Peter Noone (of Herman’s Hermits fame) never tires of classic hits
Fans of the British Invasion group Herman’s Hermits never get tired of hearing the group’s iconic ‘60s hits. And thankfully for them, front man Peter Noone never tires of singing them. One can only imagine how many times Noone has belted out those catchy, chart topping tunes like “I’m Into Something Good,” “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.”
You would think that after nearly six decades of performing these songs live since he became the group’s lead singer at age 14, the thrill would be completely gone. Not so, says Noone.
“I sometimes wish I’d written a second verse for ‘Henry VIII’ but look, as long as the audience is smiling and laughing and enjoying themselves, every night I try to do it better,” says Noone. “I’m constantly seeking perfection. It’s what a musician does.”
Noone will be seeking perfection in Greensburg June 22 when he brings Herman’s Hermits (with special guests the Latshaw Pops Orchestra) to The Palace Theatre at 7 p.m.
A look back
In a free-wheeling phone conversation from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., in which he insisted he has “never sung a song I don’t like,” Noone recalled his working class upbringing in England.
“My parents were from Liverpool. After (World War II) my parents went to university and me and my sister got to live with my grandparents in Manchester. They went to bed every night at 9 o’clock and they were both deaf, so you could have a rock and roll band and girls down in the living room and they would never know.”
The group started getting steady work and was financed by Noone’s acting career. As a child, he played a character named Stanley Fairclough in a long-running British soap opera called “Coronation Street.”
In the early days, the boys found themselves in some rough places late at night and decided to carry table legs they’d unscrewed from a coffee table and stuffed into their jacket sleeves.
“We were at a place on the road in between Manchester and London, a transport café, and people who drove heavy vehicles would stop at this place,” says Noone. “We were all dressed in Beatle boots and tight trousers and we had really long hair and the truck drivers wanted to beat the s—- out of us. It was always ‘are you a boy or a girl?’ We knew we were going to get into trouble because we looked like sissy boys. I was 15 and didn’t want to get beat up.”
Coming to America
Noone says the group’s humble beginnings helped Herman’s Hermits connect particularly well with people in places like Pennsylvania and New Jersey when they first came to America.
“We found people like us in America. They understood Herman’s Hermits was just a fun band. We didn’t have a message.”
But they did have talent and charm. In 1965, Herman’s Hermits were the top-selling pop act in the U.S. Noone and his fellow band mates made the rounds of the popular television variety shows hosted by the biggest names in show business.
“We were lucky. Even though we were kind of punkish and nonchalant about it, we were very respectful,” says Noone. “Ed Sullivan liked us and Dean Martin invited us to his house after the show and so did Jackie Gleason and so did Danny Kaye. They all liked us.”
As they rode the cultural tsunami that was the British Invasion, Herman’s Hermits made a name for themselves by carving out a pop music identity separate from the other bands that were all the rage as they crossed the Atlantic.
Certainly the name Herman’s Hermits was unique. Noone says it came from the Bullwinkle show.
“We were a band called ‘The Heartbeats’ and were rehearsing in a pub and I was doing a Buddy Holly song,” says Noone. “I had my horn-rimmed glasses on and the guy who owns the pub came up and said ‘you don’t look anything like Buddy Holly, you look like Herman from the Bullwinkle show.’ He meant Sherman from the Bullwinkle show, you know, ‘Sherman and Peabody.’ So, everybody on the stage falls about laughing. He said ‘what are you laughing at? You should call yourselves the bloody Hermits because you dress like hermits.’ And we said ‘That’s it.’ That’s our new name.”
Still on the road
The name stuck and so have the fans. Noone (now 71) and Herman’s Hermits maintain a grueling performance schedule of 165 concerts a year and have no plans to stop touring.
“I sing better now than when I was 22,” says Noone. “The Stones won’t retire either. As long as I can do it, I’m going to do it.”
Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected].