Production Strategies: Uniquely Meek
Cleveland, Barry, Guitar Player
Joe Meek had engineered dozens of hits for major labels in state-of-the-art London studios by the time he went independent in 1960. Along the way, he had learned the "correct" techniques for recording everything from pop groups to jazz combos to full orchestras, while simultaneously gaining a reputation for successfully subverting those techniques at every opportunity. Meek placed microphones directly on sources, intentionally distorted preamp inputs, pushed tape signals into the red, soaked sounds in echo, and pumped up nearly everything with compressors--techniques that became commonplace years later, but that drove the white-coated house engineers crazy.
A handful of recording mavericks had run independent studios in the United States since the '40s, but Meek was England's first truly independent engineer, producer, and "home" studio operator, and between 1960 and 1967, he recorded thousands of songs bearing his unmistakable sonic signature--including the worldwide mega-hit "Telstar" in 1962.
Guitars played a huge role in the music Meek recorded, and some of England's best guitarists played on his sessions, including "Big Jim" Sullivan, Steve Howe, Roger Hall, Peter Miller, Jimmy Page, and Ritchie Blackmore, who was Meek's first-call guitarist between 1962 and 1965.
Guitarists typically used Vox AC30s, which Meek recorded by placing an AKG D19 dynamic microphone on the grille, and covering the amp with a heavy blanket to contain the sound. Before the signal made it to tape, however, it could be routed through lots of devices, including Meek's "black box" spring reverb (built in 1957), compressors modified for maximum squash, a reel-to-reel used for slap delay, an echo chamber in a room above the studio, and an RCA "Orthophonic" tube preamp that could be overdriven into extreme distortion. …