Jukka Fronth, Suosikki 4/1966:

Is Jim Pembroke Really Worth All the Fuss?

[This is one of the first major articles written in Finland about Jim Pembroke. It appeared in a magazine called "Suosikki" on 6 June 1966. Translated by Timo Rauhaniemi & Claes Johansen.]

There have been some persistent rumours surrounding Jim Pembroke recently, a few of them quite scandalous. Some time ago he gathered together a backing group of excellent musicians. This band played their first two gigs at schools in Helsinki. Both performances turned into scandals. The first gig was spoiled when it was announced that all rock performances at this school from now on had been cancelled. The band played anyway, with only a handful of people in the audience. As a result Jim was heavily criticised by Weneskoski Productions as well as a couple of journalists from a Swedish magazine who had arrived to make an interview with him.

The second performance in question was ruined by a youth organisation whose aim was to brainwash the young audience with a lot of long, boring propaganda speeches. This event caused quite a stir in the Finnish media. Unwillingly, Pembroke had been involved with two scandals in connection with his first two gigs.

Jim Pembroke first arrived in Finland in May 1965. At this point he was unknown to almost anyone. He was still an unknown when he made his first [sic!] stage appearance here, in Björkhagen near Helsinki. In the summer of 1965 Jim had written a letter to Weneskoski Productions, introducing himself. Like hundreds of similar letters it did, however, never receive a reply. But by late 1965 the hand of fate started to play its part. Jim was living in Varkaus, where his pen-pal (a girl) was also living. Jorma Weneskoski, the manager of the aforementioned production company, was visiting Varkaus and remembered the letter he had received from Jim. In a crowd of 1700 people he spotted someone who looked particular English and asked him in his own language: Are you Jim Pembroke? Jim was quite astonished but answered: Yeah!

At the end of August The Beatmakers were playing Björkhagen. Jim sang a couple of songs and was reasonably well received by the audience. Following the gig he met with the band and asked if he could become The Beatmakers’ roadie. Jim was in a sad mood and explained how he was used to carrying amplifiers and instruments while he had still been living in England, though he had in fact been the vocalist with a group then. By now hundreds of teenage girls had gathered around The Beatmakers’ van, asking Jim for his autograph. Though he didn't quite understand the fuss, Jim was happy put leave his signature on their cheeks and arms.

Soon after, Jim was performing on T.V. and had cut his first single. For a long time he would find himself playing gigs every evening. He was now a much happier person. Then came the winter and the freezing cold. Jim had never experienced temperature as low as -10 C. When someone told him that the temperatures in Finland could in fact go as low as -35 C, he started feeling even more depressed. And as the winter went on, so Jim’s own spirits would sink. There was just one thing on his mind – to return to England.

But then he changed his mind as decided to stay anyway, as he was given a band of very fine players to back him on stage – up until this point he had only been backed by all sorts of rather lousy groups. The first member of this new backing group was Ronnie Österberg, the best looking bloke in Finnish pop and a great drummer besides.

This band, however, ruined Jim’s reputation almost completely, since nearly all the other members looked no better than rotten tomatoes when appearing on stage. The bass player and the keyboardist left the group after only one gig and went to Oulu. They returned a week later with the news of having found a great solo guitarist for the band. How shocked they were to find that they had been sacked from the group.

But the show must go on! On 5 February [1966] a group by the name of The Rattle Sounds were hired to play backing for Jim Pembroke.

This group was re-named The Pems. After only two days of rehearsals they played their first gig at a youth club in Helsinki and were greatly received. After this performance Jim’s attitude completely changed and he found himself full of a new enthusiasm. Augmented by this group he would finally be able to make all his great ideas come true.

At the moment of writing, Jim Pembroke and the Pems are a very hot act here in Finland. Their future is not restricted to this country, as they have found an interest for their music in the other Nordic countries as well. They cut a single in early March this year, which got them invited to tour Sweden as well as Denmark. In fact, they already did so in the beginning of April. They will return to Finland after two weeks of touring and then Jim will go back to Britain for two weeks to visit his mother, who has fallen ill.

I know Jim better than anyone in this country. I became friends with him last autumn, before he had played a single gig in Finland. We even shared the same apartment during February 1966. During this time Jim told me a lot about his previous life.

School is the first thing Jim recalls from his childhood.

