Something Else! Interview: Dave Munden of the Tremeloes

Had the British beat boom of the ’60s not occurred, rock ‘n’ roll wouldn’t have progressed so radically and developed into the exciting art form it is. Dozens upon dozens of brilliant bands emerged from the movement, including the Tremeloes from Essex.

Established 1958, the band was initially called Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, but clipped their name to simply the Tremeloes in 1966 when the lead singer exited for a solo career. From 1963 to 1971, the band was an unstoppable force, especially throughout Europe, where songs like “Twist and Shout,” “Do You Love Me,” “I Want Candy,” “Here Comes My Baby,” “Silence Is Golden,” “Even The Bad Times Are Good,” “Suddenly You Love Me,” “(Call Me) Number One,” “Hello Buddy,” and “Right Wheel, Left Hammer, Sham” ambushed the airwaves.

Although the Tremeloes were masters of many different musical fashions, pop rock was definitely their forte. Never failing to cross their t’s and dot their i’s, the band crafted picture-perfect tunes pulsating with energy and passion. Directed by deliriously divine harmonies housed in the vein of the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys and the Hollies, the Tremeloes further packed their material with gigantic hooks, industrious arrangements and superbly executed instrumentation. The band’s songs were, and still are after all these years, instantly infectious.

Also not to be overlooked is the band’s foray into psychedelic music. Tracks such as the busy backwards-guitar gymnastics of “Suddenly Winter,” the blurry-eyed buzz of “What A State I’m In,” the choppy fuzz flourishes of “On Love,” and of course, “(Call Me) Number One,” with its disembodied vocals, clever breaks, and ongoing sense of adventure, expressively expose the band’s awareness of the music. The Tremeloes additionally excelled in the heavy rock field, with “Hard Time,” an aggressive instrumental, and the brazenly bluesy “Instant Whip” plugging in as just a couple of efforts sliced in the mold.

Boasting a rich and varied catalog, the Tremeloes are one of those rare bands where everything they recorded is worth owning. Drummer Dave Munden, whose time-keeping expertise has provided the grooves responsible for making the band’s tunes so fetching since the beginning, continues to work his magic to this day with a revamped roster of Tremeloes.

BEVERLY PATERSON: It’s great that the Tremeloes are still out there performing. How long has the current line-up of the band been together, and how did you all come together in the first place?
DAVE MUNDEN: The current edition of the Tremeloes has only together for 18 months. I have a new lead guitarist. The bass player has been with me for eight years, the keyboard player about 29 years. I started with the band in 1958. We all lived in Essex, and I used to meet the band at parties and sing Buddy Holly and Everly Brothers songs with them. They asked me if I could play drums, and I said no. However, Alan Blakley — who is now deceased — taught me to play, and at the same thime sing along with the band, so I became the drummer.

BEVERLY PATERSON: Considering the Tremeloes are already a name band, I assume it’s pretty easy for you to get gigs. But how do you go about booking shows — and are you pretty much open to playing anywhere? I ask that because I would love to see the Tremeloes tour America.
DAVE MUNDEN: We are a name band, but it is becoming more difficult to get gigs now. I do all of the bookings for the band and, if the price is right, we will play most anywhere. We played in America in the late ’60s. However, we did not create too much of an impression, because we played at the wrong kind of venues. We were also, I believe, the first British band to play South America, where we had quite the success.

BEVERLY PATERSON: Do you ever get stage fright?
DAVE MUNDEN: No, never.

BEVERLY PATERSON: Aside from the band’s many hit singles, what are some other songs featured in your shows these days? Do you stick to a set list or does each show offer something new and different?
DAVE MUNDEN: We feature mostly our own songs, but we also play “Angel of the Morning,” which we have been singing since 1967. We also feature a couple of rock ‘n’ roll medleys. I sing lead vocals on most songs. We occasionally change the set around, depending on the gig.

BEVERLY PATERSON: Are the Tremeloes recording any new material?
DAVE MUNDEN: We have recorded an album of some old songs, and some which have never been released. It is called The Songs That Got Away. We sell it at gigs.

BEVERLY PATERSON: How old were you when you started playing drums, and what attracted you to the instrument in the first place? Did you take lessons or teach yourself to play?
DAVE MUNDEN: 15 years old, and mostly self taught.

BEVERLY PATERSON: Is it a challenge to sing and play drums at the same time? I would imagine so!
DAVE MUNDEN: It is something which I have been doing for so long, it becomes second nature — but it does need quite a lot of breath.

BEVERLY PATERSON: What kind of drums are you playing these days?
DAVE MUNDEN: I play a black Pearl rack tom kit. Incidentally, I have just had both my knee caps replaced at the same time, and have only just recently played my first gigs. They are going very well. After four months of not playing drums, I have been out front, posing and singing with the Trems, which I liked a lot.

BEVERLY PATERSON: Do you recall hearing your music on the radio for the first time? And what was your reaction?
DAVE MUNDEN: Yes, it was a BBC Radio show Saturday Club. We were all knocked out.

