Friday, August 24, 2018

Joe Meek & The Blue Men- I Hear a New World: An Outer Space Music Fantasy (1960)

The Blue Men were a short-lived group that got the billing on one of producer Joe Meek's strangest recordings, the I Hear a New World album, which simulated the sound of extraterrestrial life with then-futuristic special effects and campy music. They grew out of a skiffle group, the West Five, and were contributing musicians on I Hear a New World, which owed more to Meek's eccentric vision than the musicians' performances. Nonetheless, when the I Hear a New World, Pt. 1 EP came out in 1960, it was credited to the Blue Men. Very few copies of this four-song release were issued, and the rest of the songs that would have comprised the I Hear a New World LP were not put out, although everything that would have been on it (including the four songs from the EP) finally emerged on the I Hear a New World CD in the '90s. The Blue Men also served as the backing group on a 1960 single by Peter Jay & the Blue Men, "Just Too Late"/"Friendship," and released another Meek-produced single in 1960 under the name Rodd, Ken & the Cavaliers.

In 1960, Joe Meek -- already thinking in terms that couldn't be constrained by the limits of the day's technologies and marketing strategies -- devised a "concept LP" of sorts that speculated about the nature of life on the moon (this was almost ten years before Apollo 11). Working with a group of musicians he dubbed the Blue Men, this "outer space music fantasy" tried to conjure the mood of the cosmos with the clavioline, a Hawaiian guitar, a rinky-dink piano, and then-futuristic electronic noises and sound effects. Listening today, the largely instrumental work sounds futuristic in a very dated way, especially the Chipmunks-like, electronically sped-up voices that were meant to simulate those little green men. As Monty Python's Flying Circus would say, it all sounds a bit silly, but it's an interesting insight into his unique production techniques -- the sounds he sculpted for "Magnetic Field," for instance, are a clear forerunner of the electronic pulses that open and close "Telstar." Only four tracks from the opus were released at the time, on a super-rare EP; 30 years later, the RPM CD I Hear a New World presented the full work to the public for the first time. 

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