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Telstar (song)

German picture sleeve
Single by The Tornados
from the album Telstar - The Sounds of The Tornadoes
B-side "Jungle Fever"
Released 17 August 1962 (1962-08-17)
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded RGM Sound, London, 1962
Genre Instrumental rock, space rock
Length 3:15
Label Decca (UK)[1]
London (USA)
Writer(s) Joe Meek[1]
Producer(s) Joe Meek[1]
The Tornados singles chronology
"Love and Fury
Audio sample

"Telstar" is a 1962 instrumental performed by The Tornados.[1] The track reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in December 1962 (the second British recording to reach No. 1 on that chart in the year, after "Stranger on the Shore" in May), and was also a number one hit in the UK Singles Chart. It was the second instrumental single to hit No. 1 in 1962 on both the US and UK weekly charts.[note 1]


  • Background 1
  • Plagiarism claim 2
  • "Magic Star" and other vocal versions 3
  • Track listing 4
  • Personnel 5
    • The Tornados 5.1
    • Other 5.2
  • Chart performance 6
  • Charts 7
  • Cover versions 8
  • Use in popular culture 9
  • Other uses 10
  • Notes 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


The record was named after the Telstar communications satellite, which was launched into orbit on 10 July 1962. It was written and produced by Joe Meek, and featured either a clavioline, or the similar Jennings Univox, both keyboard instruments with distinctive electronic sounds. It was recorded in Meek's studio in a small flat above a shop in Holloway Road, North London. "Telstar" won an Ivor Novello Award and is estimated to have sold at least five million copies worldwide.[2]

Plagiarism claim

A French composer, Jean Ledrut, accused Joe Meek of plagiarism, claiming that the tune of "Telstar" had been copied from "La Marche d'Austerlitz", a piece from a score that Ledrut had written for the 1960 film Austerlitz. This led to a lawsuit that prevented Meek from receiving royalties from the record during his lifetime, and the issue was not resolved in Meek's favour until three weeks after his suicide in 1967. Austerlitz was not released in the UK until 1965, and Meek was unaware of the film when the lawsuit was filed in March 1963.[3][4]

"Magic Star" and other vocal versions

Meek produced later in 1962 a vocal version of "Telstar" entitled "Magic Star", sung by Kenny Hollywood. It was released as a single by Decca Records (cat. nr F11546), with on the B-side "The Wonderful Story of Love", written by Geoff Goddard. The musical direction for both songs was done by Ivor Raymonde.[5] "Magic Star" was covered by Margie Singleton, released by Mercury Records (cat. nr 72079) in January 1963, backed with "Only Your Shadow Knows".

The song was re-recorded in 1975 by four of the original Tornados members - Cattini, LaVern, Burt and Bellamy - who briefly reunited as the Original Tornados.

Piero Umiliani made a Moog version in 1975 under the name L'ingegner Giovanni e famiglia (Engineer Giovanni And His Family).

Two Spanish vocal versions were released by Alberto Cortez and the Latin Quartet, titled "Magica Estrella".

Poet and musician Robert Calvert wrote lyrics[6] to accompany the song, which he performed in 1981.

In 1986, Scottish duo the Knits sampled the original sounds and mixed them with text excerpts from Marx's "18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon". Their song was called "Passivism".

With French lyrics by Jacques Plante, the song was released by Les Compagnons de la chanson under the title "Telstar - Une étoile en plein jour" (a star in broad daylight).

Luxembourg-born German language singer Camillo Felgen recorded the German vocal version as "Telstar (Irgendwann Erwacht Ein Neuer Tag)" with lyrics by Carl Ulrich Blecher in 1963.[7]

Track listing

  1. "Telstar"[8]
  2. "Jungle Fever"


The Tornados


Chart performance

The record was an immediate hit after its release, remaining in the UK Singles Chart for 25 weeks, five of them at number one,[9] and in the American charts for 16 weeks. "Telstar" was the first U.S. number one by a British group. Up to that point, and since World War II, there had only been three British names that topped the U.S. chart: in May 1962 "Stranger on the Shore" by clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk; the second was "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" by Laurie London (1958), whilst the first was "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" by Vera Lynn (1952). See List of songs by British artists which reached number-one on the Hot 100 (USA).


