The Tornados

The Tornados were an English instrumental group of the 1960s that acted as backing group for many of record producer Joe Meek's productions and also for singer Billy Fury. They enjoyed several chart hits in their own right, including the UK and U.S. No. 1 "Telstar" (named after the satellite and composed and produced by Meek), the first U.S. No. 1 single by a British group.

The Tornados
Also known asTornados 65, The New Tornados
OriginLondon, England
GenresPop, instrumental rock, surf rock, beat
Years active1961-1967, 1975
LabelsDecca, Columbia (EMI) (UK)
London (US and Canada)
Associated actsThe Saxons, Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, Billy Fury (1962), The Churchills


The Tornados were formed in 1961 as a session band for Joe Meek, although the name did not come until early 1962. In 1961 they provided the instrumentals for the film short The Johnny Leyton Touch, including a jazzed up version of "Taboo", originally by Margarita Lecuona. From January 1962 to August 1963, The Tornados were the backing band for Billy Fury (as well as recording and performing as an act in their own right);[1] they toured and recorded with Fury as The Tornados.[2] Their recordings with Fury were produced by Mike Smith and Ivor Raymonde.

The Tornados made a scopitone film (an early form of music video) for "Telstar" and another for their chart hit "Robot" featuring members of the group walking around a woodland dressed in appropriate headgear with their guitars, flirting with various young women and being finally arrested by policemen after lighting a campfire.

For a time The Tornados were considered serious rivals to The Shadows.[1] The Tornados' single "Globetrotter" made it to #5 in the UK Singles Chart.[1] However, pop instrumentals began to lose a following with the British audience during 1963 as the "Mersey Sound", from the Beatles and other groups, began to take root.[1] In the summer of 1963, Joe Meek induced The Tornados' bassist Heinz Burt to start a solo career, as The Tornados' chart success as an instrumental outfit waned, and from that point onwards The Tornados began to fall apart. By 1965 none of the original lineup remained.[1]

On some promotional items, later lineups were credited as 'Tornados '65' and 'The New Tornados', but these names were never used on The Tornados' releases. In the mid-1960s The Tornados backed Billy Fury again, with Dave Watts on keyboards, Robby Gale on guitar and John Davies on drums. In 1968, in Israel to perform in Mandy Rice-Davies' night club "Mandys", the band stayed for a ten-week tour after which they disbanded, leaving Watts and Huxley in Israel, playing with The Lions of Judea and The Churchills respectively.

Later yearsEdit

After drummer and bandleader Clem Cattini left The Tornados in 1965, he became a successful session musician, playing on recording sessions for other artists, and was featured in Cliff Richard's backing bands. He holds the record for appearing the most times on UK #1 singles.

Rhythm guitarist George Bellamy is the father of Matt Bellamy, the front man for British alternative rock band Muse.

They re-formed as The New Tornados in the early 1970s as the backing group for Marty Wilde, Billy Fury and others on a year-long UK Rock n Roll Tour.[1] They continued for another few years with lead guitarist Tony Cowell and drummer Jon Werrell touring with original members Norman Hale and Heinz Burt, plus "The King Of Rock Roll" Carl Simmons. The group was often part of a 1960s package with other artists, including Wee Willie Harris and Screaming Lord Sutch.

Jon Werrell loaned his Silver Premier drum kit to John Bonham when Led Zeppelin played their famous impromptu December 1975 gig at Behans St Helier while tax exiles in Jersey.

In 1975, Clem Cattini, Roger LaVern, Heinz Burt and George Bellamy reunited and released a version of "Telstar" as the 'Original Tornados'.[1] In the 1970s, Billy Fury formed a new backing band called Fury's Tornados with a completely unrelated line-up. They also recorded and released a version of "Telstar" in the mid 1970s.

In 1996, Ray Randall wrote and recorded a three-track CD with Bryan Irwin and Stuart Taylor, using the band name Ray Randall's Tornados, as a tribute to the late Joe Meek, 30 years after Meek's death. Randall has since recorded a solo album entitled Polly Swallow (1997).

In 2007, Panda Bear sampled two Tornados songs on his album Person Pitch.

