The similarities are uncanny. London teenager Brian Poole met Alan Blakley in 1956 and decided to join the skiffle craze by forming a band. About 200 miles away in Liverpool, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were doing the same thing.
As Poole and his mates, christened The Tremeloes, were crisscrossing Britain playing at every dance and youth club that would have them in the late 1950s, they often shared a bill with the band Lennon and McCartney started that would become known as The Beatles. In 1962, both bands auditioned for Decca Records, and The Tremeloes walked away with a recording contract, not The Beatles.
The Beatles did get another deal, though, and the next year both bands released versions of the Isley Brothers’ “Twist and Shout” within months of each other, with The Tremeloes’ version becoming their first charting single.
From there, the similarities began to fade because, well… The Beatles!
“In those days, nobody knew The Beatles would become such fantastic writers. By writing their own songs, they turned into the world’s biggest and best group ever,” says the 76-year-old Poole from him home in Buckinghamshire, about 90 minutes from London.
While The Beatles morphed into the Fab Four, The Tremeloes did just fine themselves, thank you, with a string of mid-to-late ‘60s hits like “Someone, Someone,” “I Want Candy,” “Silence Is Golden” and “Here Comes My Baby.” However, since they relied mostly on cover versions of other artists’ songs, The Tremeloes never made the same kind of mark on the history of rock like countrymen The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Animals and The Dave Clarke Five, who eventually developed their own material a la The Beatles to rise to international fame.
Another obstacle to Tremeloemania was the curious decision by the band’s management to hold back on joining the British Invasion of the United States.
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“I believe that our managers could see everyone else going off to America and thinking ‘There’s a big market in the rest of the world,’” says Poole. “So we did the rest of the world, something like four world tours before 1967. We did some touring in American and had some modest chart success, but nothing massive. But we were huge in all of Europe, Australia, even Asia.”
That worldwide journey began when the 1956 schoolmates Poole and Blakely became enamored with Buddy Holly and the Crickets and, like so many British teenagers at the time, began learning to play guitar. After graduating, with Alan Howard (bass), Graham Scott (guitar) and drummer Daven Munden in tow (and a band name, thanks to the Vox Tremelo amplifiers they used), the quintet began to play wherever they could – parties, school dances, US armed forces bases in Britain and youth clubs.
“One of our first gigs was a Jewish youth club in Hereford, and thanks to that show we got a lot of other dates,” says Poole. “We were a young band just starting off, and we weren’t that good, but we got better and better. Our paths crossed with The Beatles all the time, as they were doing exactly the same thing. We’d meet them at cafes on the road, and we’d often be on the same shows together. We loved the same music – Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison.”
Regarding the 1962 Decca audition that The Tremeloes passed instead of The Beatles, Poole admits that his band had an advantage – they had already been working for the label as a backing band for popular local vocalists such as Tommy Steele.
“We also backed some of the American blues, country and soul artists who used to come and tour in England, like Delbert McClinton and Gary US Bonds, so Decca kind of knew what we did already,” Poole explains.
“Lots of bands came to these auditions, and we and The Beatles were only two of them, but it essentially came down to us or them. And I’ve got to say, The Beatles did a very bad audition. I’ve heard it many times, and it really wasn’t good. If I had been Decca, I would have chosen us as well,” he adds with a hearty laugh.
After their 1960s success, the band endured many personnel changes, including Poole’s diving into a solo career. But they never really disbanded and continued recording and touring in the 1970s and ‘80s but keeping their tuneful guitar pop at the forefront.
The original lineup reformed a few times in the last decades, usually for charity performances. In 2006, Poole made it a semi-permanent return with Munden and Chip Hawkes, who had joined the band in 1966, in tow.
“We would always get back together if someone asked us to.
Through all the years, we’ve remained friends, best friends, and our families have always been close.
There never was a big breakup,” says Poole.
The Tremeloes that will be appearing on Saturday night at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, along with heritage acts Marmalade (“Reflections of My Life”), Vanity Fair (“Hitchin’ a Ride”) and 1960s British guitarist Steve Ellis, will feature Poole and Munden.
“Unfortunately, Chip has to have chemo from time to time, so he can’t go on the road. We’re all a bit old, anyway… our age range is between 70 and 76,” says Poole with a hint of pride before adding a story with a Jewish theme that sums up his philosophy.
“My father bought a shop from a Jewish friend in east London when I was young. It must have been 1949 or 1950. This friend was always like an uncle to me. He took me to the door of the shop and pointed to a little tin on the side and said, ‘I told your dad and I’m telling you, inside there is a Hebrew prayer, and it will watch over you.’ So even though my dad completely changed the whole shop with renovations, he kept that mezuza on the door. And it has watched over me,” Poole recounts.The Tremeloes, along with Marmalade, Vanity Fair and Steve Ellis, will perform tomorrow night (Saturday) at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv.
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