Peter Noone Interview

By shane

When you conjure up the image of the original British Invasion, what exactly comes to mind? The Beatles on Sullivan, sure. The Stones doing "Satisfaction," likely. Perhaps thoughts of the Dave Clark Five, the Yardbirds, maybe Gerry and the Pacemakers. Or maybe, just maybe, you think about Herman's Hermits -- a band that really didn't get a big enough nod in most music history annals, despite the fact that they managed to outsell the Beatles globally in 1965. With the help of tracks like "I'm Into Something Good," "There's a Kind of Hush," "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter," and many others, the band were catapulted into stardom during the mid-60's. The fresh-faced leader of the Hermits was Peter Noone, a boy then of only 16 who had already made a name for himself acting on the BBC soap, "Coronation Street." Today, Peter Noone still maintains a hectic schedule. Having recently completed a US "Teen Idols Tour" with Davey Jones and Bobby Sherman, he's about to embark on a rather lengthy British tour. Noone has also recently launched his on-line project,, where Noone chats regularly (almost daily) with his fans. We were lucky enough to talk to Peter exclusively for Excellent Online as he was preparing a few warm-up shows for the UK tour.

EO: So how did it all begin for Herman's Hermits?

PN: My dad was a professional musician. He wanted me to learn music, and I ended up being better than the teacher at my school. So the school sent me to this place called the Manchester College of Music to take evening extension classes, because I couldn't quit school -- I was 12. And I met all of these musicians there -- incredibly, at this college of music, there were actual musicians! None of whom went professional, they were all basically part-timers, which was kind of sad. And, you know, through those connections, I met the drummer from Freddie and the Dreamers, and I met Wayne Fontana, and I met what became Herman's Hermits through the connections from these musicians. None of them ever played in my band, but I knew one, he knew one, and so on. And I met Keith Hopwood, who was a bit of a local genius and a true hermit, and we put together what became Herman's Hermits.

peter noone then...Peter Noone Then...

EO: Now, you guys were reeeeally young at this point, right?

PN: Bands started with kids in those days. It was a lot of work. It's not like nowadays, y'know. It was safe. We drove around, and the worst thing that would happen is some guys would come out of a bar and thump us for having long hair. You know, we turned into being a pretty good band. We were pretty crap in the beginning -- we had to change our name every time we did a gig, so noone would, like... (laughs) But bit by bit, we got better and better. We just were persistent, I guess.

EO: And all the while, you're still worrying about A-levels and such, eh?

PN: Yeah. I was a bit of a schoolboy genius, but something happened to me when I was 16. I just completely stopped... I think my brain was full. (laughs) I did good at school, I was kind of able to wing it a lot of the time. I'd been to boarding school, and had done all the work they did in public school by the time I got there, know what I mean?

EO: So, to put it in perspective, when you had your first #1 single, you were what? 15? 16?

PN: 16, I think I was. But I'd been busy already. I'd been a TV actor. Y'know, all things led to the same place in Manchester. You went to the College of Music, you got auditions for television appearances. It was kind of a small little provincial town where once you got in the union, you were the guy. Anytime they wanted a 12-year-old boy from England with a school uniform, I was called upon. I could speak with a Manchester accent, and I had a school uniform.

EO: But there must have been incredible pressures. It's amazing you didn't come out of the whole thing scarred with Child-Star Syndrome.

PN: Well, I wasn't really a child star. Really early on, I met Paul McCartney and John Lennon and those guys, and they made me really understand what stardom was. They were very, very kind people to everybody. And Paul said things to me like, "It takes exactly the same amount of time to be nice to people as it does to be a jerk." And just watching the way they performed in every level of the entertainment business -- how they remembered people's names -- they were incredible ambassadors. So I never got the Big-Head Syndrome. It's not really a Child-Star Syndrome, it's the Big-Head Syndrome. Most people just get damaged or wounded by being child stars, because you're the center of attention for quite a long time. I never really was the center of attention. Elvis was the center of attention, and the Beatles were waiting to pounce on his openings.

EO: Don't sell yourself too short -- you had a pretty fair amount of teen idol status.

PN: I enjoyed that, to tell you the truth. It's kind of one of the payoffs for all the hard work, really. Y'know, you didn't have to ask girls to dance. They'd ask you back to their place without the dancing and the cocktail bit.

EO: Now when you guys were taking singles like "I'm Henry VIII, I Am" and "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter," did you ever have to struggle to be taken seriously against critics who might use those singles to peg the Hermits as a novelty band?

PN: Well, we worried about that at the time. But, you know, our only motivation was to have hit records. We had massive competition, you know. The Beatles were our competition. The Stones were our competition. The Dave Clark Five... So all you did, really, was make the best records to sell the most records at the time. And I think we did pretty well -- we sold more records than the Beatles worldwide in 1965. We actually beat them at their own game one year.

EO: Now when it turned towards 1966-67, when the Beatles and the Stones and other bands started playing around with psychedelics and more experimental records, were you ever pressured or did you ever want to try to compete with them on that sort of level?

PN: You know, the fortune for Herman's Hermits is that we always knew who we were, and we were just ourselves. We didn't have to pretend to be cool or different -- we were just Herman's Hermits, and we chose that. When we started, there was already a Beatles. We lived in the neighborhood, we watched them, we played dates with them. So we knew we weren't going to be able to write songs like that. And we'd seen the Stones and the Ravens and the Kinks and all those other bands. And the best blues band was the Manfred Mann Band, and we knew we weren't going that way. So we chose to be specifically like this sort of romantic, comedic kind of band, really. There's an element of tongue-in-cheek in every one of our songs. Walking off into the sunset, holding hands, and being married forever was not exactly a brand new idea. Our songs were like "I'm into something good" and "wonderful world" and "there's a kind of hush all over the world, people are fallin' in love every minute. [sic]" But that's who we were. If we were to do a "Beware of the Brown Acid" song, that would have been the joke record of the lot, y'know what I mean? (laughs). That element has stayed with me forever. I still do comedy -- onstage today, I do Johnny Cash, I spoof Mick Jagger, I spoof teen idols... I call us [Noone, Davey Jones, and Bobby Sherman, who occasionally tour together] the Three Teeners, like the Three Tenors. It's all remained the same. I have a very good sense of humor about music. My father did -- he still has a great sense of humor.

