Birchmere welcomes Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits

Listen to the full conversation on our podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Herman's Hermits at The Birchmere (Part 1)

He brought the British Invasion to America alongside The Beatles and Rolling Stones.

On Thursday, Peter Noone’s Herman’s Hermits hits The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia.

“I’ve been there many times,” Noone told WTOP. “It’s an unusual audience, because you can communicate with them. They’re near the stage and it’s a useful place for me to try new things. I tell stories and sing songs — and sometimes a story leads to a song.”

Born in Lancashire, England in 1947, Noone grew up in a musical family.

“Every funeral, wedding, Christening baptism, people would gather in my grandmother’s house,” Noone said. “She was the choir mistress at the local church, my grandfather was the organ player at the church, my father was a trombone player in a band, his brother was the trumpet player in a band, and my Auntie Mary played Fats Waller songs on the piano.”

As a teenager, he performed at The Cavern and The Oasis in Manchester.

“At the age of 13, everybody had a skiffle group,” Noone said. “My grandmother was even in our group; she played the washboard … nobody had any money, so it was just street stuff … some people in those original groups didn’t want to do it for a living, so Herman’s Hermits was me and four people who all believed we had a future in the music business.”

Along the way, the band name included The Cyclones, The Heartbeats, Pete Novak and The Heartbeats before changing to Herman & The Hermits, and finally Herman’s Hermits.

“We were a Buddy Holly cover band,” Noone said. “I wore horn-rimmed glasses (and) the guy who owned the pub came over and said, ‘What the bloody hell are you doing?’ I said, ‘It’s Buddy Holly!’ He said, ‘It’s nothing like Buddy Holly. It’s more like Herman from the ‘Bullwinkle show.’ He meant ‘Sherman,’ but we laughed and I became Herman.”

Producer Mickie Most signed them to EMI Columbia in Europe and MGM in the U.S.

“You played around and built a following, then it became your turn to get signed,” Noone said. “It went The Hollies, The Four Pennies, Freddie & The Dreamers, all these bands were getting signed, Wayne Fountain & The Mindbenders, bit by bit we became signable. We went for an audition in London, got turned down, then eventually got signed.”

Their breakout hit was an instant classic with “I’m Into Something Good” (1964), originally written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin for Earl-Jean. The new version dethroned The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” at No. 1 on the UK singles chart and hit No. 13 in America.

“We made it our own,” Noone said. “It was a girl’s song and I rewrote the lyrics to be a boy’s song without permission. Once it was a hit, everybody agreed it was a very good idea. We’d always done that. We used to do ‘My Boy Lollipop’ at the pub. Nobody did that … the audience just liked the song, they didn’t listen to any of the general part of it.”

They followed up with another hit single with “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” (1965), which went all the way to No. 2, behind only “Stop! In the Name of Love” by The Supremes.

“There was a great band called Carter Lewis & The Southerners because they were from the South of England,” Noone said. “They had this song that they thought sounded like the perfect follow-up to ‘I’m Into Something Good’ and they got that song to us … Mickie Most would run into the room and go, ‘Ha!’ — now that’s part of the record. Audiences sing it.”

Their next big hit was “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” (1965), which was originally sung by actor Tom Courtenay in the British TV play “The Lads” (1963). It debuted on the Hot 100 at No. 12 — the third highest of the decade — ultimately reaching No. 1.

“Keith Hopwood bought a Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar, the Chet Atkins model, which had a little damper that made it sound like a banjo,” Noone said. “Through the guitar, we created this song … Mickie recorded it against his will … He said, ‘I’ll hide it on Side 2’ … Some disc jockey in Philadelphia played it for 24 hours. It had 600,000 advance orders.”

They reached No. 1 again with their rendition of the old British music hall tune “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” (1965), dethroning “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones.

“It’s kind of a punk song, so it’s different from everything else we do in the show,” Noone said. “The Ramones even did a moment from it, so it’s a Herman’s Hermits punk thing.”

In 1965, Billboard ranked Herman’s Hermits as the top-selling act of 1965 with The Beatles at No. 2, proving the group’s role in the British Invasion of American popular music.

“We were the biggest selling act in America for two years in a row: 1965 and 1966,” Noone said. “None of us were in a competition, so the idea that we sold more records than The Beatles — they just happened to be off making ‘Abbey Road’ or something … the Stones weren’t like The Beatles, The Beatles weren’t like The Who and we weren’t like anybody.”

Today, the Sirius XM station “Something Good” is lovingly named after the band, which has compiled an impressive total of 24 gold hits selling over 51 million records worldwide.

“If I can still sing these songs 60 years later, it means they are good songs,” Noone said.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Herman's Hermits at The Birchmere (Part 2)

Listen to the full conversation on our podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up