Peter Noone was always into something good. A multi-talented entertainer, he has been delighting audiences nearly all his life. From his humble beginnings in Manchester, England, he studied voice and acting at St. Bede’s College and the Manchester School of Music and Drama, and played “Stanley Fairclough” in the long-running British soap opera Coronation Street.
Ever since the age of fifteen, Noone’s been in the thick of the music action, having achieved international fame as “Herman”, lead singer of the legendary Sixties pop band Herman’s Hermits. His classic hits included “I’m Into Something Good” “Mrs. Brown, you’ve Got A Lovely Daughter”, “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” (a British music hall song by Harry Champion dating from 1911, which Peter Noone’s Irish grandfather had been in the habit of singing when Noone was young), “Silhouettes”, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat”, “Just A Little Bit Better”, “Wonderful World”, “There’s A Kind of Hush”, “A Must To Avoid”, “Listen People”, “The End of the World” and “Dandy”. Ultimately, Herman’s Hermits sold over sixty million recordings. In all, fourteen singles and seven albums went gold. The Hermits were twice named Cashbox’s “Entertainer of the Year”.
As “Herman”, the photogenic Noone graced the cover of nearly every international publication, including Time Magazine. He performed on hundreds of top-rated television programs and appeared with such luminaries as Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason, Dean Martin and Danny Kaye. He also starred in ABC’s musical version of The Canterville Ghost, Hallmark Hall of Fame’s presentation of the classic Pinocchio (in which he played the title role) and three highly successful feature films for M-G-M: Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter, Hold On! and When The Boys Meet The Girls. Throughout the seventies, Noone performed, composed songs and produced recordings with such artists as David Bowie, Debby Boone and Graham Gouldman.
The 80s found Peter starring on Broadway in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s production of The Pirates of Penzance. He won rave reviews for his superb portrayal of the dashing, young hero, “Frederic”. His performance was so well received, that he went on to reprise the role at the world-famous Drury Lane Theatre in London. Noone charmed audiences worldwide as he continued to play “Frederic” with both the U.S. National Touring Company and the International Touring Company of “Pirates”.
For four years in the 90s, Noone served as the winsome host of VH1’s My Generation, the highest-ever-rated half hour retrospective of popular music. He also hosted the informative PBS Special The British Invasion Returns and recorded the title song for the Kirk Douglas film Diamonds.
Noone is ever-mindful of where he came from. Though he has sold millions of records, he never strayed from a strong work ethic, and to this day, doesn’t shy away from not just busy day schedules of media interviews, then performances at night, he keeps a high profile online, talking to fans on his website and on social media, one of the few from the 60s musical eras to do this.
Noone also currently hosts the program “Something Good with Peter Noone” Saturdays on Sirius/XM’s ’60s on 6 channel, playing hits and deep cuts of the era along with his own stories. And he has a ton of stories to tell. Mostly today, though, he talks about the tricks of the trade – Preparation, luck – and instinct.
Tell me a little bit about the Sirius XM radio show that you do every weekend. How did that get started?
I did a benefit with Paul Williams, you know, the singer Paul Williams, in New York.
The writer of “Evergreen”, the love theme from A Star Is Born, “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie, and”Touch” and co-wrote “Beyond” found on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories? That Paul Williams?
Yeah! And just a stand up thing, just not even… not singing or anything. And I think the boss from Sirius enjoyed my chat, and offered me a radio show.
And just like that you’re on the air.
I don’t have a radio voice if you know what I mean. I’m just a chatty guy. I don’t have… (mimicks 60s AM-radio DJ voice): “Hey, this is Peter Noone…” That radio stuff. So I think they were looking for something different, and I’m the kind of voice of the 60s.
Sirius XM are having some great success in what the BBC is doing, too. A few classic rockers are now hosting their own radio shows to talk about their stories and memories from their era.
Yeah, and I’ve got a lot of stories, so I guess I have the job for a while. A lot of people who were around at the time during the 60s are either not alive or not lucid. And so you know, how did I get the job? I outlived all the competition.
Last man standing! You win! You’ve always been okay with taking a look back on your life, which kind of helps with this sort of radio show. You have to be comfortable talking about your past, and sometimes the downs. Not everyone wants to hear about the successes all the time.
You know, I was like a tourist. It’s like even though I was in a band, I was still very excited to be in the same room as The Beatles and all that. All those cool people who’d like take all that for granted. I was very excited to be included in the music business, do you know what I mean? The whole thing was a pleasure for me. A lot of people go oh, yeah, well that was then and this is now and all that. I don’t subscribe to any of that.
There’s no question you need a lot of determination in order to be a success. But you’ve had something else though. You’ve had some pretty level-headed moments where you haven’t been too up, you haven’t been too down. You weren’t one of these guys that were like always in the newspapers for like destroying hotel rooms and having scandalous affairs.
