Singled Out: Am I Dead Yet?
Am I Dead Yet? (Pop Will Eat Itself's Mary Byker and Apollo 440 and Magazine's Noko) recently released their debut album and we asked Noko to tell us about the song "Joe Meek Shall Inherit The Earth." Here is the story:
This song is a quietly simmering rage-rant, call to action/call to arms to all the misfits, weirdos and maverick misunderstood geniuses who've ever brought their disenfranchised pain to bear on the world in the form of great, game-changing works of art or big ideas…or simply, the little guy getting his righteous cold and sweet revenge and putting 'the frighteners' on the squares. Joe Meek in the title was the ground-breaking English independent record producer, who rose to fame, topping the charts both sides of the Atlantic with his brash, romantic futuristic instrumental "Telstar" in the early 1960s. He was a very highly-strung paranoid character, who thought everyone, from his competitors, the record-companies to the Police and secret-service, were out to get him and steal his revolutionary ideas and specialised techniques. He was homosexual in an era when the very illegality of the life made him a target for blackmailers. He was obsessed with the idea that he was under permanent surveillance and was being bugged by everyone from the FBI to the Russians! This all came to a head when in February 1967 when after a heated argument with the downstairs land-lady of this home studio in Holloway Rd, London, he emptied the barrels of his shotgun into her, then himself. The song isn't about Joe per sé - he's simply a cypher for a list of heroic outsiders who've chosen to ignore the rule-book and 'dreamed out loud for all that they're worth'. The opening line "Britain's Got Talent….you bet the f*** it has" references the TV talent show….."but it's not on a game-show, or on the pages of a sad celebrity mag". The prevailing ethos of those dreadful shows is that somehow, if you want fame badly enough, you kinda deserve it…..how did we get to that place? The weird twisted modern idea that stardom can be learned or is the result of putting the hours in is just plain wrong - Real star-quality emanates from somewhere altogether more random, more damaged, more suppressed, more just-plain-weird and badly-wired than that. "Laugh now, for one day we'll be in control"….paraphrases one of UK street artist Banksy's more famous bits of graffiti in London, alluding to a kind of Planet Of The Apes style takeover. "It's coming up from the sewers and the cracks in the wall - lost souls, tired of it all". "Last call for all the zeros" plays on the code-breaking work of Alan Turing who changed the course of World War II only be be rewarded by his country by chemical castration. The line "Revolutions come about through random acts of rage" is at the very beating heart of this song and in the last chorus "Weirdos in bedsits, low on social skills, we could all be anti-heroes, You can change the world with a bullet in the right place", everyone from arch self-made (and re-made) genius David Bowie to the Travis character that Malcolm McDowell plays with such swagger in director Lyndsay Anderson's incendiary 1960s class-war romp "If", get their day. To bring it all back to Joe, the Stylophone solos in the intro and middle are my tribute to this true unhinged sonic visionary - a true original.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself right here!
Singled Out: Am I Dead Yet?