The man who pined after Mrs. Brown's lovely daughter talk with Chuck Darrow before his Aug. 16 show at the Philly gambling den.
As the sole creators of what was quickly dubbed the “British Invasion” of the mid-1960s, The Beatles are rightfully and obviously remembered as the biggest, most influential pop music act of the era. But any ranking of the artists that turned the music business-and society in general--on its head during that time has to include Herman’s Hermits.
With smash hits including “I’m Into Something Good,” “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “There’s A Kind of Hush,” “No Milk Today” and, of course, the British music hall chestnut, “I’m Henry The VIII, I Am,” and Peter Noone, a teenaged lead singer who went eyelash-to-eyelash with Paul McCartney in the make-the-girls-melt sweepstakes, Herman’s Hermits were a chart-topping juggernaut.
While Noone left the Manchester, England-born group in 1971, he has never forsaken the music which, has provided him more than five decades of fame and fortune and a life populated by the likes of The Beatles and Rolling Stones.
Now 71 (and looking a lot younger) Noone, who hosts the weekly Something Good oldies program on Sirius/XM’s ‘60s channel, keeps a touring schedule that would challenge someone half his age, performing more than 150 shows a year. He has proven a particularly reliable draw on the casino circuit; he is a nominee, along with Barry Manilow and Dwight Yoakam for this year’s “Entertainer of the Year” award to be presented at the upcoming Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, the gambling industry’s largest trade convention.
Despite his sterling musical resume, Noone’s first experience in show business was as a child actor on a legendary British TV series called Coronation Street, which is still airing on the ITV network.
“I was at a place called the Manchester School of Music and…they opened the first independent television station [in England] around the corner. They started making all these productions, one of which was…Coronation Street,” recalled the chatty Noone during a recent phone call from the Santa Barbara, Cal. golf course which his house overlooks (he doesn’t play, he noted, but uses it for his daily 10-mile walks).
“And they would send scouts over to the school” to look for kids when they were needed for productions.
“I wasn't even in the drama class. I was in the music class. But they were looking for a 12-year-old kid to be a schoolboy on the show. I was a 12-year-old schoolboy. And then I got in the union. So, every time they needed a kid, I'd get the job because I was the only kid in the union.”
That, he continued, led to some gigs that would be deemed, in his words, “inappropriate” in these politically correct times.
“I even got to play an Asian-Indian boy where they painted my body. In those days, you could get away with that. And I even did the accent because there were no local Indian boys. So they made me into an Indian boy.”
Nonetheless, music was his first love, and once The Beatles, who hailed from nearby Liverpool, began their world-changing career, putting together a band was Noone’s focus.
Once Herman’s Hermits took America by storm, MGM—no doubt motivated by the global success of the Fab Four’s A Hard Day’s Night-signed the band to a deal that yielded three films: When the Boys Meet the Girls, Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter and Hold On!, which boasted an especially ludicrous plot. Suffice it to say, Noone’s acting chops were not particularly taxed by the films, and none of the movies made anyone forget the Beatles’ flick.
Hold On!, he recalled, “Was originally called There’s No Place Like Space. In it, ‘Herman’s Hermits’ is chosen by the teenagers of America to be the new name of [a spaceship]. I mean, brilliant, isn't it? It's just so bad that, you know, it’s joyful.”
Not that Noone has any regrets about his adventures in La-La Land.
“We didn't want to be in Hollywood,” he admitted. “But when we got there and made the movie, we made the most of it. We rented Cary Grant’s house and we usually had a hundred girls over every night. We bought motorcycles and went up and down Laurel Canyon. It was like a holiday.
“The whole thing was nonsense. You know, we didn't want to be in a movie, but MGM wanted a soundtrack and the only way they could get a soundtrack was to do like they did with Elvis: You put a shi--y idea up on the screen, Elvis looks good, and then he sings a few songs and you sell a million records and they give you $1 million.
“Well, yeah. Okay.”
SugarHouse, 1001 N. Delaware Ave., Philadelphia; 8 p.m. Aug. 16; $45 and $35; for tickets, click here.