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Peter Noone
Peter Noone was born on 5 November 1947 in Manchester. His father was a semi-pro musician and keen that his son should follow in his footsteps, so Peter was sent to study singing and acting at the Manchester School of Music and Drama. He was something of a childhood star, playing Len Fairclough's son in the soap opera Coronation Street as well as in the lesser-known Knight Errant and Family Solicitor. He combined this with local stage appearances, too. An acting career seemed inevitable but instead of becoming a film star he became a pop star.
In 1963, he joined a Manchester beat group, The Heartbeats, after their vocalist failed to show for a gig. He used the name Peter Kovak. The change to Herman came after the band remarked on Peter's resemblance to the character Sherman in the TV cartoon 'The Bullwinkle Show', although he misheard the name as Herman. So the group, who by now were a popular dance hall and youth club attraction, and managed by Harvey Lisberg and Charlie Silverman, changed their name to Herman and The Hermits, although it soon became abbreviated to Herman's Hermits.
The band were soon signed by Mickie Most, who got them a deal with EMI's Columbia label. Most thought that Peter Noone resembled a young John F. Kennedy and resolved to make him the focus of the group. Most arranged for them to record a Gerry Goffin/Carole King number, which had recently been a minor hit in the States for Earl-Jean (the Cookies' vocalist). The song, I'm Into Something Good, shot up the charts and spent two weeks at No 1 in September 1964. The British public rapidly took Peter Noone into their hearts as the safe face of beat music, and the band soon became a household name. Delighted by the success of their earlier song, Goffin and King offered the band a follow-up. The group jumped at the chance, but in retrospect, Show Me Girl, had the bounce but lacked the appeal of their debut disc, proved a poor choice and only just squeezed into the Top 20.
January 1965 saw the release of the group's first EP, Hermania, which contained a cover of I Understand (which had been a hit for The Four Tunes in 1954 and more recently for Freddie and The Dreamers); covers of Frankie Ford's Sea Cruise and Ernie K-Doe's Mother-In-Law, and a song called I Think Of You. The EP sold well and some people even spoke of 'Hermania' as a younger rival to Beatlemania. The band made their first visit to the US, which was soon to prove a lucrative market for them. Whilst there, they made a cameo appearance in the teen movie When The Boys Meet The Girls.
For their third UK single the group covered The Rays' 1957 hit Silhouettes, which climbed to No 3 and was undoubtedly one of their better singles. In the US they went one place better with a Carter/Lewis song, Can't You Hear My Heartbeat, outselling a rival version from Goldie and The Gingerbreads in the process. This gave them their second million-seller (I'm Into Something Good had been the first). Their next 45 was a slick revival of Sam Cooke's Wonderful World, which rose to No 7 here in April 1965 and No 4 in the US a month later.
Their really big breakthrough in the US came when an American DJ heard Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter on their first US album, Introducing Herman's Hermits, and persuaded their US record company, MGM, to release it as a 45. It sounded like an old music hall song (though it wasn't) with Noone's George Formby-style vocals and the banjo guitar sound, and frankly sounded corny. Realising this the group prevented its release here, but in the US the song spent three weeks on top of the Charts, earning them another gold disc. It also topped the Australian Charts and sold 14 million copies worldwide. This success coincided with the group's first full US tour. Over the next two years, when the group faced strong competition from several rivals here in the UK, they enjoyed phenomenal success.
Their success seems to have been partly due to the fact that many of the first wave British invasion groups had already peaked in terms of sales (with only The Beatles and Dave Clark Five consistently selling vast quantities of vinyl) and partly because, fuelled by the success of Mrs. Brown..., they selected songs for US release that had a music hall and vaudeville edge to them. Not only did this set them apart from other UK beat acts of the time, it also fulfilled the American stereotype of what British life was like. So, whilst in the UK the band enjoyed another Top 20 hit with Kenny Young's bouncy Just A Little Bit Better (which later made it to No 7 in the US), across the Atlantic another US-only single, I'm Henry The Eighth (I Am), a revival of a 1911 music hall song, extracted from their album Herman's Hermits On Tour gave them another No 1 and million-seller.
Their first UK album, simply titled Herman's Hermits, wasn't released until September 1965. It consisted of material from their first two US-only albums and included both their big US No1s, alongside beat material like The Yardbirds' For Your Love and Buddy Holly's Heartbeat. Climbing to No 16, it was to be their only UK Chart album until a budget-priced retrospective compilation in 1971 took them two places higher. Two EPs followed in the UK:- Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter, which became their best-selling EP, rising to No 3 in the EP Charts (and suggesting that, had the song been released as a single here, it would have done extremely well) and Herman's Hermits Hits, which got to No 19.
Their final 45 of 1965 was a fine, jangling P.F. Sloan/Steve Barri song, A Must To Avoid, which got to No 6 here and No 8 in the States. In the US, MGM issued another album, The Best Of Herman's Hermits, Vol. 1, which included most of the year's 45s and some earlier album tracks.
