Saturday, June 6, 2020

More Obscure U.K. 45's On U.S. Labels: The Tornados

THE TORNADOS-Stingray/Aqua Marina US Tower 171 1965

Legendary British producer Joe Meek's Tornados were a U.K. instrumental quintet best known for their worldwide smash "Telstar" (a U.S. #1 in 1962). But a lot had changed for them since their hit, namely The Beatles.  The changing face of pop music in general and Meek's production techniques  which often sounded all too similar made the band redundant by October 1965 when this single was released. It would be their seventh US single, their second on the Tower label after a five single, one LP stint with London (in the U.K. the band followed a similar track going from Decca to Columbia). In addition to this Tower would issue a host of Meek productions including four by ex-Torandos bassist/Meek protege Heinz and three Tom Jones singles (including one not released in the UK).

"Stingray" b/w "Aqua Marina" was issued in Britain a month earlier as Columbia DB 7687.  Both sides were written by Barry Gray, the man responsible for the theme music for nearly all of TV producer/director Gerry Anderson's shows which featured marionettes. "Stingray" was the theme to yet another Anderson sci-fi TV show and a version of the theme had been issued in the UK in October '64 (Pye 7N 15698) with "Aqua Marina" on the A-side by Gary Miller. Undeterred Meek had the Tornados cut both sides with a newly revamped line up that by this point included none of the members who played on "Telstar". The Tornado's version of "Stingray" is in my opinion one of their wildest tracks and most over the top releases to date. Eschewing his usual organ/Clavioline technique Meek amped up the weirdness on this one with the sounds of bubbling water, shrieking electronic noise bursts, echoed vocals chanting "Stingray"accented by a catchy surf guitar lick in conjunction with an organ while the band sing some spooky "oooo's" on top.

"Aqua Marina" is more of Meek's usual stuff. Slower, echoed guitars, sci-fi organ, reverbed guitars, a chorus of wordless singing, like The Shadows under water meets the Ray Coniff Singers.

Their next single (and incidentally their final U.S. release) was previously profiled here in an earlier post.

Both sides are available on a host of compilations, my recommendation is the "Ridin' The Wind" collection which compiles pretty much everything the band ever recorded.

Hear "Stingray":

Hear "Aqua Marina":

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