Independent producer Joe Meek had his own recording studio in a flat above a shop in Holloway Road in Islington, North London. There he experimented with echo, overdubs and various other effects to achieve a sound unique on the British music scene in the 1960s.
Meek wrote an instrumental piece and in 1962 he recorded it with The Tornados. The song was Telstar and it rocketed to #1 in Britain and America – it was the first British rock & roll record to top the US chart – and both band and producer were showered with praise.
Quite a few Meek-produced singles followed in the next few years, all employing piercing organ and mysterious percolating percussion, but none of them came close to matching the majestic Telstar – although tracks like Ridin’ The Wind, Love and Fury and Blue, Blue, Blue Beat were fascinating with their spectral, shimmering clavioline organ.
Unfortunately, The Tornados never entered the US Top 40 again, although they had more hits at home in 1963 with Globetrotter, Ice Cream Man and Robot.
At the start of 1963 blonde-haired bass player Heinz Burt left the group and found solo stardom (of sorts) with Just Like Eddie (an ode to the late Eddie Cochran).
Heinz was replaced by ex-Outlaw Chas Hodges, who in turn was replaced by Tab Martin and then Brian Gregg (ex-Johnny Kidd & The Pirates) – although the public was largely oblivious to the personnel changes.
By 1964 The Tornados were struggling. Group members drifted in and out, and their singles failed to chart.
When Cattini left to become a session drummer in 1965 the success story was over.
Cattini became Britain’s hottest session drummer, while Heinz Burt ended up working on the production line at the Ford plant in Dagenham, Essex, but ultimately made a decent living on the ‘golden oldies’ revival circuit with fellow old rockers like Marty Wilde and Billy Fury.
In 1975 – as the final tribute to the American Space Programme by which Telstar was inspired – The Tornados re-recorded their 1962 chart-topper with their original line-up. Sadly, this time, it never left the launching pad.
Heinz died in April 2000 from motor neurone disease. Alan Caddy died in August of the same year.