Cherry Red Records have acquired legendary producer Joe Meek’s ‘Tea Chest Tapes’ – a near mythical collection of almost 2,000 reels that contain a vast amount of the producer’s work.
In the early 60s, Meek had a string of UK No 1s, including Telstar, which was the first song by a British artist to top the US charts. Meek pioneered numerous recording techniques in his studio flat (304 Holloway Road in North London). Following Meek’s death in 1967 the tapes passed on to Cliff Cooper, who worked with the producer when playing bass with the Millionaires and went on to found Orange Amplification.
The fabled quarter-inch tapes got their name because they were contained and sold in 67 tea chests. Amongst the recordings are previously unheard songs by David Bowie’s first band The Konrads, recordings by Billy Fury, several songs by Tom Jones, and unheard material from The Honeycombs, Heinz and John Leyton (who had a UK No 1 with Meek).
The Konrads can be heard playing an old Charlie & Inez Foxx song ‘Mockingbird’. This is widely thought to be Bowie’s first studio recording. Also included are mastered recordings of Mike Berry, Glenda Collins, Michael Cox, The Cryin’ Shames, The Outlaws, Screaming Lord Sutch and The Tornados – recordings which have languished in the vaults for five decades and should finally now see the light of day.
Further the tea chests contain demo recordings of (among others) Ray Davies, (who wrote some songs for The Honeycombs), Georgie Fame, Jonathan King, Alvin Lee, Gene Vincent, Rod Stewart, Steve Marriott and an early line-up of the band who became Status Quo. Finally it is said that there is also a demo tape of a certain Mark Feld, who later found fame under the name Marc Bolan with his band T. Rex.
Cherry Red plan to work closely with Alan Wilson at Western Star on the tape digitization and mastering side, as well as Pete Rochford and the Joe Meek Society to bring these amazing sounds to an audience who have been waiting patiently for many years.
‘I first met Cliff Cooper at the Classic Rock Awards 6 years ago so the process of Cherry Red acquiring the Tea Chest Tapes has taken its time. But we are so proud to now be the custodians of this unique library. Over 1,800 ¼ tapes with such a diverse range of artists, some superstars, and some almost completely unknown. The work that lies ahead is massive; baking, then cleaning up, then digitalisation, then clearing rights, then deciding how best to release the tracks. But, as always, we relish the challenge.’
- Iain McNay, Chairman Cherry Red Records
“I am so pleased to pass on to Cherry Red Records the tape collection of Joe Meek, which have been carefully stored and untouched for over 50 years.
I feel, as I have been the custodian of this collection, which may have otherwise been separated and lost.
Passing them to Cherry Red Records will be the perfect home for these original analogue recordings where they will be selected, carefully digitally mastered and released for the pleasure of future generations.
Joe was a legendary and innovative genius in music recording and production and rightly takes his place in the evolution and history of music”
- Cliff Cooper
As a lifelong Joe Meek enthusiast, the very mention of words ‘The Tea Chest Tapes’ have always stirred mixed emotions within me: Excitement – wondering what treasures may lay within. Amazement – that they still exist and of course Fear. These near-mythical reels containing Meek’s life’s work, could have deteriorated beyond repair.
Having now inspected and even tested some of these tapes, I am happy to confirm that they are in first class condition. Cliff Cooper has been an excellent custodian and has ensured that this important chunk of British music history has survived for more than half a century. I’m thrilled beyond words to hear at last the contents of these tapes and to be part of the restoration project. Who better than Cherry Red records to treat this project with the attention to detail and respect that it deserves?
- Alan Wilson, Western Star
It comes with GREAT pleasure to hear that Joe Meek’s T-Chest tapes have been bought and will now be given a new lease of life after 50+ years of being in storage. The Committee and all it’s members of the Joe Meek Society will be thrilled to hear that all of Joe’s tapes will, in time be available to enjoy as it’s been many decades of anticipation and much patience in the hope of their release.
On behalf of myself and the Joe Meek Society, I would like to give special thanks to Cliff Cooper, Cherry Red Records and Alan Wilson for making our dream possible.
- Pete Rochford Chairman of the Joe Meek Society.
The remarkable, unique tape archive (1, 800+ reels) of legendary 60s producer Joe Meek. A veritable musical / historical treasure trove of popular music history and recorded sound. Thanks to Cherry Red Records, the contents will gradually become available to music fans and collectors.
- Rob Bradford, ‘Thunderbolt’ Magazine Editor, The Joe Meek Society
The photograph in this feature is of Alan Wilson, Cliff Cooper and Iain McNay with the famous tapes