"Do You Come Here Often?"Edit

The B-side of the final single that the group released, in 1966, "Do You Come Here Often?", is considered to be the first openly "gay" pop record release by a UK major label.[3] It started off as a standard organ-inspired instrumental, but Joe Meek decided that the organ playing was a little too jazzy for the style of the group. To remedy this, around two-thirds in, a casual conversation between what appears to be two gay men (Dave Watts playing keyboards and Robb Huxley playing guitar) was overdubbed.[4] The song was featured, along with other gay-flavoured releases, on a 2006 compilation CD, Queer Noises.[4]

Former membersEdit



  • "Love and Fury" (Meek) / "Popeye Twist" (Cattini) (Decca F11449, 1962)
  • "Telstar" (Meek) / "Jungle Fever" (Goddard) (Decca F11494, 1962) - UK & U.S. Number 1
  • "Globetrotter" (Meek) / "Locomotion With Me" (Peter Lawrence) (Decca F11562, 1963) - UK Number 5
  • "Robot" (Meek) / "Life On Venus" (Meek) (Decca F11606, 1963) - UK Number 19
  • "The Ice Cream Man" (Meek) / "Scales of Justice (Theme)" (Douglas) (Decca F11662, 1963) - UK Number 21
  • "Dragonfly" (Gary Asquith; Barry Gray; Brijitte West) / "Hymn For Teenagers" (Meek; Lawrence) (Decca F11745, 1963) - UK Number 41
  • "Joystick" (Lawrence) / "Hot Pot" (Meek) (Decca F11838, 1964)
  • "Monte Carlo" (Phil Tate) / "Blue, Blue Beat" (Bryan Irwin) (Decca F11889, 1964)
  • "Exodus" (Ernest Gold) / "Blackpool Rock" (Cattini; Lawrence) (Decca F11946, 1964)
  • "Granada" / "Ragunboneman" (Meek) (Columbia DB7455, 1965)
  • "Early Bird" (Meek) / "Stomping Thru The Rye" (Tornados) (Columbia DB7589, 1965)
  • "Stingray" (Gray) / "Aqua Marina" (Gray) (Columbia DB 7687, 1965)
  • "Pop-Art Goes Mozart" (Mozart arr. Meek) / "Too Much In Love To Hear" (Robb Gale [Huxley]; Pete Holder) (Columbia DB7856, 1966)
  • "Is That A Ship I Hear" (Meek) / "Do You Come Here Often?" (Tornados) (Columbia DB7894, 1966)
  • "Telstar" / "Red Rocket" (as Original Tornados, SRT 1975)[7]


  • The Sounds of The Tornados (Decca DFE 8510, 1962)

"Ridin the Wind"; "Earthy"; "Dreamin' on a Cloud" (Heinz [Burt]); "Red Roses and a Sky of Blue" (Meek)

  • Telstar (Decca DFE 8511, 1962)

"Love and Fury"; "Popeye Twist"; "Telstar"; "Jungle Fever"

  • More Sounds from The Tornados (Decca DFE 8521, 1962)

"Chasing Moonbeams"; "Theme from 'A Summer Place'"; "Swinging Beefeater"; "The Breeze and I"

  • Tornado Rock (Decca DFE 8533, 1963)

"Ready Teddy"; "My Babe"; "Blue Moon of Kentucky"; "Long Tall Sally"


  • Away from It All (album) (Decca LK4552, 1963)
  • Tornados Now (Private pressing, 1997)

"Please Stay" / "Starlight" / "Jersey Girl" / "Once We Were Friends" / "Out There Looking for Love" / "Satellite" / "Telstar Now" / "Dancing with Danger" / "Silver Bird" / "Startel" / "Nessun Dorma" / "Telstar (the mix)".

Foreign releasesEdit

  • The Original Telstar: The Sounds of the Tornadoes (U.S. 1962)

Side 1: "Telstar" / "Red Roses and a Sky of Blue" / "Chasing Moonbeams" / "Earthy" / "Swinging Beefeater" / "Theme from 'A Summer Place'" Side 2: "Love and Fury" / "Dreamin' on a Cloud" / "Ridin' the Wind" / "The Breeze and I" / "Jungle Fever" / "Popeye Twist"

New Zealand 7" Single 45 rpm. Side 1: "The Twist" Side 2: "Deep in the Heart of Texas Twist"

With Billy FuryEdit

  • Billy Fury and The Tornados (Decca DFE 8525, EP, recorded 8 and 11 January, and released 30 March 1963)[8]

"Nobody's Child"; "What Did I Do"; "I Can't Help Loving You"; "Keep Away"

  • Billy Fury and The Tornados: We Want Billy! (live, recorded 30 April 1963) (Decca (S)LK4548, released October 1963)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 1184/5. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ "Billy Fury & Tornados, The - Billy Fury & The Tornados (Vinyl) at Discogs". 29 March 1963. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  3. ^ Petridis, Alexis (4 July 2006). "'Wilder, madder, gayer than a Beatle's hairdo'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
  4. ^ a b Savage, Jon (12 November 2006). "Meek by name, wild by nature". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
  5. ^ "Family's tribute as chart-topper dies at age of 75". Kidderminster Shuttle. 20 June 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  6. ^ "Roger LaVern". 28 June 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 562. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  8. ^ "Billy Fury & The Tornados". Retrieved 24 June 2013.

External linksEdit