Peter Noone now (troll excluded)...

peter noone now (troll excluded)

EO: So how did the Hermits end?

PN: Amazingly enough, we actually split right at the beginning. After the first album, it became apparent that in order to compete ably, we'd need to have people like Jimmy Page playing guitar and John Paul Jones playing bass, my friends, really. And that was a wound to the egos of the other guys. But you know what, they were really good guys. They were able to stick with it for quite a long time while having their noses constantly pushed in the poo-poo.

[This is a true story. Before the dawning of Led Zeppelin, both Page and Jones were session players, and contributed heavily to some of Herman's Hermits biggest singles.]

EO: After the Hermits died, what were the 70's for you?

PN: I basically jumped out the way, y'know. I wasn't interested in being the opening act at the Holiday Inn or something, y'know? Fortunately, Herman's Hermits made a phenomenal amount of money. We sold so many records that you couldn't avoid making big money -- people just threw it at us. It gave the ability to make these incredibly good choices. People always make bad choices based on finances -- romance and finance. We were very lucky in that way. My dad had been the accountant, and we made enough for me to be able to step aside for a little bit and just watch what was going on. I did a TV series in England for three years. I did two Broadway shows, and that used up three and a half years. There was a whole bunch of stuff that got done, that wasn't really... it wasn't Top 40 stuff, but it was stuff nonetheless.

EO: Eventually you had a bit of a resurgence when a re-recording of "I'm Into Something Good" was featured in the movie "Naked Gun." How did that come about?

PN: Well, what happened was that they wanted to use the original Herman's Hermits recording of it. And they made the picture with Priscilla [Presley] and Leslie [Nielson] running around to that music. And then they found out that Allen Klein -- you know, the thorn in the side of life -- was not going to allow them to use it unless they paid him one million dollars. That's the way he works, he's just scum. So they called me and said, "What should we do?" And I said, "Well, I still sing it exactly the same way, how 'bout I just come in and re-record it and no one will know the difference?" And people don't. The guitar solo is completely different, 'cause we didn't have a guitar around at that moment when we recorded the original. But people still thought it was the original, which was the idea. It was also a way at pointing one of my fingers at Allen Klein, and they helped me to do that. The Stones went back into bed with him, so I haven't spoken to them in a bit now. We should have all got together and got rid of him forever, you know. But the Stones went back to him and did that London Years deal. I'm dying to meet Keith and ask him what the motivation was. It could not have been money, I hope. Surely they've got enough money. If not, I'll write 'em a check! (laughs)

EO: I remember seeing you on "Married With Children" making a cameo pop. Is that something you like to do?

PN: That was one of my favorite shows, that. What a horrible family. I didn't know that eventually every TV show in America would have a horrible family on it. But it amused me, that show, and then they wanted to do this thing where I could play myself. It was great. A great fun show. And I've done others, too. I was in that "Remember WENN" series on AMC, and I did "Quantum Leap." I didn't play myself in that one -- I played the manager of a rock band. A cross-dressing, murdering, embezzling manager -- sounded pretty normal to me. (laughs.) Not unlike a lot of managers I knew. I've done lots of stuff like that. Davey Jones and I did "My Two Dads." I did "Laverne and Shirley" with Eric Idle. I just did a "Dave's World" last year. I love Dave, so doing the show was a classic moment for me. I read Dave every day.

EO: A final question for you: Between the constant touring, acting, and recording, do you still get time or interest to keep up on the current British music scene?

PN: I love the British music scene right now. There are so many great bands in England. I'm going back in February, and all I do... it's fortunate, because in rock and roll right now, for us elder kackers, it's all over by 11:00, so... I got to see Marilyn Manson when I was on the last English tour, because they start after 11. I like Alice Cooper better, I think he's better in that role than Marilyn Manson. If you offered me an evening with Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson, I would definitely take Alice. Alice is a real man. I like the Cure... I'm into all that... I like Blur and I like Suede and I even like those... Boyzone, and stuff like that.

EO: Boyzone? Seriously? You actually sit about and listen to boybands?

PN: The records are good! You know, the records are really well-made. They've got guitars on them. You know, for a while there it was all a bit... midi hell, there, wasn't it, those British bands. But now they've got guitars again.

EO: What's your take on Oasis?

PN: They're crap. You know, I went to see them and they disappointed me. I thought that live, they were the most disappointing act I'd ever seen. Ever. Their songs are wonderful. The singing's good, and the playing's good, but onstage it was like, haven't they SEEN the Beatles? Just a little bit of, you know, we're grateful that you've showed up. I think probably John Lennon was one of the coolest people in the world. And when he worked onstage, he had time for the audience, you know. I mean, it's not showing up for work. The work is getting there -- onstage, you're supposed to have fun and do your music. Oasis really pissed me off. Their music's phenomenal. They've got a great bass player, great drummer... and that's the root of every great band. Take Fleetwood Mac... the Stones... all really good bands, they have to have those guys... U2... that part of the band has to be really, really tight. In that department, they were great. One of the brothers was kind of energetic and a bit fat, and the other brother was just boring! He thought I came to see him!