Add to The Zombies’ concert last month at Ethical Culture Center and John Fogerty’s show last week at the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation benefit dinner at Cipriani Wall Street the show by Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone Saturday night at B.B. King’s as inspiring performances by 1960s rock ‘n’ rollers now well into their sixties.
Noone actually just turned 68 on Nov. 5, yet when he bounded on stage at B.B.’s hand-clapping along to Herman’s Hermits’ 1964 debut hit “I’m Into Something Good,” he showed the same youthful exuberance that marked the original Hermits—not to mention voice and hair—in a hit-filled set of Hermits’ classics along with others British Invasion and U.S. ’60s standards.
The heaping helping of Herman’s Hermits hits was rapid-fire and included “Wonderful World,” “A Must to Avoid,” “Dandy,” “No Milk Today,” “The End of the World,” “Just a Little Bit Better,” “Listen People,” “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” and “Silhouettes,” a cover of the Rays’ hit that reached No. 5 for the Hermits in 1965, and whose spiraling guitar riff from Derek “Lek” Leckenby influenced a generation of guitarists.
For his performance of the Hermits’ hit cover of Brit entertainer George Formby’s “Leaning on a Lamp Post,” Noone was accompanied only by a banjo-like guitar part, and sang while masking his face with a held-up 1969 album cover portrait. He then gave the person at the front table who providing the album a copy of a new Hermits’ CD/DVD set—“new” meaning 1969, he joked—and then asked for anyone purchasing it to burn 100 copies on their computer and pass them out to friends.
A crowd comment on his pants prompted another very funny bit about how they were the only ones he could fit his behind in, and that for every year after 40, your backside gains another inch. Regarding other source material for the set, he and the current Hermits were spot on with The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer,” The Searchers’ “Love Potion No. 9,” Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise” and Gerry and The Pacemakers’ “Ferry Cross the Mersey”—revised as “Ferry Cross to Jersey.” Some songs, like Tom Jones’s “It’s Not Unusual,” Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” were done as credible impersonations, while “For Your Love” and “Bus Stop,” Noone noted, was first passed on by The Hermits, only to become big hits for The Yardbirds and Hollies respectively—both bands then becoming former friends, he joked.
But it was a wonderful song selection, also including, notably, Freddie and the Dreamers’ 1965 British Invasion chart-topper “I’m Telling You Now,” memorable for both it’s tunefulness and singer-songwriter Freddie Garrity’s fun high-stepping “Freddie” dance. Then again, “If you remember the ’60s and you were there,” Noone said, putting his own twist on the generational proverb, “you’re really in trouble!”
These Hermits saved the group’s two No. 1 hits for next to last, with “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” followed by “I’m Henry VIII , I Am,” for which Marky Ramone came out and took over on drums. It was entirely fitting in that The Ramones were clearly influenced by the British Invasion—and Herman’s Hermits: Their punk rock classic “Judy is a Punk” appropriated “Henry VIII”‘s line “second verse, same as the first,” and Noone returned the favor at B.B.’s by later substituting it with the Ramone’s signature “Blitzkrieg Bop” shout “Hey, ho! Let’s go!”
He then closed with “There’s a Kind of Hush,” like so many Herman’s Hermits hits, penned by the top pop tunesmiths of the day–in this case, Les Reed and Geoff Stephens. “I love my songs!” he’d shouted out earlier.
He had also looked down at a table below him and said to one of its diners, “You haven’t finished your greens!” And holding up the night’s set list chock full of ’60s gems, he said, “If you can read this set list, you’re not an original member of Herman’s Hermits!”
About the only thing he didn’t do was sing “Happy Birthday,” after a female fan had asked him to.
“No ‘Happy Birthday,'” said Noone. “This isn’t like a bar mitzvah. It’s Herman’s Hermits!”
Incidentally, Germany’s Bear Family reissue label has a new two-disc, 66-song The Best of Herman’s Hermits—the 50th Anniverary Anthology, also including a 140-page booklet with a new Peter Noone interview.
[The Examiner wrote the liner notes for the 2004 compilation Herman’s Hermits–Retrospective.]
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