The classic line-up:
The Tornados (spelled Tornadoes on their USA releases) were the creation of legendary British producer Joe Meek. In 1961 he advertised in Melody Maker for session musicians to provide backing for the ever- increasing number of artists recording at his independent studio in North London. The first two to turn up on his doorstep were Alan Caddy and Clem Cattini, who both had played with Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. Next recruited by Meek, though not exclusively for musical reasons, was German-born Heinz Burt. George Bellamy became the second guitar player. The quartet was joined by two sax players, Pete Newman and Pete Cotton, for some of the sessions and live work. In February 1962, the Tornados were recruited by Larry Parnes for the prestigious role of Billy Fury's live band, where the saxophones were replaced by keyboards. Norman Hale was first to fill this slot, but after the first Tornados single, "Love and Fury" (released in April 1962), he was replaced by Roger LaVern, who established himself as the fifth Tornado.
"Love and Fury" already had many of what were to become trademark Tornados sounds (galloping rhythm, biting guitar break, a surreal key- board lead played by a clavioline), but failed to chart. For the next single, Joe Meek was inspired by the launch of the American satellite Telstar. Meek could play no instruments, could hardly sing and read no music, but he could hear in his head what the record would sound like before he had even composed the melody. He literally dragged his songwriting partner Dave Adams out of bed to help him shape this Telstar tune he had in his head. The Tornados were committed to a summer show with Billy Fury in Great Yarmouth, but at the first hiatus in their schedule, Meek called them to London to record the tune. They didn't even have time to complete the recording, let alone hear the playback, before dashing back for their evening appearance. Hence it was down to Meek (an electronics wizard) to do the honours and with a little more studio tweaking, including the crucial addition of introductory sound effects, a genuine pop classic was born. "Telstar" crashed into the UK charts at the end of August 1962 and stayed there for 25 weeks, five of them at # 1. In the US, the record was released on the London label and the response was astounding. In a matter of weeks, the Tornados managed to do what no British group had ever done before - have a number one hit in the USA, more than a year before the Beatles.
Initial sales exceeded five million copies worldwide. "Telstar" should have made Meek a millionaire and the Tornados a household name. But a French copyright infringement suit kept all royalties tied up for six years (more about this at http://www.meeksville.com/bio/telstar.htm ) and the Tornados were kept from touring the States due to their commit- ments as Billy Fury's backing group. (Attempts to include Billy on a US tour were answered with "Billy Who"?).
After the enormous success of "Telstar", what next? It was going to be difficult. The follow-up, "Globetrotter", reached # 5 in the UK, although again it was shrouded in controversy because of its similarity to the Jimmy Clanton tune "Venus In Blue Jeans". After that, every new single sold less than its predecessor : "Robot" stalled at # 17, "The Ice Cream Man" made # 18, "Dragonfly" # 41 and "Exodus" # 50. In the US theํr only other chart entry was "Ridin' the Wind" (# 63, 1963), which was not even released as a single in the UK.
Heinz Burt left the group early in 1963 to pursue a vocal career as Heinz (biggest hit: "Just Like Eddie", # 5, mid-1963). By the time the Tornados switched from Decca to Columbia in 1964, only Clem Cattini was left as an original member. At the end of 1964, he too would leave the group, to become a much in-demand session drummer. Subsequent releases were recorded by various different line-ups employed by Joe Meek to benefit from the remaning popularity of the Tornados' name. The original members had scattered to various groups or solo projects. In 1975, George Bellamy reassembled all the original Tornados except Caddy for one last effort as the New Tornados. Their remake of "Telstar" passed largely without notice.
Joe Meek took his own life in 1967. Burt and Caddy died in 2000.
There are several CD compilations available. The most complete is probably : The Tornados : The EP Collection (See For Miles SEECD 445), released in 1996. 29 tracks, including my personal favourite, "Chasing Moonbeams", with great piano work by LaVern.
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