‘I started going to school at the age of five. In those days I was so shy that I wouldn't talk to anyone. On the very first day of school I became very excited with the whole thing, because everything seemed grand and wonderful to me. I was, however, terribly frightened by a certain teacher called Miss Abel. I’ll remember her to my dying day. She was a fifty year old spinster who must have weighed at least two hundred pounds. I never dared to be late for school, because I was afraid that Miss Abel would kill me. However, on one occasion I was late. I was walking down an alleyway desperately trying to think of something that would soften Miss Abel. Then I saw some roses growing alongside this alley – I considered for a moment – and then I picked a few of them. Just before I reached school I even pinched an apple which I was planning to give to her. I thought that if I gave this to her she couldn’t possibly be mad with me. The lesson had started when I entered the classroom. Miss Abel turned to me, looking like Hitler before making one of his speeches. I ran towards her and handed her the flowers and the apple. Eventually, she calmed down and she even said thanks to me. By this cunning plan I had managed to save my young life.

‘At school they had this tradition where the older pupils would look after the youngest ones. My mentor was a twenty year old, very beautiful girl. It didn't take me long to fall madly in love with her, though she was fifteen years older than me. I wanted to marry her, but she refused. She said the problem had something to do with me wearing short trousers.

‘I spent four years at this school. Then I was accepted into a Church of England School. At this point I had become crazy with football. When I was fifteen I was asked to join a very successful and quite ambitious football team.

‘This obviously made me very proud. But there were thousands of other young boys who were much better at playing football than I, so I didn’t consider a future as a player myself. Furthermore, I had become interested in arts and I decided to stop playing football altogether. At the age of sixteen I started attending art school. It has been written somewhere that I went to the same class as Charlie Watts, who is now the drummer of The Rolling Stones. It has also been said that he and I are still good mates and that Charlie has asked me to join The Stones as their vocalist. The truth is, unfortunately, that I have never spoken to Mr Watts at all. I know he went to the same school as I but he left after only a short while.

‘I remember standing next to a beautiful pond somewhere and being expected to paint the scenery. A fat man was lying in the grass with only his shorts on, and soon after we had forgotten all about the scenery and were totally occupied with painting a bra on him while he was still asleep.

‘In the autumn of 1963 I started working in an art studio. At the same time some of my friends decided to form a rock band but they didn't have a singer. One of the guys had heard me humming whilst waiting at a bus stop and asked me to become their vocalist. The first song I sang with them was an Elvis Presley tune, ‘Jailhouse Rock’. It worked out well, I seem to remember.

‘Our group was called Taverners Guild. We had a few fans even before we played our first gig. There were a group of mods dancing in the street while we were rehearsing inside a nearby house.

‘In January 1964 we were hired to play some Soho night clubs. All the other groups had their own amplifiers but our solo guitarist, John, never had enough money to buy his own amp. But it was great fun to play those clubs. We were playing from 12 p.m. until 6 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

‘In the summer of 1964 we played at the Studio 51 club. Earlier on The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and The Downliners Sect had played there. I even saw The Stones playing at the Studio 51 before they became really successful.

‘In the autumn of 1964 Taverners Guild split, the reason being that by now there were so many groups around copying The Beatles and The Stones. I got bored with it all and decided to stop playing in groups for a while. I had written a few songs myself at this point, but we were met with no success and the band broke up.

‘In January 1965 I decided that I wanted to move to Finland during the following spring. My financial state was pretty poor, so I had to work in a factory where the working day was long and hard – some twelve hours a day!

‘I spent four days celebrating my move to Finland. On the morning of the fifth day I was seeing some ten Helsinkis around me.

‘I took a taxi to the main station, because I wanted to buy a few postcards, and a couple of girls came up and asked for my autograph. I was astonished. I felt like making a toast to Finland right there and then. It seemed a good place to be.

‘Finland, however, turned out to be the promised land of only one thing – tangos! Tango me here, there and everywhere. Every young, urban person I know here in Finland wants to go abroad. As I see it, things can't be all that wonderful if that is their attitude. In Britain, things are much more centred on young people. Young people must have a chance to really live their own lives ...

Jim in a nutshell:

Real Name: James Francis P.
Born: 27.1.46
Where: London
Height: 181 cm (in high heels)
Weight: 61 kg
1st record: “Say Yeah”/”If You Need Me”
2nd record: “Any Day”/”I Don't Mind, I Got Mine”
3rd record: likely not to be released?
Address: 23 Montrose Cress, Finchley, London
Hair Creme: Barracuda
Recommends: please