Inside The World Of Jon Spencer: Joe Meek

There comes a time when nothing else but a brain-hammering session with Pussy Galore‘s 1989 album Dial M For Motherfucker will do. And not just to clear the house of your so-called friends who’ve been sloshing cheap wine on your expensive new carpet all night. (Although it might work for that, too.) Jon Spencer, the man who shocked and awed the world with the noisiest band in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, went on to form three more exhilarating combos: Boss Hog (with his wife Cristina Martinez), Heavy Trash (his most recent band) and, of course, the stunning Blues Explosion, whose recent career-spanning compendium, Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N’ Roll (Majordomo), tells you plenty about the DNA of the man in charge. (The label is reissuing expanded versions of out-of-print Blues Explosion albums Now I Got Worry and Controversial Negro this week.) Spencer is guest editing all week. Read our Q&A with him.


Spencer: I got into Joe Meek in a big way when somebody gave me a copy of a biography about him. He gets compared to Phil Spector, but I’m not a big fan. I prefer someone like Lee Hazlewood. Joe Meek was doing everything basically in his London bedroom. He was an engineer who pioneered the use of compression. He either built or hotrodded pretty much all his own gear. If it was something he bought, he would adjust it for his own use. He got tired working for different labels and went off on his own, recording and producing a huge string of U.K. hits. Supposedly, the Queen was a big fan of “Telstar” (a 1962 Meek-produced British and American hit by the Tornados). ProTools is wonderful, but there’s something to be said for just putting something together with whatever you have at hand. With his shoe in his hand, he would beat on the bathtub. People talk about how the Beatles pushed the engineers at EMI, but Joe Meek was doing stuff well before that. Other crazy things about Joe Meek: He was obsessed with flying saucers and aliens. He would make frequent trips to the graveyard to record sounds of the dead. He was obsessed with Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, rock ‘n’ roll stars who were cut down and died young. And he was a closeted homosexual. He became increasingly paranoid that his design ideas were being stolen. He was quite a tormented guy, but he was a real dreamer.