Yeah. Well, some people think that’s boring, but that’s the only way I know how to do it. You know, what happened to me was I showed up when I was 15 in the music business and realized that I was over-educated for the position. And I go wait a second, there’s a better way to manage this, you know. And lots of that stuff you saw, Robert Plant, you know, all those stories about nights of rampaging and everything. And then he goes well, you know, that’s a good story, but you know the singer usually has to be up early in the morning and have a voice that night. The singer always did all the interviews and all the radio shows, so he had to be ready in the morning to go to work. 90% of promoting a band is being ready to go to work. And we always thought of ourselves kind of as athletes. Very early on Brian Jones was a friend of mine, and he dropped out of the business completely because he couldn’t take care of himself. And we decided that just like athletes, you had to be ready for the game. You can’t show up in the Stanley Cup with a broken leg. You have to be there with your best game for the match.
Oh, a hockey reference! I love that. Where does that work ethic come from?
My team is the Philadelphia Flyers!
Sorry to hear that, but we can continue talking just the same.
Ha! It’s a working class ethic that I got from my grandparents and my parents who went to work every day. And when I mean working class, they could be accountants, but they still had to be like sober and ready to go to work at 9:00 o’clock in the morning. People just went from hand-to-mouth in the two generations before me. You know, they worked to feed their children. So, you know, the idea that you would be given all these lucky breaks and waste them because you were hanging around in a bar until 4:00 a.m. wasn’t part of the concept. I was kind of always grateful to be in the game. You know how many people I know that were absolutely magnificent musical talents who didn’t get any luck? I think in retrospect, when I was making it and doing well they probably hated me. They had to pretend that they liked me because they’re going my God, he’s getting all these lucky breaks. You know, how lucky is it that you got into the studio and you got a bunch of teenaged boys and you make a record like “I’m Into Something Good”, and you put it out, and everybody thinks it’s… all your friends think it’s a load of rubbish. Then it goes to #1 everywhere in the world. Suddenly we were on the road with The Beatles and Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, our heroes. Met Elvis Presley. And suddenly we’re in this like… this major league stuff.
Luck plays a lot more part in the successes of bands than people realize. So many things have to go right. Not just radio, or TV producers liking the band, but just a linear effect of so many different possibilities all lining up correctly.
I believe it’s a cumulative effect. I think if Ringo hadn’t shown up The Beatles might not have made it. And I think if Brian Epstein hadn’t had talked them into playing more dates at The Cavern, they may not have made it. And I think if Neil Aspinall hadn’t been the van driver who would drop Ringo off first because he lived near the other guys, all that is part of it, you know. It’s all… luck is a cumulative thing. I think you add on to it hundreds and hundreds of things.
I believe that, you know, all my luck was made by the people who were in the room, including the person who went and got the sandwiches. It’s not like walk in and it’s your lucky day and you win the lottery. You’ve got to be doing lots of stuff to get luck.
The British Invasion were made up of a bunch of guys who figured out that they could play everywhere, and all get all their stuff in a van and make it financially manageable, they could make it. That’s really what it was. If you could buy the gas and you could get to and from the gig and have a drink and a bag of chips then that was a successful night. Well then suddenly… now what happens is it’s not even about luck; it’s about showing all your stuff off. You’ve got to have fireworks on stage and explosions and dancing girls and everything. The next thing will be like a Bob Dylan guy who shows up with his guitar and entertains. These days, the bands don’t need luck now; they need financial advice. You need an investor just to get going now, which is wrong. All those great Canadian bands drove around Canada in a van for years before they made it, and they got good and they found out what the audience want and most importantly they found out who they were. Herman’s Hermits found out who we were when we did “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” at The Cabin and people went what’s that about? That’s something different. No other bands were doing that.
So we found out who we were. Oh, let’s do songs that no one else would do. Let’s do My Boy Lollipop. Well, it’s sung by a girl! Yeah, let’s do it.
Are there any lessons that people can take away from your stories onstage or the radio show?
We’re enthusiasts – of the scene, of music, of people, of bands. You can’t be in my band unless you’re enthusiastic about playing the music. And my guitar player once said to me, I just want to be able to play as well as we can every night. Let’s try and get it better, and we rehearse every show, which is like a joke. We’re still rehearsing things. All we have to do is be able to play as good as those 15-year-old boys today did on the record. We truly are enjoying ourselves on stage. There isn’t a song that we do that I don’t like. We know 300 songs, so it’s very rare that we can’t do a song.
What kind of advice would you give the young Peter Noone ?
