another downside is that it now does not look financially feasible to expect a theatrical release (homegrown or otherwise) — that is, unless we CONSIDERABLY SURPASS our stated goal of this fundraiser.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (16 days)