by Mark Casasanto
In the early to mid-sixties, the musical landscape that was American music was built primarily on the backs of teen idols, surf music and female vocal groups. It was during that time, however, that an interesting phenomenon occurred. An event, in essence, that would change the face of music, the world over, forever.
The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who and of course, The Beatles all stood at the forefront of what was termed “The British Invasion”. Also in this mix was Herman’s Hermits, fronted by a then fifteen year old, charismatic, Peter Noone. Herman’s Hermits found their lane amongst the highway of rock heavies with soft, catchy, pop tunes appropriately tagged as “BritPop”. Or as Noone chooses to describe their catalog, “uplifting and sometimes quirky.”
Having been born into that era of the British musical occupation, if you will, my answer would probably be best stated as “all of the above” when asked to describe some of my earliest musical influences. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until a somewhat recent PBS My Music special that Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits appeared on my rhythmic radar. Now don’t get me wrong, I- like many- sang along to “I’m Into Something Good” for years. Blame the movie The Naked Gun, I guess.
I travel a lot. Music is my neutralizer. In a car, on a plane, in a train. It keeps me calm and quite frankly, it works better than Xanax. Well, at least for me. Over the last several years, I made myself a promise not to piss away any opportunity to do something off the beaten path or check something off the list… any list! Friday night, on the strength of maybe two songs as the lure to the “I’d pay just to hear that song” bait, I hooked on to a pair of tickets and drove over to The Event Center at SugarHouse Casino. I came away with a new found admiration for Herman’s Hermits and maybe even a little man crush for Peter Noone as well.
Flat out, he’s a masterful frontman. He’s humorous and witty with the approachable appeal of the lovable cousin from across the pond. It was literally joyful to be in the audience as he and his Hermits energetically knocked out hit after hit that took the sold out showroom on a musical journey through the sixties. In strikingly good voice and with amazing range, Noone covered everything from Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, The Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash” (with the obligatory Mick Jagger imitation), and “All My Loving” by the Beatles.
Midway through the set, amongst his memorable stories of Steel Pier and its diving horse, Noone acknowledged that he was in Bobby Rydell’s hometown and even tried his hand at a South Philly accent. With that, he explained how his sister repeatedly played a particular Rydell B-side until it wore out, or as he elaborated, “me and my dad really got sick of it.” In a poignant moment of homage, and as an addition to what has become a fairly fixed setlist, Noone launched into a passionate cover of “I’ll Never Dance Again.”
Credit Noone also for pacing the show with perfect precision. Although largely upbeat, with an up tempo song selection, two beautiful show-stopping ballads strategically fell into place for maximum effect. Both “Listen People” and “End of the World” were flawless from the band’s soft and tender treatment of the arrangements to Noone’s, at times, haunting vocals delivered with piercing clarity.
Rounding out the twenty-three song set were four staples of the Herman’s Hermits songbook. Delivered like a staggering combination of uncontested punches from a heavyweight champion en route to the inevitable knockout, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat”, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter”, “I’m Henery the Eighth (I Am)” and then finally, “There’s A Kind of Hush” transformed the crowd into a 1,500 person Friday night house party. There was singing, dancing and maybe even a spilled drink or two.
After wavering a couple weeks, in the spirit of should’ve, would’ve, and could’ve decisions, I ultimately had this assignment dropped into my lap. Let me tell you, I’m still feelin’ glad all over. After the standing eight count at the end of the raucous “I’m Henery the Eighth (I Am)”… no pun intended…I chuckled with the realization, that indeed, that’s a song better experienced live. Better yet, it rolled into the very reason I was captivated with affable Brits in the first place. There’s something good, real good, about the Herman’s Hermits’ hit “There’s A Kind Of Hush”. Maybe it’s the la las… who knows? All I know is, Friday night… I got my la las off and I liked it! Let’s leave it at that.
More importantly, if you get the chance, while they’re still touring, Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits are well worth a ninety minute investment of time, voice and hand claps. If not to relive the music of kinder, gentler time, then just to have an all out great time!
Upcoming shows at the SugarHouse Event Center can be found on their website.