“We couldn’t write songs as good as the Beatles. We couldn’t play R&B as good as the (Rolling) Stones. And we didn’t have as good a drummer as the Dave Clark Five.”
That’s what singer Peter Noone had to say about his band, Herman’s Hermits — a ’60s pop group like the other acts he name-checked, albeit a bit younger.
“We couldn’t compete on their turf,” Noone continued. “The reason Herman’s Hermits existed was: We wanted to be different from anybody else. So, how can we be different? Let’s get a name that sounds stupid. No girls are going to scream ‘Herman!’ We made fun of ourselves.”
Noone and Co. were part of the so-called British Invasion musical movement ignited by the Beatles in February 1964. The Hermits’ hits included “There’s a Kind of Hush,” “I’m Into Something Good,” “Wonderful World,” “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am.”
Noone’s current lineup of Herman’s Hermits is set to perform in Newton on April 21, and as part of the multi-act “Spring Sixties Spectacular” in New Brunswick on April 29.
“That period was when the old-timers suddenly old-timers,” Noone said of his group’s mid-’60s heyday, when we spoke in 2011. “With the British Invasion groups — the Beatles, the Stones, Herman’s Hermits — that was the end of that ‘West Side Story’ world. Fans just went out (to shows) on their own; they weren’t taken by their moms and dads anymore. They went to Shea Stadium.
“We were nice guys, but we were very naive. But we knew it. It was good to be naive. Like, the Japanese tourists on the bus looking up are always having a better time than the driver. Every day was a new adventure. We met Elvis (Presley), we met Johnny Cash. It was all an opportunity. It was just like a dream life. We were lucky.”
And yes, as with the Beatles, the Hermits were chased by screaming girls.
“It was all right,” Noone said of being pursued. “We saw (the Beatles’ movies) ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Help,’ and the Dave Clark Five in ‘Catch Us If You Can.’ We just couldn’t run quite as fast as the Beatles.”
Nor did they have as much clout. Said Noone of recording “There’s a Kind of Hush,” which went to No. 4 in 1967: “The record company didn’t like it. And nobody wanted us to record ‘Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter’ (which went to No. 1 in 1965).
“So we hid it. We put it on Side 2, Track 3. We knew nobody would get that far. If the record company had had anything to do with it, we never would have any hits.”
The Hermits did a lot of American TV, appearing on Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin and Jackie Gleason‘s shows. Was the band treated like a passing fad by the old guard?
“It a fad, remember,” Noone said.
“All of the old-timers, still to this day, think it’s a fad. The music you hear today, people still say, ‘Oh, it’ll never last.’ So we were a fad. We were replaced by the Monkees, who were replaced by the Osmonds.
“But I think they had a strange kind of respect for us, because we were more talented than they expected. Dean’s son was a fan of the band. Danny Kaye‘s daughter was in the fan club. He showed up in a Herman’s Hermits T-shirt and shorts. We showed up in suits, and he was in a T-shirt. Ed Sullivan took me to church! He said, ‘It’s Sunday, church day. Meet me at Delmonico’s on Park Avenue.’ That’s where he lived.”
At his shows these days, Noone can be a bit of a comedian, often localizing his stage banter with jokes about the cities he plays. Where does the singer get his material?
“I check it out on the internet,” he said. “I always have done that. I think it’s important to have the local info. Because Herman’s Hermits were the complete opposite of Spinal Tap; we always knew where we were.
“I remember Herman’s Hermits were going to the Philippines, and I asked John Lennon about it. John told me, ‘Just say yes to everything.’ I thought that was a great line. ‘Just say yes to everything. You’ll love it.’ Otherwise, you’ll do the completely wrong thing.”
HERMAN’S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE
April 21: 8 p.m. at the Newton Theatre, 234 Spring St., Newton. $49 to $74. 973-383-3700 or thenewtontheatre.com
April 29: “Spring Sixties Spectacular” (with B.J. Thomas, Dennis Tufano and the 1910 Fruitgum Company) at 7 p.m. at the State Theatre New Jersey, 15 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick. $35 to $85. 732-246-7469 or statetheatrenj.org
Looking ahead: Noone and his Hermits are also set to perform July 5 at the Cape May Convention Center Grounds in Cape May, and Aug. 1 at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown.