Remember the band chosen over The Beatles in 1962? Interview with The Tremeloes’ Len “Chip” Hawkes

The Tremeloes in (Call Me) Number One, 1969- © to the owners

The Tremeloes in (Call Me) Number One, 1969- © to the owners

The English beat group The Tremeloes is primarily remembered for playing a great part in the 1960s British Invasion alongside The Beatles, The Animals, The Zombies, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Merseybeats and the like.

Founded in Dagenham, near London, in 1958, the band is still alive and kicking to this very day; the current formation includes original member Rick Westwood who acts as a guitarist and vocalist, alongside bassist and singer Len ‘Chip’ Hawkes who joined in 1966.

The Tremeloes by Chip Hawkes ©

The Tremeloes by Chip Hawkes ©

They are particularly famous for their smashing 1967 number one hit Silence is Golden and the fortunate covers of Yellow River by Jeff Christie, Twist and Shout by The Isley Brothers and later The Beatles, Candy Man by Roy Orbison and Someone Someone by The Crickets – but there is also something else about them, something that will forever make them stand out from the others.

On New Year’s Day 1962, The Tremeloes joined, together with another band, an audition that took place at Decca Records in London, as the prestigious record label was in search of a British beat group.
The Tremeloes, which at the time were led by singer Brian Poole, were chosen, and the other band was turned away.
The other band were The Beatles.

The rest is history, a history The Tremeloes were also a significant part of all through the 1960s with over 100 million records sold worldwide, as you will learn today from this interview with Len ‘Chip’ Hawkes.

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Chip, what achievements are you most proud of?

Well, I suppose one of the great achievements we had was reaching number one in Europe with Silence Is Golden in 1967. That was fantastic. We all got up in the middle of the night when the charts came out and went to London, we walked down The Strand and saw that we were number one. It was great. The 1960s were a great time for us that we could never forget. We were lucky, we had a lot of records and we were lucky. And I’m very happy about that time. You know, it was a long time ago, and I do have very very fond memories of the 1960s.

What’s your favourite memory from the 1960s?

We more or less had ten years of good times, and that was the thing in those days: we were always together as a group. We were always together. We were friends and we never ever had arguments or things like that, we were all always friends and still are, right up until now. And then two of us passed away [Alan Blakley died in 1996; Dave Munden died in 2020], sadly. But yes, in those days, everything was so exciting, every day was a different thing happening. And we were going to different places, we travelled an awful lot to different countries. We were always travelling and playing, always. And life was very exciting. I wish I could go back there, I wish I could go back, it was a fantastic time. There was always something exciting happening. Always, every single day. Every single day there was a phone call: “Come on to London today! Come to France tomorrow!” We were going to such and such, and every single day something different was happening. It was a nice life, I’m a lucky boy. I really am.

Len "Chip" Hawkes by by Paul Trondl and M. Krobath ©

Len “Chip” Hawkes by Paul Trondl and M. Krobath ©

What was your dream job when you were a kid?

I was never a kid. I was always an old man.

What do you think of the current state of music?

It’s difficult for me because my age is getting on and I don’t really have a lot to do with today’s music, but you see, my son [the pop singer Chesney Hawkes] is in the business and we still have a lot to do with the music business as he’s always doing things in music with different people and so we go to London a lot. Yeah, it’s still a good business and we’re still very much involved.

In 1962 you weren’t in the band yet, but what did you think when you eventually learned that Decca had turned away The Beatles to take on The Tremeloes?

Yes, we were lucky they found us and turned The Beatles away. But then, well, you know what happened after that…!

What was your relationship with Beatlemania at the time?

Yeah, well, I remember it so well, just so well. Everywhere we went, we had girls screaming. Everywhere we went. And this was, of course, because of The Beatles. Everywhere we went the girls were screaming because of The Beatles! I’m a big fan of The Beatles, they were fantastic, there were no other musicians like The Beatles. And I know this because we played with them in concerts so many times, and every time – every time they played, they were great. They were fantastic. And they made the crowds, the people, the audience scream and shout because they were just fantastic.

What do you think of the Paul is Dead conspiracy theory claiming that the real Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced with an imposter by the name of Billy Shears Campbell?

No, no. That’s a load of rubbish. That was just a rumour. Somebody said that Paul McCartney had been replaced in 1966, but no, no, that’s rubbish. We knew The Beatles when they lived in Liverpool, and we played concerts with them before they had success, really. And we knew them very well and they were just ordinary nice people. We knew most of the bands of that time, and we were all good friends because in those days we would play concerts throughout the country and we would meet other bands in many places to have a cup of tea, a sandwich or something, and we were friends with all of them. We were so lucky, we met most of the people in the business.

Do you believe a band could potentially never split? What does it take to stick together?

Well, we never stopped, you know, we had some bad luck, one of the members died in the 1990s, but we’ve had mainly good times and lucky times. But we had some bad times as well, we had the good with the bad, and it all worked out fantastically well over the years.

What do you think of talent shows like The X Factor?

It’s alright. It’s okay, I can’t really say because I don’t really see much of it.

Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with?

Elvis Presley.

How about somebody alive?

But he’s my hero!

Did you ever meet him?

I didn’t. And the funny thing was, I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, for five years, and he lived in Memphis, which was only about 100 miles from Nashville. And I never got to see him. That’s my one big thing where I wish I’d have met Elvis because he was the best. And he will still always be Elvis Presley: the best singer, the best artist that the world has ever had, I think. That’s my opinion.

What are your plans for the future? What are you going to do?

To stay alive a little bit longer!

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