Head Hermit Peter Noone Loves Mrs. Brown's Daughter... and His Own
Guess which Hermit the girls liked best? (Noone in center)
As one of the more popular groups from the British Invasion to sonically storm these shores, Herman's Hermits racked up a number of uptempo pop hits. There were so many of the mop-topped young men speaking the Queen's accented English and brandishing instruments on TV, though, sometimes it became hard to tell them apart.
Nonetheless, Hermits lead singer Peter Noone stood out for his distinctive voice, impossibly blonde, angelic looks, and tender age. Noone was only 15 years old when the band started in 1962.
But while all those bands may have competed for chart positions and record sales, Noone says that there was actually an unexpected camaraderie among the young men.
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"People don't understand how small the scene was," Noone remembers. "We were all connected just by being musicians. And everybody was kind of unique." .
"The Zombies weren't like the Beatles who weren't like the Stones, so there wasn't as much competition as people might think," he continues. "The Dave Clark Five tried to be a heavier Beatles, but that fizzled. In some ways, they made the best records of all," he continues. "But that's all gone now. It's not good enough to be No. 2."
Noone in the studio for his weekly Sirius/XM radio show "Something Good with Peter Noone"
Photo courtesy of Peter Noone
Often, bands would meet up after gigs at one of the many "transport cafés," one of the few places open to grab something to eat. Noone says the clientele at 2 a.m. would be mostly "truck drivers, traveling salesmen, and bands."
Despite his age, Noone also became a regular at nightclubs like the Bag O' Nails, the Ad Lib, and the Scotch of St. James (where he met his wife). They were open to the public, but attracted most of the rock stars of the day to the VIP sections.
"The club scene early on was not about drinking and drugging -- that came later," Noone says. "But everybody went. You'd see Paul McCartney with Jane Asher or Mick Jagger with Marianne Faithful."
It wasn't all completely innocent fun. Noone recalls a special "back room" in the Bag O' Nails where fans of more, um, herbal mood enhancement would convene. Though Noone says he never partook.
"I wasn't part of that scene, but neither were the girls. So if you wanted to hang around girls, you didn't go into that room!" Noone laughs. "And I wanted to hang around girls!"
Of all their hits, Noone has a definite soft spot for "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter." He had first heard the tune written by singer-songwriter Trevor Peacock on a British TV show and sung by Tom Courtenay. Noone recorded if off his mother's set with a primitive line-in/line-out device to get it down.
The song's distinctive scratch-guitar opening was created by guitarist Keith Hopwood on a Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar. The instrument's string damper made it sound something like a banjo.
Originally recorded as a novelty -- and not even released as a single in the Hermits' home country -- the band was shocked when it hit No. 1 on the U.S. charts in 1965 (their other No. 1 was "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am").
But like many of the more pop-oriented British Invasion bands, the Hermits found their career trajectory on a downward spiral as popular tastes moved to a heavier sounds.
Noone would leave the group in 1971 to concentrate on a solo recording and acting career, and later burst back into pop culture as the host of VH1's '60s-themed video show My Generation from 1989-1993.
Noone also currently hosts the program "Something Good with Peter Noone" Saturdays on Sirius/XM's '60s on 6 channel, playing hits and deep cuts of the era along with his own stories and reminisces.
Interview continues on the next page.
Meanwhile, Whitwam, Leckenby, and sometimes Green would keep Herman's Hermits alive onstage for the '70s, '80s and '90s. Green would later go into concert sound production, and Leckenby died in 1994.
Which leads us to one of the more interesting paths of Herman's Hermits: currently there are two touring versions of the group, one featuring Noone and the other Whitwam.
After some decidedly testy legal wrangling over the years, it was decided that Noone's group would primarily tour America, and Whitwam's travel England. To avoid confusion among audiences, though, billing for both groups must include one of their names.
"Barry has his fans, and that's great," Noone says. "But I hate if people go to [one of his shows] and expect to see me. That's why the [billing] is important."
"I just got a nasty email yesterday from someone in Australia who accused me of not showing up for a gig," he says. "And I have to respond. I wasn't even supposed to be there! I guess I should have a form email."
For Friday's upcoming Houston-area show, "Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone" will have an opening act whose frontperson shares similar musical -- and genetic -- DNA.
Natalie Noone and the Maybes play uptempo rock/pop/country, as influenced (according to their Web site) by acts like the Everly Brothers, Elvis Costello, Rodney Crowell and Sam Cooke.
"I'm very proud of her," the vocalist adds.
Seems that Mr. Noone, he's got a lovely daughter.
Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone perform Friday, September 20, 8 p.m, at the Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash Rd. in Stafford. Showtime is 8 p.m.
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