Max Merritt & the Meteors (Official Thread)

TheFeldster

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Official Website

C'Mon Let's Go (Viking, 1960)
Giddy Up Max! EP (Viking, 1964)
Good Golly Max Merritt EP (Viking 1964)
Max Merritt's Meteors (RCA, 1965)
Shake EP (Parlophone, 1966)
Max Merritt and the Meteors (RCA, 1970)
Stray Cats (RCA, 1971)
A Little Easier (Arista, 1975)
Out of the Blue (Arista, 1976)
Back Home Live (Arista, 1977)
Keeping in Touch (Polydor, 1979)
Black Plastic Max (Polydor, 1980)
17 Trax of Max! (Raven, 1986)[5] re-issued with six added tracks as 23 Trax of Max! (Raven, 1991)
The Very Best Of Max Merritt & The Meteors (EMI NZ, 2001)
The Essential Max Merritt & The Meteors (Sony-BMG, 2007)
Been Away Too Long (LosTraxx, 2012)


Max Merritt and the Meteors are a band that originated in Christchurch, New Zealand in the mid-1950's. A rock 'n roll/R&B band, with a hint of soul, the Meteors featured a revolving door of musicians, but some of the more recognizable members include jazz drummer turned rock 'n roller Stewie Speer, and saxophonist Bob Birtles.

After making a name for themselves in their home country, and rising to be the second most popular act in New Zealand, Merritt and his band turned their attention to the more lucrative circuits in Australia.

Never one to record his music, Max Merritt and the Meteors made most of their reputation on the road, performing their music live for fans.

This trend was so large, that in one particular incarnation of the band, the line-up only ever recorded one song - a cover of the Disney classic "Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah"



Unfortunately, as mentioned above, Merritt often struggled to keep his band members with the band. A couple of Meteors were recruited by competing R&B artist Billy Thorpe and became Aztecs, and one member of the band quit after recording Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah, believing the band was turning into a cabaret act.

However, after one mass exodus, the Meteors focused more on the soul element of their act, recruiting a jazz drummer Stewie Speer and saxophonist Bob Birtles - who both became close friends and bandmates of Merritt for many year.

A major turning point in the career of Max Merritt and the Meteors came while on the road in the state of Victoria in 1968, when the band suffered a serious car crash near the town of Bunyip. Birtles broke his leg. Speer, 20 years older than his bandmates, had both his legs crushed, broke both arms and had to have several fingertips amputated. Merritt himself suffered severe facial injuries, even damaging his right eye.

The result of this was that the band went out of action for almost a year before returning to the stage. When they returned from their hiatus, they'd created their second biggest hit of all time. Titled "Hey, Western Union Man", it was a cover of an old Jerry Butler hit, but has, in Australia, had more longevity than it's original counterpart.



After this success, the Meteors again made a change of circuit, deciding to move to the UK to seek opportunities there. Among other achievements, they were a support act for the Moody Blues during a tour of the UK. However, many of the Meteors again left the band, including Birtles. This left only Merritt and Speer of the band who'd been involved in the horrific accident.

With a new line-up, the band scored their biggest ever hit. Titled "Slippin' Away", it has been Merritt's signature tune since it's release in the mid-70's. It reached #2 on the Australian charts, and #5 in the New Zealand charts, despite Merritt being based in the UK at the time.


*this video also contains the best footage I can find of Stewie Speer, the drummer. Doesn't look like much of a jazz guy, eh? :tongue:

The band never really found major success in the later years, and Merritt tried unsuccessfully to break into the Los Angeles market.

In 1986, Stewie Speer, at 58 years of age, died of a heart attack.

Merritt slowly faded into obscurity in the media, but he wasn't forgotten in the music industry. In the early 21st century, Merritt returned to Australia and began touring again.

In 2007, it was revealed that Merritt was suffering from a rare autoimmune disorder called Goodpasture's syndrome. To raise funds to find a cure for this illness, members of the Australian music industry held the Concert for Max in Melbourne. AU$200,000 was raised. The event wasn't filmed as far as I'm aware, but reports state that the tribute brought the old, hardened rocker to tears.

Also in 2007, Merritt made a rare television appearance, on Australian music quiz show, RocKwiz. He closed the show with a duet of Slippin' Away with country singer Catherine Britt. He dedicated the appearance to Stewie Speer.

 
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LG

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Re: Max Merritt & the Meteors

I remember you talking about this band a long time ago Feldy.

Very nicely written OP, it's nice to see old bands treated with respect by young fans like yourself.

:cheers:
 

Groovy Man

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Re: Max Merritt & the Meteors

Nice write up, Feldster...

I never heard of Max Merritt and the Meteors, but that was a very interesting read about the band...

I liked the songs "Hey, Western Union Man" and "Slippin' Away" pretty catchy tunes...and liked the version of ''Slippin' Away'' with the country singer Catherine Britt....nice duet.

