Today's song comes from the new compilation album "Vampires, Cowboys, Spacemen & Spooks," which brings together 60 tracks of instrumental weirdness from the innovative British producer Joe Meek. Born in 1929 in Gloucestershire, Meek came to renown in the early and mid-'60s as a result of the technical innovations he brought to the art of record production. Something of a sonic mad scientist, Meek was among the first record producers to fine-tune the technology in the recording studio -- tweaking circuit boards, multitracking instruments, and building his own echo and reverb devices. While Meek was able to find a measure of popular success -- he produced the first song by a British act to hit No.1 on the American charts, 1962's "Telstar" by the Tornados -- his career ultimately ended in tragedy. By the mid-'60s, the Beatles and Dylan had rendered irrelevant the instrumental and novelty music that Meek loved so much. Meek's personal life quickly followed his professional life into disarray. He took his own life, and that of his landlady, in 1967.
"Ridin' With the Wind," also by the Tornados, provides a snapshot of Meek's genius, as his gift for sonic manipulation is in full flower on this heavily layered and reverbed track. If the music sounds ordinary, it's only because Meek's techniques have been expanded and built on for almost 50 years.
-- David Marchese