Peter Noone happily poppy

Posted 6/11/10

Herman’s Hermits are known — in some quarters, infamous — for such pleasant 1960s teen hits as “I’m Into Something Good” and “There’s …

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Peter Noone happily poppy


Herman’s Hermits are known — in some quarters, infamous — for such pleasant 1960s teen hits as “I’m Into Something Good” and “There’s a Kind of Hush.”

The Hermits may have been a parent-friendly alternative to more “dangerous” bands, but to hear lead singer Peter Noone tell it, the group was proud to be pop — especially if it meant revulsion from the music press.

“We used that to our advantage,” Noone said of the Hermits’ defiantly clean-cut image. “We refused to play that game. We were like the first punk band. Our plan was not to have a plan.”

By design or accident, the Hermits emerged in 1964 with a virtually nonstop arsenal of reliable, radio-geared ear candy. It was music aimed squarely at younger teenagers — not the intelligentsia and certainly not over-20 music critics.

In three short years, the Hermits scored no fewer than 11 Top 10 hits as well as many other singles that grazed the upper end of the Top 20 in England and the United States. For a time, the Hermits’ hitmaking potential rivaled that of the Beatles.

During the mid to late 1960s, as many of their contemporaries explored their rougher edges and flirted with psychedelia and heavy guitar rock, the Hermits remained militant in their commitment to nonthreatening melodies.

“I don’t think the words Herman’s Hermits ever showed up in Rolling Stone magazine,” Noone said of his dismissal by the hip press. “That’s because I wouldn’t pander to them. That’s because I told them to [expletive] off.”

Noone, 62, and the current incarnation of the Hermits will bring their decidedly rebellious melodies and love songs to Hudson Gardens and Event Center in Littleton on June 27.

Herman’s Hermits emerged in Manchester, England in 1963. Noone, then a 16-year-old child television actor, was recruited on the spot as lead singer for a band called the Heartbeats when the lead vocalist failed to show up for a gig.

Noone’s boyish good looks and comic charm quickly caught on at local dances and teenage nightclubs. The Heartbeats were redubbed Herman’s Hermits one night at the brusque suggestion of a cantankerous barkeep.

Noone, who had a penchant in those days for wearing thick-framed Buddy Holly-style glasses, recalls the barman giving him a mouthful about his apparently unsuccessful try at evoking the late singer-songwriter.

“That’s nothing like Buddy Holly,” the old bartender charged. “That’s like Sherman from the Bullwinkle show. Call yourself Herman and the bloody Hermits! You look like hermits!”

And they did.

Before long, the rechristened teens caught the eye of producer Mickie Most, who was impressed by Noone’s vocals and the band’s school-boy image and repertoire of earnest pop songs.

The Hermits would soon become leaders of the lighter end of the British Invasion, the popular influx of English groups that exploded after the Beatles’ 1964 arrival in the United States.

While the more R&B-oriented Rolling Stones were fashioned as a bad-boy alternative to the Beatles, the Hermits made the mop-topped Beatles look menacing by comparison.

“The Beatles were the hard men of rock and roll,” Noone said of his British music contemporaries. “But the Rolling Stones were similar to us. They were kind of overeducated for their positions.”

With an eye on effective marketing, Andrew Loog Oldham, the producer and manager of the rough-around-the-edges Stones, advised the burgeoning Hermits to play up their contrasting clean-scrubbed image.

“He suggested we be the good guys of rock and roll,” Noone said. “The Stones would go home and read Aldous Huxley and urinate on gas tanks. We could do that, but it was never going to be part of our image.”

The Hermits kept within the bounds of law and taste with an agreeable succession of melodic hits and distinctly British novelties — “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am” — that were targeted to the American singles market.

The formula paid off, quite literally. By the time changing musical styles had rendered the Hermits a dated curiosity, the band had laughed last at the bank, selling more than 40 million singles and albums worldwide.

Even as cultural trends evolved, the Hermits did not. Noone says the band stayed true to its image largely because the image was real. The singer does not think the same can be said for a band like the Rolling Stones.

“I’m not going to walk on stage and be somebody else,” Noone said. “Imagine if you had to play this angry Cockney guy for 45 years when you’re a grammar-school twit. When Mick Jagger talks in real life. it’s like ‘I don’t know what to do with my British Petroleum shares.’”

In what was at the time standard procedure, some of the Hermits only occasionally played on the group’s records. Noone’s vocals were augmented by a team of ace session players that included guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones.

Noone says he once talked to Jones about becoming a full-time Hermit. The discussion came just as Jones was considering another offer to join Page in a new group that had less certain commercial prospects — Led Zeppelin.

“He wasn’t quite sure he wanted to be in this new band because this Hermits gig was going to be really lucrative,” Noone said. “But it didn’t work out. The other Hermits didn’t like the idea.”

In 1995 when Led Zeppelin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band’s lead singer Robert Plant jokingly chided his former band mate over his association with the Hermits. The incident was all too typical for a pop band that has yet to be embraced by critics or music historians.

Ask Noone if he cares.

“I wouldn’t want to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” he scoffed.

The singer is more than happy to sing for the fans.

As for dismissive critics, he invites them to “sod off.”

“The last time we were at Hudson Gardens, there were lots of young kids in front of the stage,” Noone recalled. “We need that sometimes, you know.”

If you go

Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone will perform June 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Hudson Gardens and Event Center, 6115 S. Santa Fe Drive in Littleton

Tickets available at or by calling 303-797-8565 Ext. 321.

Adults $22.50. Members $20. Kids (3-12) $10.


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