Keep it cheap. Make sure you can all get it in one piece of equipment because nobody can afford to travel around with buses and trucks and lighting rigs and all that. You just got to be good… you got to be entertaining without all the stuff that goes around it. I was lucky because I found like a bunch of people who believed that I had a clue, and I didn’t have a clue. You know, I just said let’s do this. We saw The Beatles in a field. I went with another guy, and we saw The Beatles play in a field behind my grandmother’s house. We heard this band play and we crossed… and it was The Beatles, and we snuck in at the back, and they were playing a show in a field. And the guy with me looked at me and said, we’re fucked. That’s his exact words. And I didn’t think we were. I thought no. And I found guys who quit their day jobs, and we worked 10-11 hours a day learning songs so that we could get a gig as good as The Beatles one day. You know what I mean? Still trying, still trying to be that good. But you know what, there’s different kinds of people, and if you’re persistent, and you know, decide that all you’ve got to do is work harder than everyone else, you may make it. And remember this, the key words is work harder than everyone else. My dad said, you know, well they’ve got talent, so you need to work harder. Meaning I didn’t have talent. I was kind of insulted. I said I’ll show you who’s got talent. You know what I mean?
It isn’t an easy gig being a musician. Unless you’re an artist. Then you just go and play whatever you want and you sometimes might have to build a manuscript every now and then.
When I look at The Beatles, and I had this everlasting vision in my head of The Beatles being announced on stage at Shea Stadium. And they ran from the dugout to the stage faster than any baseball player has ever run. And they jump up on stage and then went one, two, three, four. That’s it. Enthusiasm.
We started out where you had to play to an audience who didn’t like you. In fact, once John Lennon said to me, you know what your problem is, you’re playing to those people at the front, those girls at the front who are single. You should be playing to the blokes at the back who don’t like you. And he said, and I’ll wave, meaning he didn’t like me. So there’s certain people who would not like me, but I’ve got to try and include them in the show. And that advice has stood well. We want everyone to like us. We want your husband to like us as well, you know what I mean? So it’s a constant challenge not to disappoint.
I’m sure you won’t disappoint the fans at Casino Rama. It’s been a while since you played there. It’s one of my favourite places to see a show. I stayed there for a while during the Ringo Starr All-Starr dates.
I love it there, too. I’m the guy who took a walk to Orillia.
Really? Did you think when someone said “It’s just down the road”, you took it a bit literal, and not known it was a highway?
I didn’t know that! I thought I might have been close to Gordon Lightfoot’s house!
Herman’s Hermits 2014 North American Tour:
Fri 02/28/14 The Woodlands, TX Dosey Doe
Sat 03/01/14 Lubbock, TX Overton Hotel & Conference Center
Fri 03/07/14 Rama, ON Casino Rama Entertainment Centre
Sat 03/08/14 Rama, ON Casino Rama Entertainment Centre
Fri 03/14/14 Bow, WA Skagit Valley Casino Resort
Sat 03/15/14 Bow, WA Skagit Valley Casino Resort
Sat 03/29/14 Cleveland, OH Quicken Loans Arena
Sat 04/05/14 Dubuque, IA Mississippi Moon Bar
Sat 04/12/14 Groveland, FL Trilogy Orlando
Sun 04/13/14 Beverly Hills, CA Saban Theatre
Fri 04/25/14 Lake Buena Vista, FL America Gardens Theatre @ Epcot Center
Sat 04/26/14 Lake Buena Vista, FL America Gardens Theatre @ Epcot Center
Sun 04/27/14 Lake Buena Vista, FL America Gardens Theatre @ Epcot Center
Fri 05/02/14 Corsicana, TX Palace Theatre
Sat 05/03/14 Galveston, TX Grand Opera House
Sat 05/10/14 Calgary, AB Chrome
Sat 05/24/14 Bethlehem, PA ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks
Thu 05/29/14 Leawood, KS Town Center Plaza
Fri 05/30/14 Saint Charles, IL Arcada Theatre
Sat 06/07/14 Bremerton, WA Admiral Theatre
Sat 06/21/14 Baton Rouge, LA Manship Theatre
Sun 07/20/14 Costa Mesa, CA Pacific Amphitheatre
Wed 07/30/14 Layton, UT Kenley Amphitheatre
Thu 07/31/14 Reno, NV Grand Sierra Resort Amphitheatre
Fri 08/01/14 Las Vegas, NV South Point Hotel & Casino
Sat 08/02/14 Las Vegas, NV South Point Hotel & Casino
Sun 08/03/14 Las Vegas, NV South Point Hotel & Casino
Thu 08/07/14 West Allis, WI Wisconsin State Fair Park
Fri 08/08/14 West Allis, WI Wisconsin State Fair Park
Fri 09/05/14 Erie, PA Presque Isle Downs
Sat 09/06/14 East Haven, CT Town Green
Fri 09/26/14 Richmond, BC River Rock Show Theatre
Sat 09/27/14 Sidney, BC Charlie White Theatre
Sat 10/04/14 Minot, ND All Seasons Arena
Sat 10/11/14 Biloxi, MS Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi
Sat 11/15/14 Wautoma, WI Macomb/Bruchs P.A.C.
Sat 11/22/14 Westbury, NY NYCB Theatre At Westbury
Sun 11/23/14 Miami, FL Secada’s Lounge
Fri 12/12/14 Deadwood, SD Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel & Casino