Triumph was short-lived, but can lay claim to being the first UK ‘producer label.’ The three directors were William Barrington-Coupe, Major Wilfred Alonzo Banks and one Joe Meek. The two non-creative directors came from the Saga Records label, and Saga distributed Triumph. (See Saga). The Saga label had already registered the Triumph name for later use.
It’s Joe Meek’s involvement that makes Triumph interesting and collectable in spite of its small number of single and EP releases. The label was started in January 1960, and Meek pulled out in July. Meek hosted their short-lived 15 minute slot on Radio Luxembourg It’s A Triumph! himself in April 1960 under the name Johnny Watts. Other radio shows were hosted byRickyWayne.
The first release was Peter Jay & The Blue Men with Just Too Late (RGM 1000). RGM stood for Robert George Meek, Joe’s real names. They had just the one top twenty hit, Angela Jones by Michael Cox (UK #7). Green Jeans by The Flee-Rakkers got to #23. George Chakiris, star of West Side Story, who had earlier recorded for Saga with Joe Meek, got to #49 in 1960 with Heart of A Teenage Girl. Chakiris later denied that he sang himself on the record. He wasn’t a great singer, but had held down the part of Bernado in the movie.
Ricky Wayne, who recorded Chick-A-Roo eventually won the Mr Universe contest. His physique appealed to Meek more than his voice, and Meek rehearsed a stage act for him ending in a striptease.
Michael Cox had had a couple of Decca releases, and was a singer on Jack Good’s Boy Meets Girls. It was a cover of an MGM disc by ‘Johnny Ferguson’ a pseudonym for John D. Loudermilk, who wrote it. The original got to #27 in the USA. Michael Cox did better. It was the last record Meek directly worked on, and he believed it would have got to number one with better and faster pressing facilities than the small outfits Triumph used.
A few records were released after Meek left, then it folded. Meek had cannily signed the artists to himself, as RGM Sound, not to the label. Barrington-Coupe hastily brought in Johnny Keating to continue, which he did with Carol Jones on The Boy With Eyes of Blue, a Joe Meek composition.
Later artists included Barbara Lyon (daughter of radio stars Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels), and Laura Lee who sang Tell Tommy I Need Him, which was a cover version of Marilyn Michaels’ American answer disc to Ray Peterson’s death song, Tell Laura I Love Her.’
Triumph collapsed in Spring 1961. The entire stock was sold off very cheaply, and in the mid-60s it is supposed to have been easy to find in secondhand stores. You won’t find any now.
Barrington-Coupe went on to found budget label Summit. In 1966 he served a one year prison sentence for tax fraud. In 2007, his name hit the papers again when it turned out that the 100 classical CDs he had released, many under the name of his wife, were in fact lifted from other recordings by 96 different pianists, and manipulated on computer to make them slightly different.
Meek’s success as a producer lay in the future and it’s remarkable that he was able to participate in founding a label so early. The exciting stuff for Meek fans is The Fabulous Flee-Rakkers (Rakker, not Rekker on Triumph, but both spellings are used on Pye releases later) and Peter Jay & The Blue Men, both demonstrating the electronic wizardry that Meek finally got right with 1962’s Telstar, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Note Triumph’s slogan Super Fi Sound.
Some of Meek’s last sessions for Triumph, with the Flee-Rakkers and John Leyton were later issued by Top Rank. After the 2009 biopic Telstar it becomes difficult to separate the real Joe Meek from Con O’Neill’s interpretation, and Major Banks was immortalised by Kevin Spacey. Some of Joe Meek’s greatest recordings are portrayed in the film … Johnny Remember Me, Telstar, Have I The Right; as well as Heinz’s Eddie Cochran tribute Just like Eddie. That’s an odd one. Hand up! I bought it new and could sing along to the words … to play guitar … beneath the stars … BOM BOM … Just like Eddie.
Meek’s tragedy was that a French composer sued him for ripping off Telstar, meaning the income was frozen from his biggest hit (equivalent to £3 million by 2009). That meant he couldn’t pay people.
Meek committed suicide after murdering his landlady in 1967, adding to his myth. He used a shotgun belonging to blonde ex-Tornado, Heinz, and did it on the 8th anniversary of Buddy Holly’s death. Meek’s obsessions included trying to tape-record ghosts in graveyards, and his paranoia led him to obsess that Decca were bugging him with hidden microphones. Shortly after his death, the Telstar case was decided in his favour.
Joe Meek (or “RGM”) has become so iconic that any RGM-connected disc on any label is collected. Some record dealers maintain RGM sections (next to label sections), covering Meek’s work on Top Rank, Decca, HMV (with house band The Outlaws).
galleries … click to enlarge
Most Triumph records I’ve seen are in replica sleeves or plain white, but the basic sleeve is light blue. There’s a red sleeve too, which appears on matched number copies of Angela Jones, though most turn up in the light blue. Red was used towards the very end.
I Hear A New World the rare EP, by Joe Meek, has an orange version of the blue centre label. You’ll notice that as a small label, Triumph had to put pink circular tax stamps on records … see Don’t Want To Know above. That’s why only 99 copies were said to have been pressed … purchase tax kicked in at 100 copies. The EP was a sample of an intended Joe Meek LP. A second EP had sleeve designed, but was never released. Unusually for the era it boasts STEREO.
Rare Record Price Guide lists the issued EP at £300 mint. Even the SLEEVE of the unissued second EP is listed at £25 on its own. The LP is said to exist on a white label demo (Triumph TRX ST 9000) and is rated at £800 mint. Those prices have stayed the same for several editions, during which it’s doubtful any have come up for sale. Discogs have two UK sellers (October 2020) . One wants £100, without a sleeve in “Good” condition (i.e. rough). The other is £295 in “Very Good.” The highest discogs sale is £267. The median is £226. A couple of speculative sellers in Italy and Japan are asking £419 and £603.
Both were released as facsimile CD / EPs on Castle’s Joe Meek: The EP Collection, which has twelve CD / EPs. I’m perfectly happy with these. The post Triumph material is far better.
P.S. it’s not very good. I’m not sure whether I prefer Entry of The Globbots or Valley ofThe Saroos. Just put it down is preparation of thoughts which resulted in Telstar.
The German Line label put out two CD compilations in 1990:
There are two current CD compilations available on amazon:
|RGM 1000||Peter Jay & The Blue Men||Just Too Late||Mar 1960|
|RGM 1001||Rodd-Ken & The Cavaliers||Magic Wheel||Mar 1960|
|RGM 1002||Joy & Dave||Let’s GoSee Gran’ma||Mar 1960|
|RGM 1007||Yolanda (Prod. Joe Meek)||With This Kiss||Mar 1960|
|RGM 1008||TheFabulous Flee-Rekkers||Green Jeans||Mar 1960|
|RGM 1009||Ricky Wayne with The Fabulous Flee-Rekkers||Chick’aroo||Apr 1960|
|RGM 1010||George Chakiris||I’m Always Chasing Rainbows||Apr 1960|
|RGM 1011||Michael Cox||Angela Jones||Jun 1960|
|RGM 1012||Carol Jones||The Boy With Eyes of Blue||Sep 1960|
|RGM 1022||Don Fox||T’aint what you do||Sep 1960|
|RGM 1023||Rex & The Minors||Chicken Sax||Sep 1960|
|RGM 1024||Pat Reader||Ricky||Sep 1960|
|RGM 1027||Barbara Lyon||My Charlie||Oct 1960|
|RGM 1030||Laura Lee||Tell Tommy I Miss Him||Oct 1990|