Gary James' Interview With Dave Munden of
The Tremeloes are probably best known for their recordings of "Silence Is Golden" and "Here Comes My Baby". They had other hits as well, like "Twist And Shout" and "Do You Love Me". But, being a British group in the early 1960s with hit records is not necessarily what makes The Tremeloes story so interesting. You see, The Tremeloes auditioned for Decca Records along with another group for a recording contract in 1962. The Tremeloes were signed. The other group was not. Maybe you've heard of the other group. They called themselves The Beatles.
Dave Munden talked with us about The Tremeloes.
Q - Dave, it's pretty rare for a musician to be in their first band forever isn't it?
A - It is actually, yeah. I think I'm probably, maybe one of the only ones that's ever been in one band all the time. It's probably 'cause nobody else wants me. (laughs)
Q - I suppose that's one way to look at it. Are you then the only original member in The Tremeloes today?
A - Yeah, from the very early days. The lead guitarist who's with me is a guy called Rick Westwood. He's been with the band since about 1962. But, I was with the band when we formed at the end of 1958.
Q - That's a long time!
A - Yeah, it is.
Q - What will you do for your 50th anniversary in the band? Bring out a bottle of wine?
A - Probably will, yeah, in a small celebration. Funny thing is, the other guy Ricky doesn't drink! (laughs) He's very unusual as a band member. He doesn't drink and he doesn't smoke.
Q - Where do The Tremeloes perform these days?
A - Well, we do varied venues. We do kind of music halls, theatres. We work in Europe quite a lot. We do some fairly big concerts as well. We also have in England, kind of holiday hotels. They're run by big organizations. You get generally older people, maybe 40 plus. They go there for maybe three or four days or weekends and they have artists like ourselves performing there.
Q - Tell me about Essex England where you're from.
A - It's about 15-20 miles out of London. Normally it's a heavy industrial state. One of the famous things for the town is it's where Ford Company had their massive factory. There wasn't very much else going on there really. There was a big councilor's estate that was built there. A lot of people that were kind of bummed out of London were moved into that area to sort of get to council housing.
Q - So, that means instead of being a drummer, you could've ended up as an auto worker?
A - I could have, yeah. Easily, yes.
Q - Was your father an auto worker?
A - Well, in fact my father did work there for a while. He mainly worked in the London docks. He was a ship repairer. My brother did that as well.
Q - I can see why you wouldn't follow in their footsteps. That had to be a tough job.
A - That's right, yeah. It was very hard.
Q - Did you see the up and coming groups of the day come through Essex?
A - Yeah. There were quite a few local bands that came from our area. I think we were probably the most successful ones from our area really, but we spawned quite a lot of harmony bands from our area. There were lot of bands doing three and four piece harmonies here.
Q - Did The Beatles, The Stones and The Kinks come through Essex?
A - No. They were the other side of London really. The Kinks came from North London and the Stones also came from a slightly posher area. Where I lived wasn't exactly a high class area.
Q - Were there quite a few places for bands to play?
A - Oh yeah, there were. We initially just started playing out in school halls and then some of the factories had their sports and social club. We'd do spots there. We used to play a lot on the American airbases. There were a lot of American airbases over here.
Q - You've said you liked playing those American airbases when you were starting off.
A - Yes.
Q - I'm guessing the reason why is because the audiences are truly the most appreciative, correct?
A - Yeah. They were fantastic. Really good. One of the best forms of praise we ever had...we were very big Buddy Holly And The Crickets fans. We used to do a hell of a lot of his material onstage. One of the best compliments we ever had was one of the guys at the airbase came up to us afterwards and he'd seen Buddy Holly And The Crickets and he said "You sounded exactly like they did live onstage." So that was a great compliment for us.
Q - He must've seen them in The States.
A - Yeah. Unfortunately I never got to see them (Buddy Holly And The Crickets).
Q - Why did we hear about The British Invasion as opposed to a French Invasion or a Swedish Invasion? What was there about England that inspired all these kids to start bands in the late '50s, early '60s?