Chart (1962) Peak
Belgian Singles Chart 1
Dutch Singles Chart[10] 3
German Singles Chart[11] 6
Irish Singles Chart[12] 1
Norwegian Singles Chart[13] 3
South African Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart[14] 1
US Billboard Hot 100 1
US Billboard Black Singles[15] 5

Cover versions

There have been numerous other artists who recorded "Telstar." Most notable are:

Use in popular culture

  • The song was used on a second season episode of the AMC series Mad Men entitled "The Inheritance" (2008).
  • "George Bellamy.

Other uses

  • A number of football teams, such as East Fife and Telstar walk out on to the field of play to this song.
  • The former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher named "Telstar" as one of her favourite pop songs.[21][22]
  • The WFMU Radio Show Seven Second Delay used this song as a theme song. It was picked by a listener who won a contest to pick the theme song during one of WFMU's pledge drives in 2001. They used it as a theme for one year, up through early 2002.
  • The song and the life of its composer Joe Meek, was the basis of Nick Moran's directing debut in the 2008 film Telstar.


  1. ^ "Stranger on the Shore" did make No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the Record Mirror and NME weekly charts and also topped the end of year charts.

According to OCC it is the 2nd instrumental number one in the UK of 1962 as well, the first being Wonderful Land by the Shadows which was #1 for more weeks than any other single that year (8 weeks).


  1. ^ a b c d e Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 67.  
  2. ^ a b "Roger LaVern". London: Telegraph. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  3. ^ (1960)"Austerlitz".\Accessdate=2014-04-05. 
  4. ^ "The JOE MEEK Page | Joe Meek: A Portrait - 7. The cases Telstar, Heinz, Madras Place, Howard/Blaikley". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  5. ^ "Kenny Hollywood". Retrieved 13 February 2007. 
  6. ^ "The Spirit Of The P/age". 
  7. ^ "Camillo - Telstar (Irgendwann Erwacht Ein Neuer Tag) (7", EP) at Discogs". Retrieved 24 February 2009. 
  8. ^ Video on YouTube
  9. ^ Roberts, David (2006).  
  10. ^ van Slooten, Johan, ed. (2005). Top 40 Hitdossier 1965-2005. J.H. Gottmer/H.J.W. Becht. p. 328.  
  11. ^ " search results". Retrieved 25 February 2009. 
  12. ^ " search results". Retrieved 25 February 2009. 
  13. ^ " - The Tornados - Telstar". Retrieved 25 February 2009. 
  14. ^ "Chart Stats - Tornados - Telstar". Retrieved 25 February 2009. 
  15. ^  
  16. ^ "Bitch Boys' "...In Heat" album reviews and audio samples". The Guitar Nine. Retrieved 4 February 2008. 
  17. ^ "Telstar - Les Compagnons de la chanson". Encyclopédisque. Retrieved 19 May 2012. 
  18. ^ "'"Rock and Roll Jam Sandwiches - Twangin' n' A-Traddin. Retrieved 24 February 2009. 
  19. ^ "New Release". Eager Product. Retrieved 29 June 2013. 
  20. ^ "Official OMD website - downloads". Retrieved 24 February 2009. 
  21. ^ Dermody, Nick (2006-11-11). "BBC NEWS - Ifans to play '60s pop mogul Meek". Retrieved 4 March 2008. 
  22. ^ "Letter from Margaret Thatcher to Roger LaVern of the Tornados". Retrieved 4 March 2008. 

External links

  • Roger LaVern: The Recording Of The Worldwide Hit "Telstar"
  • A (fan) site dedicated to the song
  • Fan page
Preceded by
"She's Not You" by Elvis Presley
UK number one single
4 October 1962 (five weeks)
Succeeded by
"Lovesick Blues" by Frank Ifield
Preceded by
"Big Girls Don't Cry" by The Four Seasons
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
22 December 1962 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Go Away Little Girl" by Steve Lawrence
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