STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
There’s a reason they have to call themselves “Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone.”
In a phone interview, the voice of smash British Invasion 1960s hits “I’m Into Something Good,” “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” and “There’s A Kind of Hush” explained that because of loopholes in English trademark law, “the (Herman’s Hermits) name was hijacked by somebody.”
Just three days after his 68th birthday, the Noone-led Hermits play two shows on Nov. 8 at Sellersville Theater. “It’s a good room for us to play in. We don’t have to play too loud,” said Noone of the theater, where the band never seems to miss making a concert appearance whenever they’re on tour.
Noone’s four-piece backing lineup of Herman’s Hermits has remained the same for the last 20 years, he said, and he also stays in touch with the surviving members of the original band, which had a successful run of hits from 1964-1968.
Coinciding with John Lennon’s 75th birth anniversary this year, Noone released a tribute single on iTunes called “I Can’t Imagine.” The new song came about because of Noone’s daughter, who’s taking classes at a music school in Nashville. “One of her professors at the university had an idea for this John Lennon song. Being from the old school, I said: ‘Why don’t we record it and see how it goes?’ It was a nice idea,” he said.
Besides all the Herman’s Hermits hits that scaled the charts, the band knows 300 songs, according to Noone. Those include R&B and country covers, and even songs made famous by Noone’s fellow Manchester ‘60s teen idol, Davy Jones, who died in 2012.
Noone remembered a show from several years ago, with he and Jones both on the bill, and said that “The Monkees” star had complained of dizziness backstage that night. “I’m not a doctor, but dizzy’s not good,” he commented, believing that was a warning sign for Jones to seek medical attention.
Although saddened by the loss of a friend, “it’s not a bad way to go, doing what you love,” Noone said, referring to Jones riding one of his horses in Florida at the time of his fatal heart attack.
Noone pointed out that entertainers need to take care of themselves the same way that athletes do. “The older you get, the more people you know are dying. You have to train. Your best 90 minutes has to be at ‘the game,’ not in the dressing room or the nightclub,” he said.
The band does take requests, said Noone, and their goal is to make each show different. “If we weren’t in a band, we’d still be playing music for people. It’s like being a stamp collector and turning it into a stamp collecting business,” he said, adding that he never gets tired of singing the old beat-pop songs like “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” (which is actually an English music hall song of the 1910s).
Noone’s career has been a fascinating mix of artistic triumph and projects he’d do differently, given another chance. On one hand, he gave David Bowie an important early-career boost by recording Bowie’s composition “Oh! You Pretty Things” (with Bowie on piano) as a solo single, making it a hit in Britain before Bowie later presented his own version of the song on his 1971 album “Hunky Dory.”
On the other hand, there was the 1968 comedy musical film “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” named after one of Herman’s Hermits’ signature songs and starring the band, a la The Beatles in “Hard Day’s Night” and “Help.” It was the third movie that the band had appeared in. Noone initially described the “Mrs. Brown” movie as a “good idea,” but didn’t seem proud of the finished product. “MGM, our label, decided we were movie stars. It didn’t really translate to celluloid … The Hermits weren’t actors,” he said.
Noone would go on to expand his acting career on Broadway and with TV guest appearances on “As the World Turns,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “My Two Dads,” “Quantum Leap” and “Married with Children.” He also voiced a character in the 2011 “Meatloaf Surprise” episode of Disney Channel’s “Phineas and Ferb.”
In the early ‘80s, Noone formed a new wave group called The Tremblers. “I thought I could act as if Herman’s Hermits had continued,” he commented, believing The Tremblers would’ve been more successful had they come along right after The Hermits officially disbanded in 1971.
The host of the 1990s VH1 series about the ‘60s, “My Generation,” Noone said he’s working on a live theater show of one-on-one interviews — expanding upon what he did for four years as the host of “My Generation” — and shared that The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz is at the top of his wish list for guests.
Drowning in fan letters during Herman and the Hermits’ heyday, Noone had hoped for decades that something like the Internet and social media would come along to connect the fans. Today, he hosts the show “Something Good” Saturdays on Sirius XM’s ‘60s on 6, and is online at www.peternoone.com, www.facebook.com/HermansHermitsStarringPeterNoone and www.youtube.com/user/peternoone. Twitter and Instagram follows can be made @peternoone.