A - Difficult one. Possibly we had the war years. We were all sort of babies during the war (World War II). It was maybe a way of expressing ourselves through Rock 'n' Roll music. We just got to the age where we were becoming teenagers and we'd heard obviously some of the stuff that was played on English radio and some of the records were coming over. I guess it kind of incensed us to get into playing Rock 'n' Roll.
Q - Here's what I find so remarkable: It was not just in your area of England that bands were forming...it was all over England!
A - Oh exactly, yeah. In the case of The Beatles, they came from Liverpool, another big dock area. They had a lot of records probably brought over by guys from The States bringing imports and they heard stuff from that area. They heard a lot of American music as well.
Q - And isn't it strange that in 1963, The Beatles had a fan club of 100,000, yet here in The States we heard nothing. How could that be?
A - I don't know. That is amazing. 100,000 in 1963? Wow! That's pretty fantastic.
Q - Why do you think Decca Records chose The Tremeloes over The Beatles?
A - Well, I think there's probably two reasons. One is the fact that when we did our audition for Decca, I think we were probably a little bit more rehearsed, more professional. We had our music together. Maybe The Beatles weren't totally professional. They never put their tracks together very well, as well as we did. That's maybe one reason. And also, they came from Liverpool. We came from London, which was a lot closer to Decca's studio. And another reason was one of the guys that worked at Decca, a guy called Mike Smith, he was one of the top A&R guys there, he was from Essex! So, I think that might've helped. He lived probably two or three miles from where we lived. So he might've helped to instigate that I think.
Q - Have you heard The Beatles' audition tape?
A - I did hear it a long time ago because our guy Mike Smith had a copy. I think he still has a copy of it somewhere now. So, we did hear it, but there's only vague recollections of it now.
Q - I heard that Paul was very nervous and it showed in his singing.
A - Yeah. I think that's true. That all bears out the story that I've just said to you. It wasn't very good, their audition tape.
Q - Let's say on that day, The Beatles had secured a record deal with Decca and The Tremeloes had been turned down. What would've happened to The Tremeloes?
A - Wow. I guess we probably would have gone to more record companies.
Q - Just like The Beatles did.
A - Yeah. They were in fact turned down by quiet a few companies, not just Decca. They did the rounds of quite a few of the companies. They weren't accepted, so that's what we would've done. We would've just carried on until hopefully we got a record deal of some kind.
Q - Were you one of the founders of The Tremeloes?
A - Well, not really. As The Tremeloes I was. Before I was actually in the band, there was a guy called Brian Poole. We had success with Brian Poole. He was the singer and then there was another guy called Alan Blakely, who's the rhythm guitarist. He lived just 'round the corner from me. There was a bass player called Alan Howard and a lead guitarist. They had a guy who was a drummer, but he was very unreliable. So, what happened was, I enjoyed singing. I was in the choir at school. I liked singing. I loved The Everly Brothers. I loved Buddy Holly. So, I went to a few parties and I met up with Brian Poole and the other guys. They had acoustic guitars. They used to sing their songs and I used to join in with them. They asked me eventually because their drummer was leaving; Alan Blakely came out and said to me "Can you play drums Dave?" I said "No, I can't." He said "Well, if you are interested, we are having a practice session 'round my mom and dad's house." His mom and dad were green grocers. He said "If you want to come 'round this evening at seven o'clock and are interested, do." So I came 'round. I sat down on the drums. I was forced into being the drummer because they didn't have anybody else. (laughs) He taught me how to play the drums, but I sang all the time. I always sang and did vocal backing with him, together with Brian. I became part of the band. We didn't actually have a name then. We got our name actually from; you plugged into one of the amplifiers and it gave you the vibrato sound on the guitars. It was what we called a tremelo unit. And that's where we got the name of the band from.
Q - The band started out as The Tremeloes.
A - Yeah.
Q - Then it became Brian Poole And The Tremeloes.
A - That's correct, yeah.
Q - How did that go over with the other band members?
A - Well, we were all really good friends, young guys. We got on really well in the very beginning. The reason for the change was for Brian Poole's mum. She decided it would be good. We had another band, Cliff Richard And The Shadows, that were a big band. He was the out front singer. So, Brian Poole's mum figured we should change the name of the band to Brian Poole And The Tremeloes. The record company also thought it was a good idea. So, that's what happened. That's what it became. We didn't really worry too much about it. So that's how the name changed really.
