Joe Meek and Mersey
By Bill Harry
Meek Records Midnighters First Disc
May 23 1963
'Who Told You', the first disc by Merseyside's Freddie Starr & the Midnighters will be released on Friday 24th May. Readers first received a clue of this previously hushed-up secret in our last issue when, in an article concerning Joe Meek, we hinted that he had recorded a Liverpool group.
In a recent letter, Joe Meek told Mersey Beat: "I must thank you sincerely for the wonderful stories you did on Heinz and myself, I found them tremendously accurate and complimentary.
"Some time back one newspaper misquoted me by saying 'There are 3,000 groups in Liverpool.' My remark was, 'There must
be about 300 groups in Liverpool.' This, I thought was exaggerating a bit, but I was trying to stimulate interest.
"For many years I recorded Luxembourg shows ('People are Funny', '1/- A Second', 'When You're Smiling'), this took me all over the country each weekend recording. The places I loved to visit most of all were up North - Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle. Here I find people have a more natural talent, sense of humour and seem to enjoy entertainment much more. They are the people I try to entertain when I make my records. I can't stand stuffed shirts and snobbery.
"It surprised me that the Beatles and Gerry & the Pacemakers did not approach me for a recording contract, as it is mostly this kind of music that I have been recording for over a year now. I was naturally upset at not having the chance to record such a great bunch of talented boys, but then, out of the blue something happened.
"My assistant, David Adams, who was visiting a show in London, rang me up at 12 o' clock at night bubbling over with enthusiasm for a group called Freddie Starr & the Midnighters. I told him, if he liked, he could fix up an audition with them and this was arranged. After hearing them I couldn't believe nobody had snapped them up before. I immediately contacted all publishers to submit material for them. It wasn't easy choosing the right songs, but finally the record was made.
"The recording session proved to be one I shall never forget. Freddie was one big bundle of energy, impersonating a host of artistes, cracking witty jokes and performing funny gestures all round the studio.
"I believe him to be one of the most talented young men to record at my studio for a long time. Each member of the group has a fine personality and all are great musicians. All I can say is I am eagerly looking forward to my next recording session so as to enjoy some more of that North country sense of humour.
"I have quite regular visits from fans up North who, while in London, seem to sort me out to look around my studio. I realise that these are mostly the people who buy my productions and that a great deal of hit records start in Liverpool and Manchester."
Well, Joe, we certainly hope you have another winner here - the combination of Meek and Merseyside has produced what we consider a hit parade sound.
Editor's Note: Dave Adams had actually spotted Freddie Starr & the Midnighters at Streatham Ice Rink. The single 'Who Told You?' c/w 'Peter Gunn Locomotion' was released on Decca F 11663 in May 1963. This was followed by 'Baby Blue' c/w 'It's Shaking Time' on Decca F 11786 in November 1963 and finally 'Never Cry On Someone's Shoulder' c/w 'Just Keep On Dreaming' on Decca F 12009 in September 1964.
Freddie Starr & the Midnighters never enjoyed record success although Freddie undoubtedly had talent as a singer, although the mischievous side of his nature tended to frustrate anyone who tried to work with him. The Midnighters remember
traveling on the M6 when Freddie insisted on having the group paint a face on his bare bottom, which he stuck out of the van window. He was also to infuriate Meek with his manic humour, walking round the studio with his trousers around his ankles. At one point Joe asked Freddie to test the microphone and as he checked the levels he found that Freddie's voice was interspersed with short gaps. He spent more than half an hour searching for the fault, then
realized that it was Freddie who caused the silent gaps by frequently deliberately shutting his mouth.
Freddie eventually found success on record as a solo singer with 'It's You', issued on Tiffany 6121 501 which reached No. 9 in the British charts on February 23 1974 and 'White Christmas' released on Thunderbird THE 102 which reached No. 41 on December 20 1975.