Richard Oliff: Fateful New Year’s Day at Decca

The Tremeloes, chosen ahead of The Beatles by Decca
The Tremeloes, chosen ahead of The Beatles by Decca

What follows is one of the best known stories in popular music history.

It was December 31, 1961, and The Beatles were heading south for their legendary audition with Decca Records, a meeting that had been arranged by their manager Brian Epstein.

The group – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best – travelled down from Liverpool with their driver and roadie Neil Aspinall, whereas Epstein had travelled separately by train.

Their appointment was with A&R representative Mike Smith at 11am the following day: January 1, 1962: at Decca’s studios located at 165 Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead.

That same day Smith was to audition another band, with the sole aim of choosing just one for the Decca label.

He chose a Dagenham group called The Tremeloes, the original quintet consisting of lead vocalist Brian Poole, lead guitarist Rick Westwood, rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Alan Blakley, bassist Alan Howard and drummer Dave Munden.

The Beatles headed home to Liverpool. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

On September 23, 1995, I was presenting my usual Saturday Showtime on radio when I saw the phone line flash red.

Joining me live was the original drummer from The Beatles, Pete Best, the aim being to promote his forthcoming show in Corby, a show incidentally that never took place.

Pete and I talked mostly about his new band and what audiences might expect from an ex-Beatle. Naturally I kept a recording of the interview on a small reel-to-reel tape.

Since that conversation almost 19 years ago the original drummer with the Tremeloes, Dave Munden, has also been a guest on my show, as has their charismatic lead singer Brian Poole.