Q - After The Tremeloes had some success in the 60s, who did you tour with?
A - We toured with Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, The Searchers, Gene Pitney, The Kinks, The Hollies, Spencer Davis Group. We toured with all the sort of big, popular acts at the time really.
Q - You probably toured all over the world, didn't you?
A - We did, yeah. We went to Paris in 1963. We did a gig there at a place called The Paris Olympia, which was a very well known venue there. Then just after that we went to Australia and New Zealand for four weeks and that was a tour that was called strangely enough, The Liverpool Show. Dusty Springfield was on it, Gerry And The Pacemakers, Gene Pitney and us. That was a strange mixture, but it was a really good show.
Q - I like those strange mixtures. That's what made the '60s, the '60s.
A - Yeah, that's right.
Q - You think the best group of all time has to be The Beatles. Why do you think that?
A - Yeah, I definitely do. We played three times with them 'live'. For me, they were the best group. They'll never be anybody that comes up to them. They just had a certain magic. They weren't maybe the best players in the world, individually, but they gelled fantastically. They were something really different then. I think they taught a lot of bands a lot about music. They were brilliant.
Q - Where did you perform with The Beatles?
A - Once we played with them just outside of Liverpool. I can't remember the name of the place now. Once we played with them in Manchester in a place called Ermsten. It was a big open-air park and we were both on the charts at the time with "Twist And Shout". We were actually higher in the charts than they were, 'cause they had it on what's called an EP, an Extended Play record, which is three or four tracks on one record. Ours was just out as a single. So, we got to number two I think. They got to number four or five I believe. We actually went on before they did and they were obviously just starting to get well-known there. We did our spot. After us, a great big furniture removal van pulled to the back of the stage, no windows or anything. They pulled the back up and The Beatles came running out of the back, just straight onto the stage. I mean, we'd never seen anything like that before. They were sort of totally kept away from the public eye until the minute they went onstage. I think that was the start of something different for them. They went on and they were fantastic. We played with them another time in East London. It was more like a big dance hall.
Q - Would that have been around '64?
A - Yeah, somewhere around there.
Q - Did you ever perform in the Hamburg, Germany clubs?
A - We did go there, but we didn't do the same thing as they (The Beatles) did. They did a lot of the clubs, doing six spots a night, which was a killer. We didn't do that, rightly or wrongly on whether it would've helped.
Q - You say six spots or six hours a night, seven days a week for three months.
A - Yeah, for very little money and almost starving. We did quite a lot of gigs in England where we were working a lot, all the time, but we never did anything like that. We always managed to keep body and soul together and got food. I think working in a foreign country...well, in Germany, doing six to seven hours a night for months on end and not having any food, it must've been a killer.
Q - I believe you said you wanted to write a book about your life.
A - Yeah. I had thought about it, but the problem is, there' so much in there that you really couldn't put in, if you know what I mean. (laughs) Well, I couldn't.
Q - But that's the kind of thing people seem to be interested in.
A - Yeah, I know.
Q - You're talking about groupies?
A - Yeah, a lot of that kind of thing.
Q - As it relates to your group or other groups?
A - To ours and to others as well.
Q - To have been British, in a band in the sixties must've been fascinating.
A - Well, it was amazing. We were kind of thrown into it from nothing. We weren't by any means rich. The era that we came from, I wouldn't say it was the worst, but it wasn't exactly thriving. But being pushed into it suddenly and being in front of all those screaming fans, it was just amazing. We just didn't know what was happening. We were working seven nights a week, all the time and we didn't even know how much we were getting paid per night. Our manager kind of did all that for us. We didn't even ask. I know that when I wanted to buy an Astin-Martin, when I was nineteen or twenty at the time, I said to our manager "Can I buy an Astin-Martin?" He said "Yeah David, no problem. Go ahead and buy it." So I did. But I didn't know how much money the band were supposed to have in the bank or how much we were getting. I just knew that we could buy what we wanted. We used to go to Carnaby Street, that was obviously a big thriving clothes place. We'd go there and get what we wanted without worrying about it. So, it was a great time for us.
