"Telstar" is a 1962 instrumental performed by The Tornados.[1]

The song reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in December 1962 (the second British recording to reach No. 1 on that chart in the year, after "Stranger on the Shore" in May), and was also a number one hit in the UK Singles Chart. It was the second instrumental single to hit No. 1 on both the US and UK weekly charts.[note 1]


  [hide*1 Background


The record was named after the Telstar communications satellite, which was launched into orbit on 10 July 1962. It was written and produced by Joe Meek, and featured aclavioline, a keyboard instrument with a distinctive electronic sound. It was recorded in Meek's studio in a small flat above a shop in Holloway RoadNorth London. "Telstar" won an Ivor Novello Award and is estimated to have sold at least five million copies worldwide.[2]

Plagiarism claim[edit]Edit

French composer, Jean Ledrut, accused Joe Meek of plagiarism, claiming that the tune of "Telstar" had been copied from "La Marche d'Austerlitz", a piece from a score that Ledrut had written for the 1960 film Austerlitz. This led to a lawsuit that prevented Meek from receiving royalties from the record during his lifetime, and the issue was not resolved in Meek's favour until three weeks after his suicide in 1967. Austerlitz was not released in the UK until 1965, and Meek was unaware of the film when the lawsuit was filed in March 1963.[3][4]

"Magic Star" and other vocal versions[edit]Edit

Meek produced later in 1962 a vocal version of "Telstar" entitled "Magic Star", sung by Kenny Hollywood. It was released as a single by Decca Records (cat. nr F11546), with on the B-side "The Wonderful Story of Love", written by Geoff Goddard. The musical direction for both songs was done by Ivor Raymonde.[5] "Magic Star" was covered by Margie Singleton, released by Mercury Records (cat. nr 72079) in January 1963, backed with "Only Your Shadow Knows".

The song was re-recorded in 1975 by four of the original Tornados members - Cattini, LaVern, Burt and Bellamy - who briefly reunited as the Original Tornados.

Piero Umiliani made a Moog version in 1975 under the name L'ingegner Giovanni e famiglia (Engineer Giovanni And His Family).

Two Spanish vocal versions were released by Alberto Cortez and the Latin Quartet, titled "Magica Estrella".[citation needed]

Poet and musician Robert Calvert wrote lyrics[6] to accompany the song, which he performed in 1981.

In 1986, Scottish duo the Knits sampled the original sounds and mixed them with text excerpts from Marx's "18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon". Their song was called "Passivism".

With French lyrics by Jacques Plante, the song was released by Les Compagnons de la chanson under the title "Telstar - Une étoile en plein jour" (a star in broad daylight).

Luxembourg-born German language singer Camillo Felgen recorded the German vocal version as "Telstar (Irgendwann Erwacht Ein Neuer Tag)" with lyrics by Carl Ulrich Blecher in 1963.[7]

Track listing[edit]Edit

  1. "Telstar"[8]
  2. "Jungle Fever"


The Tornados[edit]Edit


Chart performance[edit]Edit

The record was an immediate hit after its release, remaining in the UK Singles Chart for 25 weeks, five of them at number one,[9] and in the American charts for 16 weeks. "Telstar" was the first U.S. number one by a British group. Up to that point, and since World War II, there had only been three British names that topped the U.S. chart: in May 1962 "Stranger on the Shore" by clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk; the second was "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" by Laurie London (1958), whilst the first was "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" by Vera Lynn (1952). See List of songs by British artists which reached number-one on the Hot 100 (USA).

Chart (1962) Peak


UK Singles Chart[10] 1
Belgian Singles Chart 1
Dutch Singles Chart[11] 3
German Singles Chart[12] 6
Irish Singles Chart[13] 1
Norwegian Singles Chart[14] 3
South African Singles Chart 1
US Billboard Hot 100[15] 1
US Billboard Black Singles[15] 5
Preceded by

"She's Not You" by Elvis Presley

UK number one single

4 October 1962 (five weeks)

Succeeded by

"Lovesick Blues" by Frank Ifield

Preceded by

"Big Girls Don't Cry" by The Four Seasons

Billboard Hot 100 number one single

22 December 1962 (three weeks)

Succeeded by

"Go Away Little Girl" by Steve Lawrence

Cover versions[edit]Edit

There have been numerous other artists who recorded "Telstar." Most notable are:

*Ad Infinitum (1984) *Kraus (2011)[19] *Margie Singleton (vocal version, titled "Magic Star (Tel-Star)", 1963)

Use in popular culture[edit]Edit

Other uses[edit]Edit

  • A number of football teams, such as East Fife and Telstar walk out on to the field of play to this song.
  • The former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher named "Telstar" as one of her favourite pop songs.[21][22]
  • The WFMU Radio Show Seven Second Delay used this song as a theme song. It was picked by a listener who won a contest to pick the theme song during one of WFMU's pledge drives in 2001. They used it as a theme for one year, up through early 2002.
  • The song and the life of its composer Joe Meek, was the basis of Nick Moran's directing debut in the 2008 film Telstar.


  1. Jump up^ "Stranger on the Shore" did make No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the Record Mirror and NME weekly charts and also topped the end of year charts.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.