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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, October 26, 2000

Hermits still
draw a crowd

By Tim Ryan

Herman's Hermits was one of the more lightweight pop acts of the '60s, but they were also one of the most successful exports to the United States, earning several gold records and albums.

Lead singer Peter Noone, now 52 and touring the United States, Canada and Great Britain, performs with new Hermits tomorrow night at the Blaisdell Arena, along with Eric Burdon and the Animals.

Noone was born in Manchester, England, where his father was a semi-pro musician. The younger Noone studied singing and acting at the Manchester School of Music and Drama.

In 1963, he joined The Heartbeats after their singer failed to show up for a gig. He took the name Herman after band members said he looked like Sherman in "The Bullwinkle Show" cartoon. He misheard the name as Herman. The group changed its name to Herman and the Hermits, then Herman's Hermits.

The band's first song, "I'm Into Something Good," spent two weeks at No. 1 in 1964 and became its first million-seller. The group's second million-seller was "Can't You Hear My Heart Beat."

The group's breakthrough song was "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter," which spent three weeks atop the charts, selling 14-million copies worldwide. Other hits were "I'm Henry the Eighth (I Am)," a revival of a 1911 music hall song, and the 1966 beat ballad, "There's A Kind of Hush."

The Star-Bulletin caught up with Noone by telephone as he was picking up his 14-year-old daughter, Natalie, at her Santa Barbara school.

Star-Bulletin: How many concerts do you do annually?

PN: One hundred, mostly in United States and some in Britain; this year we went to China.

SB: Are you surprised that Herman's Hermits remains popular?

PN: Constantly, though I'm more surprised at the audience's age. We get a lot of kids without their parents.

SB: Herman's Hermits always had a clean safe image; was that a marketing plan?

PN: No. We got away with it because we really were a bunch of nice guys.

SB: What was the marketing plan?

PN: We made records for young girls. When the music business changed to sell to boys the record business declined. Now it's back to the '60s marketing and it is doing very well.

SB: What was the turning point?

PN: The movie "Titanic." After all these little girls went to see the film over and over again, the industry realized that these girls like a bit of romance. (Leonardo) didn't screw the girl in the back of a car. He just held her hand on the front of the ship. How kind and gentle is that? You know young girls don't like guys holding their crotches.

SB: What was it like being so young and touring the world?

PN: I can remember our manager asking if we wanted to perform in the Philippines. We said yes, not when or how much. We just wanted to go to the Philippines. We were amazed we could go to all these places and people would give us money as well.

SB: How did you feel about being a teen idol?

PN: I never wanted that. People didn't buy our records because I was a sex symbol but because they were bloody good songs. I don't want to be remembered as being cute but as being good.

SB: Was there a real Mrs. Brown in the song "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter"?

PN: No. It's a line from a book that had two main characters, Mrs. Brown and a Vicar. Mrs. Brown says to the Vicar: "You've got a lovely daughter" and the Vicar replies, "Thank you very much." What I loved about the song was that it had no rhymes. No one ever noticed that and it still sold millions of records.

SB: What are your hobbies?

PN: I spend a lot of time on the internet. I'm a geek. I'm writing a book online -- "High Noone," the story of my life, but in a comedy form.

SB: What's your favorite Herman's Hermits' song?

PN: That constantly changes. I like the bars of "Henry the Eighth," it's a great showman's tune. It's a dumb song and doesn't say anything, but once upon a time songs were supposed to be dumb. I don't think musicians have a purpose other than to entertain.

SB: Are you content with your career?

PN: It's more like gratitude. There were a lot of people much more talented than me at my school of music who never made it.

On stage

Bullet Who: Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits with Eric Burdon and The Animals
Bullet Date: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Bullet Place: Blaisdell Arena
Bullet Tickets: $25 to $35, available at Blaisdell box office, and Ticket Plus outlets
Bullet Call: 591-2211

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