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Joe Meek

The Tornados - Do You Come Her Often

Now it wouldn't be a Queer Music Heritage show without my digging into some obscurities. Today probably only record collectors remember the name Joe Meek, but he was a legendary British record producer in the early 1960's. His innovative style and very distinctive production techniques gave him legendary status at that time. But personally he was a very troubled man and by 1966 he was in deep depression, caused by lack of success of his later recordings, near bankruptcy and the oppression he felt for being homosexual. Homosexuality was still illegal in the UK at that time.

One of his first smash hits was "Telstar" from 1962 by the Tornados, which he produced. As far as I know, that group wasn't gay, but on the last 45 he produced for them, in 1966, he perhaps gained some satisfaction by exposing a reality long suppressed. On the flip side of their record "Is That a Ship I Hear" he placed what sounded like a throwaway song, called "Do You Come Here Often." It's an innocuous sounding instrumental and most people, had they even bothered to turn the record over, would have stopped listening well before the point of interest I'm telling you about. At about 2 minutes and 15 seconds into the song, he inserted this bit of conversation apparently intended to sound like it came from a London gay club, with two obviously bitchy queens.


Remember this was 1966, homosexuality was still illegal, and that indulgence by producer Joe Meek was in a way an amazing achievement. It was the first record on a UK major label, Columbia, to give us a look at gay life, with all the campiness sometimes present. No one knows how much satisfaction that recording gave him, because within six months he had committed suicide with a shotgun.

The scenario is the toilet in a London gay club, possibly the Apollo or Le Duce. The organist is still pumping away, but that's only background, as the sound dims and the bar atmosphere comes in.

'Do you come here often?'

'Only when the pirate ships go off air.'

'Me too.' (giggles)

'Well, I see pyjama styled shirts are in, then.'

'Well, pyjamas are OUT, as far as I'm concerned anyway.'

'Who cares?'

'Well, I know of a few people who do.'

'Yes, you would.'

'WOW! These two, coming now. What do you think?'

'Mmmmmm. Mine's all right, but I don't like the look of yours.'

(A sniffy pause)

'Well, I must be off.'
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'Yes, you're not looking so good.'

'Cheerio. I'll see you down the 'Dilly.'

'Not if I see you first, you won't.'

Exeunt, to swelling organ.