The Magic Highway



TremeloesIT'S somehow fitting that the Tremeloes were linked to Christie's formation, because this talented British pop/rock band, like Christie, made many catchy and well-crafted singles. The group lit up the charts and radio on both sides of the Atlantic for four years running, from 1966 through 1970. Even after the chart sequence ended, the Trems remained a popular stage band.
     The outfit first got together in 1958, the original line-up comprising Brian Poole (vocals, guitar), Alan Blakley (drums), Alan Howard (sax), and Graham Scott (guitar). As Alan Blakley reveals in this interview, he learnt his drumming on the kit owned by his younger brother Mike, who was later to become Christie's drummer.
     Alan switched to bass guitar after Dave Munden joined on the drums. Dave proved not only to be a very talented percussionist, but also a good singer. This gave the group a third vocalist, which would prove essential to their success further on in their history.
     The group's line-up changed in 1961 when Graham left and was replaced by Rick West (born Rick Westwood) - the key to the group's long-term success, providing the band with a top-flight (indeed, classically trained) guitarist.
     In 1962, the Tremeloes auditioned with another hopeful group for the recording company Decca. The Trems impressed Decca more and secured a deal, but the other group failed. They were a Liverpool foursome by the name of The Beatles.
     In 1965, Brian split from the band to pursue a solo career; but he ended up disappearing from view after a series of failed singles, and ultimately left music. Meanwhile, Alan Howard chose to quit the Trems, to be replaced by Mike Clark, a former bandmate of Rick's, and then by Len "Chip" Hawkes. Len and Alan Blakley were to later become a formidable songwriting team, collaborating on several songs for the group.
     Fortunately, the band had a good and dedicated friend in the guise of Mike Smith, who'd exited Decca in 1966. Mike was now in the employ of the newly created CBS Records label, the British outlet for America's Columbia Records. The new label was hungry for homegrown talent to augment the label's roster of American stars, and Mike convinced CBS to sign the Tremeloes.
     The band updated their image and started buliding on their strengths, which included superb vocal harmonising. Worldwide success came with the band's single Here Comes My Baby, written by Cat Stevens - an infectiously tuneful, upbeat song, with very pleasing harmony vocals and solid playing in the hands of the Tremeloes. It became a number four hit in England and reached number 13 in America.
     Silence Is Golden, a popular concert number, became their next single and went to No 1 in England, ascending to number 11 in America during the spring of 1967, becoming their second US gold record. Hits such as Even the Bad Times Are Good, Be Mine, Silence Is Golden, Suddenly You Love Me, Helule Helule, My Little Lady, Hello World, and I'm Gonna Try had respective beats, harmonies, and hooks half the groups in England or America would have killed to put together, and were all consummate pop/rock creations.

Epics and Tremeloes

The Epics in the studio with Alan Blakley and Chip Hawkes

     Historically, the Trems' downfall occurred when, rather than continue making the kind of exquisitely crafted pop/rock that had served them well since late 1966, the Tremeloes decided it was time to be "taken seriously". They spent a year writing and preparing an album of music that was intended to prove they could do "serious" songs, and that was not, in and of itself, a mistake. The error came when the group announced their intention and, in the process, disparaged all of their past hits and dismissed the listeners they had attracted as "morons". When the smoke cleared, the group had managed to alienate most of their listeners and any representative of the music press who had previously been in their corner, while the new music - the album Master - was ignored by the very people they'd sought to attract.
No Comprendes     Even in the midst of this debacle, the band showed they still had the golden touch. Me and My Life, which was a tuneful number off the album, reached number four in England. It was during the Master sessions that The Tremeloes laid down their version of Jeff Christie's Yellow River, with the aim of releasing it. They procrastinated — causing Jeff to record it himself, and indirectly therefore, leading to the formation of Christie. The Tremeloes eventually did release their version of Yellow River, as well as a Spanish rendition (No Comprendes).
     After the hits dried up, the band continued to perform in concert, where, led by Dave and Rick, they still attract a strong following.
     In retrospect, the Tremeloes' Alan Blakley was a significant influence in helping Christie and the Epics launch their careers, thanks to his relationship to brother Mike, who was in both groups. Through Alan's connections, the Epics signed a record deal with Pye for their first and second singles, and the team of Hawkes/Blakley wrote both songs for the group's third single. And as has been well-documented throughout the rest of this site, it was Alan who convinced the Tremeloes to listen to Jeff Christie's songs, and they subsequently played on the backing track for the hit single, which was also produced by Mike Smith.
     The Tremeloes/Christie connection was resurrected in 1980, when Vic Elmes joined the Tremeloes on tour for about a year.
     Sadly, Alan passed away in July, 1996.