I'm wondering if "Slippin' Away" charted here in the United States?

After listening to both versions of the song - now, it sounds strangely familiar...unless, maybe, someone covered it?
 

TheFeldster

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Re: Max Merritt & the Meteors

Slippin' Away never charted outside of Australasia as far as I'm aware, and wasn't even distributed internationally :( The distribution company in the UK missed the boat.

Although, I think (I can't remember for sure) that the song may have been played in a few Hollywood flicks, so you may have heard it there :)
 

Magic

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Re: Max Merritt & the Meteors

So this is where Zippity do Da, Zippety A came from...


:heheh:



amazing how much music history there is in these early bands. Zip a De do DaH is one of the most catchy phrases ever, ya know :D
 

brianlewis

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Re: Max Merritt & the Meteors

Well, I grew up with Max and The Meteors in the sense that from 1954 to 1981 I lived in Melbourne, and they were a regular act everywhere.

What is unique about my relationship with Max is that when I was 15 and attending High School in Ashwood, every two weeks we would have a school dance called Spectra. It used to swap between Ashwood and Waverly High. Me and my mates were not too well off, and could not afford to pay to get into every dance. So we did a deal with the promoter to be stage crew, and help the roadies setup and break down between the 3 or 4 bands that performed each night.

This dance was unique in the sense that bands like Bill Thorpe & The Aztecs, Max Merrit & The Meteors, The Zoot, The Masters Apprentices and a litany of bands rotated thru these bi-weekly dances. In those days, even if you had a #1 charted hit, you still could not make a living unless you played the school dance and pub circuit. The band picture on this forum is the line up I refer to in this story.

One night when both Billy Thorpe and Max Merritt where scheduled to play, we set up a 4 microphone system that would record the sets to a reel-to-reel HMV stereo tape recorder that my friend Gary Mitchell had received for his birthday. We were into live recording and my brother David Lewis and school mate Colin Smith were into electronics, and Colin was the official school electronics guy who had the keys to the control booth where the mixing board and recorder could be set up.

Rather than recording bootleg without permission, when Max and Billy showed up for their sets, I introduced myself and asked if it was OK to record their set for our own purposes. Both Max and Billy said OK. What I now know is that legally we got an "authorized" bootleg of both bands.

The Max Merritt set we had a one-off vinyl LP made, but we never did fix Billy Thorp's set in any other form except the tape. I do not know what happened to that tape after all these years, and I am still trying to track it down incase it exists.

Recently I transferred the album from vinyl to digital. As far as bootlegs, go, it is good quality, but I believe some smart audio engineers could take the track to a new level of quality and bring a "professional" feel to the set.

As you may or may not know, Max got very ill in 2007 or 8 and is on dialysis three days a week. They had big benefit concert for him in 2008 and raised over $200k to help with his medical expenses. I wrote to Max a few years back and we swapped stories and I sent him a CD with the set. I even encouraged him to have an audio makeover and release it as "The Lost Album" or some catchy, cheesy title to get everyone to buy it and get him more money.

I just recently tried to get in touch and catch up with Max and his manager, but all the mail links from his website and all links are broken, even the webmaster. I wanted to put it to them again to release the set digitally on iTunes so Max can get an income flow from it.

So I am between a rock and hard place. I could use Max's current email, or his manager, Wal Bishop's email.

In the meantime, if you have anywhere to post an audio track I would be happy to post one or two, as long as everyone understands they cannot be distributed.

Keep up the good work.
 

brianlewis

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Re: Max Merritt & the Meteors

Further research tonight has revealed that in all likelihood I have the first ever live recording of a set of Max Merritt & The Meteors, eight songs total, five of which were never recorded by the band. All prior live recordings on vinyl or video are of single songs only. It predates their first live video set on a four part TV show in 1970, also their first live album in 1976 and their second live set on video at the Sunbury Rock Festival in 1972. This story is just getting better the more I research it.

By the way, we found the original tape too!
 

brianlewis

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Re: Max Merritt & the Meteors

Project update. We have contacted and have the full support from Bob Bertles, legendary Sax player for the band. We just concluded digital remasters, so it will not be long till we can release.

One of the most laborious tasks is finding who wrote all the songs/numbers of the performance, only one of 11 are Max Merritt originals. You have to do this in order to get a license to sell the CDs and songs, so the authors can get their royalties, which you have to setup and partially pay BEFORE you release it to the public. It is also interesting that at least two of the numbers, Max Merritt changed the name for whatever reasons. One number, Louisiana Anna, actually uses the lyrics of Louisiana Hannah. The House Will Rock was originally called Rocking On Sunday Night. Then when a song is called I'm So Happy, you find there are dozens of sings with that name, and no web resources that have clips of all of those songs so you can determine which one is being covered. Thank goodness for the Limelight Cover Song royalties tool.

Here is the link to the YouTube CD Preview...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVQ2bxoQjmE
 
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