More than 55 years since his band Herman’s Hermits were part of the British Invasion that revolutionized popular music, Peter Noone is still connecting with his fans.
Noone will be playing live at the Misquamicut Drive-In in Westerly on Sunday July 26th at 8:30PM. He is enthusiastic about getting back out on the road, socially distanced of course. “I’m looking forward to this weird, strange new kind of adventure,” the 72-year-old legend cautiously announced in a phone interview last week.
I asked how he was approaching his current tour, which includes several drive-in theater shows and smaller than usual audiences.
“It’s reminiscent of the beginning of my career, when I would go to the Cavern (in Liverpool, England) and my parents told me it was dangerous and there would be horrible people there and you would miss the last bus home. When I started at the Cavern, we were lucky if 12 people showed up. I saw the Beatles in a similar situation in 1963. They played in a field near my grandmother’s house. And they didn’t even have a drive-in stage, they just had a bit of wood – a 6 inch high stage.”
“As you get older,” explained Noone, “you get a list of reasons not to do things. I’ve thrown away that list. I want to sing my songs, the idea that they stayed around since I was 16 years old is fascinating to me. I’m gonna keep going out there and singing songs like “What a Wonderful World.” We don’t have “Eve or Destruction” in our setlist,” he joked.
Once upon a time, radio staples like “I’m Into Something Good” and “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” drove teenagers crazy. Herman’s Hermits was a Top 40 AM radio staple for several years in the mid-1960’s. The songs came together quickly, as Noone explained.
“When I was a kid, I had a Buddy Holly collection, and he was already dead so it was in the past, that was what was considered oldies. I never expected my songs to be able to stand the test of time, we made them in a particular moment. We got the idea for a song on Thursday and we’d make it over the weekend and it would be in the stores and on the radio in a few days. Herman’s Hermits, we were radio top 40 staples, it was sickening we were on so much. That was a joyful period.”
Noone was close with legendary producer Mickie Most, who worked with numerous British Invasion bands. “He was my best friend, the best man at my wedding, he was my daughter’s godfather. He and I were on the same page musically, we both liked the same music. He made all those great Donovan records, all those Animals records. Working with him was all fun, we never had an argument. Most singers fall out with the producer, but that never happened to us, we stayed friends until the end.”
He continued, “All my friends that were in bands, like the Beatles, they did it cause they loved music. When I started as a musician the last thing on my mind was making music professionally. I had a band, and for two years we shlepped around, I had school, I had a job. I did everything just to keep the band able to play. One night, we made 4 pounds, 10 shillings and that was more money than the petrol and the van rental. We ate fish and chips on the way home that night.”
I wondered about his favorite memories from his younger days. Noone reminisced about John Lennon.
“(In 1965), we did the New Music Express poll winners’ concert at Wembly Stadium in London. It was the Beatles, the Stones, the Yardbirds, The Who, Cliff Richards and Herman’s Hermits – the Top 10 bands in England. We were so ecstatic with the idea that journalists would vote for us.
“So we get there and I see John Lennon, who I know socially. I went to a nightclub once when I wasn’t old enough to drink and he told the waitress, I’ll have two Bacardi’s and he’ll have two cokes. Then he took one of my cokes and gave me one of his Bacardi’s…
“So I’m standing in the tunnel, from the dressing rooms, talking to John Lennon and my band, the Hermit’s, starts to play one of my songs, and Lennon says, ‘Isn’t this one of your songs?’ I can see my band on stage playing the introduction and I run to the stage – and there’s video of it – arriving about the fifth time around the intro.”
Noone hopes to make more memories going forward. “It’s a weird time for sure, I just hope everyone gets there safely, I’m gonna fly there, get my own row on the plane, I hope everyone makes it. We’ll be ok, and I’m planning to work for another ten years no matter what.”
Noone’s setlist typically includes Hermit’s classics like and “I’m Into Something Good,” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” along with covers from The Beatles, The Kinks and Sam Cooke. It promises to be a great night of music! Click here for complete details.