The United States launched the world’s first communication satellite, July 10, 1962. Telstar was designed to relay television signals between The United States and Europe.
Meanwhile back in the U.K. drummer Clem Cattini, lead guitarist Alan Caddy, keyboardist Roger Lavern, rhythm guitarist George Bellamy, and bassist Heinz Burt were serving as the backing band for British artist Billy Fury under the name of The Tornadoes.
Enter writer/producer Joe Meek. He had used Telstar as the idea for an instrumental song he had written. He decided to use The Tornadoes to record that song.
I don’t know if “Telstar” was considered the first space record but it had a sound that made you envision communications from outer space. It was the keyboards that provided the other world imagery as it just hummed and buzzed through the song. It was an immediate hit in the United States as the song topped the Billboard Magazine Singles Chart 50 years ago last year and remained there for three weeks. It was a bigger hit in their home country as it was the number one single for five weeks.
Acker Bilk’s single, “Stranger on the Shore,” was the first British single to reach number one in the USA when it topped the charts earlier in the year but The Tornadoes were the first British group to reach number one. The Beatles would be the second.
The Tornadoes would never duplicate the success of their biggest hit. They had one minor hit in the USA the next year but by 1965 all the original members had departed and by 1967 the band was history. The original members reunited once during 1975 to record an updated version of their biggest hit but without commercial success.
Today, “Telstar” is a quaint and somewhat antiquated reminder of the simple music of the early 1960s pre-Beatles era. In its day, however, “Telstar” blasted off on a journey to the top of the charts.