Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The 'Telstar' Man

I decided last night not to travel to London today. My feet are blistered from running around in sandals I haven’t worn for a while at my older daughter’s sports day (long story!) and I am sunburnt too. I had a disaster with lotion yesterday. I purchased from the local Co-op what I believed to be suntan lotion but turned out to be self-tanning lotion. I simply didn’t look closely enough at the label. A day spent spreading this all over me was a huge mistake. Of course, it offered me no protection from the fierce sun and I am now orange in places, dyed by all manner of chemicals. Frankly, I feel cheap. Embarrassed too. Countless people must have seen me plastering myself with the stuff at yesterday’s event.

Instead of seeking out streets paved with gold today, I sought out streets paved with Southern Fried Chicken wrappers: namely, my fine home city of Gloucester. I worked in Oxfam most of the time and, breaking from my usual weekend chores, spent some time opening up bags that contained all the books deposited in those book banks one sees near supermarkets. I rather enjoyed doing that although at least 90% of the stuff is thrown straight into the bins because it is obsolete (old manuals, out of date text books etc.) or just too bent, dirty or scuffed to sell. The finest wares are sorted to be sent to the specialist bookstores in Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Cirencester while we retain the lower grade stock for our own use. We know our place in Gloucester.

I had a smashing lunch hour. I relaxed near the old church near Café Rene and devoured a lovely and wholesome salad courtesy of Peppers, read my Guardian and sipped demurely at an effervescent cordial. I then strutted to the Folk Museum where there is an absolutely splendid specialist exhibition. The Joe Meek Appreciation Society is desperate to create a museum devoted to its hero, the Newent-born record producer and sound pioneer, but have been unable to secure sufficient funding to do so. As an interim move, there is a superb collection of letters, photographs, record sleeves, press cuttings, clothing and other assorted memorabilia associated with the fellow downstairs at the Folk Museum. It is the sort of discovery that makes one glow and I felt incredible good fortune that such an array of fascinating material could be tucked away in a tiny corner of Gloucester. The letters to record companies and artists he wrote are especially interesting and demonstrate the man’s determination to succeed and become a major player in the industry. His obituaries in local newspapers speak of his ambition to ‘make a million’ and this drive is self-evident. His spelling was atrocious – ‘gitar’, ‘littel’ – but musical geniuses are allowed their foibles! Meek was an extremely troubled man, a homosexual when such an orientation was illegal and prone to mood swings. His tragic suicide - he murdered his landlady before shooting himself – has bestowed upon Meek a cult status but it is worth remembering that Telstar, a record he both wrote and produced, attained Number One status on both sides of the Atlantic and remains the highest selling instrumental single ever. There is substance behind the murkiness.

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