24 January 2010

Johhny, Remember Me - John Leyton

Johnny Remember Me was a number one hit in the UK for John Leyton. It's a thunderous sixties track that fits perfectly alongside the abject misery of The Shangri-Las in anyone's iTunes library, and also nuzzles alongside the track 'Telstar', but for a different reason. The Telstar association is Joe Meek, one of those legendary record producers once comes across every now and then.

John Leyton himself is interesting enough - an actor and singer, who made a great Ginger in a 1960s version of Biggles by Granada TV. But Joe Meek is where my interest lay when I found this track. In his time, Meek invented new production techniques; he was a wizard with a soundboard and a whole host of unconventional ideas. And yet, while Phil Spector is free to march the streets with outrageous hair, Joe Meek is dead, having blown his own head off after murdering his landlady.

The single is a lament and a half: nearly three minutes of abject misery as this poor chap remembers his dead girlfriend who calls to him from the wind in the trees, represented by ghostly girl vocals on the track. The guitars gallop along behind all this. Mist swirls, rain falls and the moors are dark and desolate. It's Wuthering Heights with extra ghosts and it's brilliant.

Johnny Remember Me was released in 1961 in the UK where it hurtled to the top of the charts. It features John Leyton on lead vocals with backing from The Outlaws. Joe Meek produced the record, and is merely one example of the sixties musical equivalent of the misery porn novels that populate supermarket bookshelves nowadays.

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