In March 1966, the band issued another US-only single. Listen People was a slow ballad and took them to No 3, earning another gold disc. Its flip Got A Feeling, was taken from the Soundtrack to Hold On!, which reached No 14 in the US. This was a teen movie about naming a US spacecraft after a beat group to which the band contributed 11 songs. The album also included four Sloan and Barri tracks, such as A Must To Avoid and the title cut, Hold On. Here in the UK these two tracks were combined on an EP entitled Hold On, along with Wild Love and The George And Dragon. Meanwhile, Listen People appeared as the flip to a Tony Hazzard composition, You Won't Be Leaving, a folky number that just made it into the Top 20. The follow-up, This Door Swings Both Ways, was not one of their strongest 45s, but still took them to No 12 in the States and No 18 in the UK.
If it seemed that their fortunes were beginning to ebb when they were revitalized by Graham Gouldman's No Milk Today. This was an excellent pop song and their first 45 to employ an orchestra. It gave them their first Top 10 hit in the UK for over a year and came with a good flip side too, My Reservation's Been Confirmed, a decent self-penned rocker. In the States, No Milk Today appeared on the flip side to a strong version of The Kinks' Dandy, which put them back in the US Top 5. Here in the UK, Dandy became the title track of their sixth and final EP. In November 1966. Noone also appeared in the US TV movie, The Canterville Ghost.
Their next album, Both Sides Of Herman's Hermits, had different track listings in the UK and US. Whilst the British pressing appeared the more selective with fewer throw-away songs, it was the US one that enjoyed Chart action peaking, at No 48. Later, at the beginning of 1967, a US-only compilation, The Best Of Herman's Hermits, Vol. 2, just edged into the Top 20.
On the 45 front, their treatment of Graham Gouldman's East West had failed to impress on either side of the Atlantic, but in late 1966, they bounced back with a beat ballad, There's A Kind Of Hush, a Les Reed/Geoff Stephens composition, which made No 4 in the US and No 7 in the UK. Definitely one of their best songs, it also became the title track of their next album, which for the first time had the same track listing on both sides of the Atlantic. It made the US Top 20 but failed to sell in large quantities over here. However, it was in America with the advent of The Monkees and the onset of the psychedelic era that their fortunes declined most rapidly. Kenny Young's Don't Go Out Into The Rain, became their last US Top 20 hit. Their next UK 45 was a cover of Donovan's Museum, which flopped here and only managed No 37 in the US. Their final album, Blaze, didn't even get a UK release, although it had its moments with the Beatles-like Moonshine Man and Graham Gouldman's Upstairs Downstairs.
In their final years, the band concentrated on the mainstream pop market and enjoyed further big UK hits with I Can Take Or Leave Your Loving, Sleepy Joe and singalong ditties like Sunshine Girl and Something's Happening. They even reached No 2 with a 'weepie' Carter/Stephens song, My Sentimental Friend, which didn't even make the US Top 50. The one area of US success in this phase of their career was the group's appearance in the film Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter, in which Noone played a lead role. The Soundtrack album didn't chart at all in the UK but did get to No 182 in the US.
In November 1968, Noone married a French girl, Mireille Strasser, and the following month he formed a business partnership with Graham Gouldman, which led to the opening of a New York boutique called Zoo.
While still on tour in Australia they heard Ross D. Wylie's hit cover of Johnny Young's Here Comes The Star, and decided to record it for UK release. It was another 'weepie' but didn't enjoy the success of My Sentimental Friend, only managing No 33. Their final UK Columbia 45, Years May Come, Years May Go, did return them to the Top 10.
In mid-1970, Mickie Most launched his new RAK label and with their good track record, Herman's Hermits were an inevitable choice to help promote it. Their first 45 on this new label, the reggae-influenced Bet Yer Life I Do, which had been written by Hot Chocolate's Errol Dunkley and Tony Wilson, marked a significant change of style and it did the trick for Most, giving him a Top 30 hit to help launch the label. The follow-up, another Hot Chocolate song, Lady Barbara, took things a step further putting them back in the Top 20. It was credited to Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits and soon proved to be his last with the band. Noone went solo, continuing to record on Mickie Most's RAK label whilst The Hermits relocated to the US where they signed to RCA. The band continued as a live act for several years and recorded the occasional single, none of which enjoyed any Chart action.
Inevitably, compilations were released after their split and there was also a brief reformation in June 1973 to top the bill at the 'British Invasion' nostalgia concert in New York's Madison Square Gardens. The EP Collection includes most of the band's hits from the 1964-66 period. The Best Of The EMI Years is a two CD set which includes all their hits. In 1980, Noone formed another rock band, The Tremblers, although they were short-lived.
In the final analysis, Herman's Hermits were one of the more lightweight pop acts of the sixties but they were one of our most successful exports to the States and released several good three-minute pop singles.
His latest release On The Road is a compilation of greatest hits recorded live around the world. It includes new material and a guest vocal appearance from daughter Natalie. Peter is currently touring the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. He continues to delight fans with his vocal abilities, wit, and charm.
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