Joe Meek - a Portrait

Part 10: The EMI case

( hier!)


When in late 1965 George Martin, who worked at EMI as in-house producer and A&R head of the Parlophone label, had finished the Beatles' "Rubber Soul" album, he asked for a pay raise. His requirement was turned down. Without much hesitation Martin said Goodbye to EMI then and launched - with a couple of important EMI co-workers - his own production company (A.I.R.), later followed by his own studio. A bitter loss for EMI, not least because a couple of artists left with him.

The one who had turned down Martin's wish was EMI board member Sir Joseph Lockwood (1904-1991). He was an ambivalent figure: On the one hand he was a visionary; by buying the U.S. company Capitol Records he had saved EMI from the impending crash, and he was convinced that the company's future could no longer be based on classical music production, he felt that the future would be pop music. The artists liked him, he took them serious and knew how to deal with them. The employees, on the other hand, were frightened with him. It was he himself who systematically built up this reputation; by very particular and extremly conservative instructions he made himself looking stubborn and unapproachable. (Lockwood was gay. In the scene this was an open secret and made EMI a first address for gay managers and artists, but in his position it would have been impossible for him to deal openly with this. Probably this was the main reason for his strange attitude.)

Sir Joseph Lockwood, 1963
(Photo: State Library of Victoria)

Sir Joseph had to find a replacement for George Martin. He knew Joe Meek and thought a great deal of him, besides this he rated correctly that Meek's situation was desolate. Of course he knew that Meek was not the one to fill Martin's shoes completely. Martin was a classically trained musician, and he needed this academic knowledge for his job, so Meek couldn't be his direct successor. And without any doubt Sir Joseph also knew about Meek's inability to think along mercantile lines. But there were Meek's talents as pop producer and talent scout. They were interesting enough for Sir Joseph to offer Meek a position as in-house producer and sound engineer at the EMI Recording Studios (which later were re-named Abbey Road Studios). However, Sir Joseph wisely fixed that he had to rubberstamp all financial decisions Meek would make.

Probably Meek was offered an annual salary between 2500 and 3000 Pounds; at least George Martin's salary then was 3000 Pound - which was approximately something between three and four years' worth of salaries for an average employee at that time. (Today that would be equivalent of circa 90,000 Pounds, 100,000 Euros or 150,000 US Dollars - surely not a dream salary for the producer who, after all, had signed the Beatles to EMI. But well, it was no accident that Lockwood was nicknamed "Joseph Tightwad" by the employees ...)

Irrespective from the salary, this job would have been one of the most exposed positions that could have been offered to a music producer at all. One should think that Meek must have seen this opening as hitting the jackpot.

But Meek apparently wasn't able anymore to assess the offer. On the one hand we know from letters that he already envisioned his office at EMI's, but on the other hand he didn't like the idea of giving up his independency. And most of all, once more he simply smelled a new trick of the competitors to steal his ideas.

Besides this, Meek was heavily addicted to his pills. Without solving this problem he wouldn't have been able to do any useful work anymore. We are allowed to assume that Sir Joseph was well aware of this, and in all probability this topic played a decisive role in his offer.

Meek was unable to decide. On January 17, 1967, finally Sir Joseph called him in to press for a decision. Meek joined the meeting accompanied by his lawyer. It's not known how the meeting went, only the result is known: Joe Meek said no.


last update: Jan 29, 2014