BEVERLY PATERSON: How did you handle the massive fame you encountered?
DAVE MUNDEN: Meeting lots of girls, having lots of fun and enjoying the money. I bought myself both an Aston Martin DB4 and a Jaguar E-type sports car, which I enjoyed tremendously.

BEVERLY PATERSON: The Tremeloes certainly had an ear for not only creating hit singles, but picking the right songs to be hit singles. How did you go about selecting songs to be released as singles? Was that the band’s, record label’s or management’s decision?
DAVE MUNDEN: Generally, if we thought the songs had a good chorus and a good verse, we would record them. The decision to release the tracks was sometimes ours, and sometimes the record company’s.

BEVERLY PATERSON: The Tremeloes’ albums were equally great — all killer and no filler! It’s amazing to think that back then bands were able to record a whole album in just a few days. Do you enjoy recording and do you have any interesting in-studio stories to share?
DAVE MUNDEN: Unfortunately, we don’t do very much recording now. One story I can tell from many years back: In the early days, we never used any dope of any kind in the studio. However, we were recording some of our early hits, aided purely by a few pints of beer and our natural enthusiasm and exuberance, and we used to make a track called an ‘idiot’ track — featuring lots of shouting and funny voices. The record company thought that were all stoned, but we weren’t, however. A few years later, I was in the studio with Alan Blakley, playing session drums and singing vocal backing under the influence of acid. While in the drum booth, which had a reflective screen, I looked at myself while playing and turned in a ‘negative’ man. Then, while in the studio doing vocal backing, I looked at a sound-proofing screen, and on it I saw a picture appear of Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper. Quite disconcerting at the time, but I carried on singing like a true pro.

BEVERLY PATERSON: How about road tales?
DAVE MUNDEN: Driving my E-type to a gig at 150 miles per hour, and being stopped by the police for dangerous driving. being on tour in the ’60s with Dusty Springfield and singing along with her on the bus. There were many more, most of which I cannot tell you about!

BEVERLY PATERSON: The Tremeloes were part of an incredible musical revolution that has yet to be rivaled. Were you aware of the impact you were making, and how would you describe the atmosphere at the time?
DAVE MUNDEN: Not at the time, but I think we knew that it was a special time for pop music. The atmosphere at the time was fantastic, especially on stage at gigs, with all the screaming girl fans.

BEVERLY PATERSON: Unlike some bands of the era, the Tremeloes successfully adapted to the many changing styles of the day, especially psychedelia. Was it a conscious effort to become a full-fledged psychedelic band and what are your thoughts on the music now?
DAVE MUNDEN: I believe we made a slight contribution to psychedelic music, but not as much as some other bands like Pink Floyd, etc.

BEVERLY PATERSON: What are some of your favorite Tremeloes songs, and why are they your favorites?
DAVE MUNDEN: Obviously, ‘Silence is Golden’ has to be one of my favorites, because of the success it gave to the Tremeloes. I also like “Call Me. No. 1.”

BEVERLY PATERSON: How about favorite albums?
DAVE MUNDEN: The first album we ever recorded in 1963, which was called Big Big Hits of ’62, and was a misture of all the biggest hits from 1962. It was released on a very small label called Ace of Clubs. It wasn’t a hit, but I liked it.

BEVERLY PATERSON: Do you listen to your own music for pleasure?
DAVE MUNDEN: Not really.

BEVERLY PATERSON: I can answer this question myself, but it’s better to hear it direct from the person who makes the music. What is it that makes the Tremeloes stand apart from other bands and what is the long-lasting appeal?
DAVE MUNDEN: I believe it was the catchy simplicity and the vocals, and also what we always say — it’s the way we tell it.

BEVERLY PATERSON: There’s been a number of Tremeloes recordings reissued over the years but has there ever been talk of putting out a box set? Do you have any songs still sitting in the vaults, just waiting to be released?
DAVE MUNDEN: So far, there are no plans but maybe a release of some original tracks from our album The Ones That Got Away.

BEVERLY PATERSON: Have you ever thought about writing an autobiography?
DAVE MUNDEN: Maybe when I retire from the music business, which could be a long time coming. I am 70 now, and still enjoying playing and singing.

BEVERLY PATERSON: If you weren’t a musician, what occupation would you have pursued?
DAVE MUNDEN: Maybe either a boxer, or a motor racing driver.

BEVERLY PATERSON: If you were given the chance to do it all again, would you do so? Or is there anything you would have done differently?
DAVE MUNDEN: Yes, I would do it all again — maybe differently, maybe not. But I do know that I have been very lucky to have had a life like mine, and to still enjoy it.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 on the national charts with "Stand By Me" - which is ironically one of her favorite songs, especially the version by John Lennon. She has also contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as associate editor of Rock Beat International. Paterson's own publications have included Inside Out, and Twist And Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.