TELSTAR: The Ultimate Space Jam

If Wonder Alliance had a theme song, it would probably sound a lot like Telstar, a 1962 hit that was actually a love song to a satellite.

 

BY DECEMBER OF 1962 space fever had really taken hold in America, Europe, and around the world—what with multiple satellite launches, a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut leaving the atmosphere, and President John F. Kennedy’s bold vow to reach the moon—and the excitement was reflected that month in the release of a quirky instrumental named for a telecommunications satellite, Telstar.

The song became a kind of anthem for the Space Age.

A triumph of what was then experimental electronic sound-making from visionary producer Joe Meek and his frequent collaborators, the Tornados, Telstar went immediately to the top of the British charts and remained there for weeks, going to number-one in a space-happy America, too, and charting in many other countries to sell a grand total of over 5 million copies worldwide (quite a lot back then).

In conceiving the song, Meek seized upon a golden opportunity presented by Telstar’s July 1962 launch and subsequent relay of the very first live transatlantic television signal. Seriously, it would be difficult to exaggerate the extent to which this technological achievement captured the public’s imagination as, all at once, the world was suddenly smaller while the possibilities offered by space seemed endless. And whenever Telstar played on the radio, or the jukebox, you were reminded of that. And you danced.

Those were heady times.

If a song without lyrics can really be “about” anything, then Telstar is about wonder. It’s designed to take your imagination—and your heart—on a rocket ride into space and all the adventure to be found there. It’s like the soundtrack to a story in three acts. For the first 22 seconds or so we’re in launch sequence. After that we’re soaring through open space on a breathtaking tour of the cosmos. And at roughly the 2:24 mark a vocalization joins the mix to remind us that this is a great moment for humankind, and it belongs to all of us.

So strap-in, fire-up the rocket, and take a trip back to a time when anything seemed possible.

Video: YouTube

Stephen Vincent D’Emidio is the editor and publisher of Wonder Alliance. steve@wonderalliance.com

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