Head Hermit Peter Noone Loves Mrs. Brown's Daughter... and His Own
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.
buttonmuseum.org Guess which Hermit the girls liked best? (Noone in center)
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.
"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."
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."
Photo courtesy of Peter Noone Noone in the studio for his weekly Sirius/XM radio show "Something Good with Peter Noone"
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.