Q - Did your manager cheat you?
A - He cheated us. It happened. We were ripped off. We lost a lot of money. Unfortunately we couldn't do anything about it. It happened with lots of bands. You had to put your trust in somebody really and we put it in our manager. He said "I'm like a fifth Tremeloe." We thought he was a great guy, and it turned out he wasn't. (laughs) You wanted to be there, enjoy playing your music, get on stage, get the adoration and all the other bits that went with it and hoping that somebody was gonna look after your money for you.
Q - Did you ever try to re-coup some of that money?
A - We did. We employed an attorney. We got a guy to look into his accounts, but where there was supposed to be a lot of money was put in offshore funds and there was virtually nothing in there. We sent the guy after him and eventually came to an out-of-court settlement and he agreed to pay X amount of pounds per month back to us. He paid a couple of payments and then he just stopped paying. We kind of tried to go after him, but they couldn't find any of the money. So, we just had to leave and swallow it.
Q - Where is your manager today? He's not managing other bands is he?
A - No. He's actually dead. He had quite a big agency though. In his office, he had The Tremeloes, Fleetwood Mac, The Move, The Marmalade. There was about six or seven major acts that he was looking after.
Q - He was a manager, but he was also doing your booking?
A - He was a manager, but he also had the agency. He had guys who were working for him doing the bookings as well.
Q - He must've been your European agent, because Frank Barsalona and Premier Talent were doing your American bookings. That name must ring a bell.
A - Well, it rings a bell, yeah. What happened was, when we started having our success, we had a number one with "Do You Love Me" in England with Brian Poole And The Tremeloes. I think this was in 1963. This was on Decca Records. We wanted to get it released in the States. The Dave Clark Five also recorded it, but they got into the bottom part of the English charts with it. We wanted it released in America and we were told by the record company "there's no point in releasing it because The Contours have already had a hit with it, two or three years previously." So, they wouldn't release it. After that, Dave Clark released stuff in America and he was a huge success. We felt we missed out on that really. In later days, as The Tremeloes on our own, when we had a few hits, "Silence Is Golden", which was a big hit for us here and I think a minor hit for us in America (Billboard #11) and a few others, our manager was approached by an agent in America. Could have been the one you said, I don't know, with a view to coming to the States. Our manager didn't really know the situation at all. He turned around and said "I've been offered some gigs in America. What sort of gigs do you want to do?" He said "You can do ballrooms or you can go on a tour with somebody else or colleges." He didn't know where to put us at all.
Q - Some manager.
A - We didn't have any idea at all. We were quite a 'live' act. We used to do a lot of big ballrooms over here. So, we said "we'll go do ballrooms in America." We did go there. We did some promotion with C.B.S. and we did a ballroom tour. We did an East coast tour. It didn't mean anything at all. Nothing really happened. We kind of went home expecting something to happen and nothing happened at all. We've never been back since. We had kind of a fluke thing in South America. We had some stuff released in South America. We went to South America and toured there. But, never really back to the States.
Q - Does Brian Poole bill himself as Brian Poole And The Tremeloes?
A - He just goes out as Brian Poole. It was a but of a unique situation with us really, because we had the success with Brian and then we grew apart musically and personally. Because Brian's name was put in front, he started believing all the publicity and we were a bit pissed off really. He would get all the radio interviews and everything else, and we'd stand in the corner looking stupid. So, we kind of grew away from him. He went to record a couple of songs on his own with an orchestra while he was still performing with us. We thought, well he's really not on with us, so we decided in the end to leave him. We had a couple of records out and then we figured our first hit, "Here Comes My Baby". From there we decided to leave him then. We left and we became a success. Brian went into nowhere, which was unusual. There were a few other bands that had similar situations happened. The lead singer had made the success and the band went to nothing. For us, it was the other way around. Brian carried on playing for a couple of years, then he left the business completely. He went back to become a butcher. His father had a butcher's business. He became a butcher for about ten years or more, then he gradually crept back in. He's doing a few gigs now, you know.
Q - From screaming girls to being a butcher. That had to be tough.