In this 50th anniversary year of the British Invasion — that musical and cultural revolution whose more obvious touchstones include the Beatles’ “Ed Sullivan Show” debut on Feb. 9, 1964 — Peter Noone, lead singer of second-wave British Invasion band Herman’s Hermits, hopes his likewise enormously popular group doesn’t get lost in the mix.
Herman’s Hermits, a quintet from Manchester, England, starring the 16-year-old Noone, launched their lengthy stretch of hits in the summer of 1964 with a bouncing Carole King-Gerry Goffin song, “I’m Into Something Good.”
Follow-ups included remakes of 1950s American hits “(What a) Wonderful World” and “Silhouettes,” the British music hall-inspired “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and the beautifully romantic modern pop of “There’s a Kind of Hush.”
“I just hope the records get played,” Noone said from Southern California, his home since 1982. “Because sometimes people who weren’t there during the British Invasion miss Herman’s Hermits. They always go ‘Beatles, Dave Clark Five, Rolling Stones,’ and then they go to the Who and the Kinks. They overlook the other people. But in 1965 we sold more records than anybody.”
Noone, who performs Saturday at the Manship Theatre, believes that decades of post-1960s animosity between Herman’s Hermits and the group’s American record company kept the group in the shadows in the U.S.
“For 40 years we were in a fight with the record company,” he said. “We just fixed it, actually, this year. But we were adversaries for a long time. So Herman’s Hermits wouldn’t promote the product in America, but now we will promote the product.”
Finally, a new American collection of Herman’s Hermits’ hits, selected by Noone himself, is in the pipeline.
As Herman’s Hermits’ success shows, the band, under the auspices of producer Mickie Most, recorded great material. Most’s other credits include the Animals, the Nashville Teens, Donovan, Lulu and Jeff Beck.
“It was the period, remember, when all you really had to be good at was choosing songs that fitted you,” Noone said in his still discernible English accent.
“All the bands were unique and they all had to have their own repertoire. That forced Herman’s Hermits into the choices that we made. Nobody was doing ‘Wonderful World’ by Sam Cooke. They were doing ‘Another Saturday Night.’ And we did ‘Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter’ and ‘I’m Henry the Eighth I Am’ because no other groups would do them.”
Noone, who’d studied voice and drama at St. Bede’s College and the Manchester School of Music and Drama and had been a child actor in the working-class set British TV soap opera “Coronation Street,” was an excellent interpreter of the songs he sang.
“ ‘Listen People’ and ‘There’s a Kind of Hush,’ I get inside them and I become the person,” he said. “And when I do ‘The End of the World,’ I believe that I’ve lost my girlfriend.”
During the latter song, originally a sublimely melancholy hit for American country singer Skeeter Davis, Noone also thinks of his late sister, Denise. Her American artist-filled record collection inspired Herman’s Hermits.
“She would fall in love with guys and then she’d play songs that expressed her feelings,” he said. “She was a 15-year-old girl, who couldn’t express herself, but she had songs that spoke for her. ‘I’m Sorry’ by Brenda Lee and ‘The End of the World’ by Skeeter Davis and ‘I’ll Never Dance Again’ by Bobby Rydell.”
Noone’s sister would play “It’s Over,” an epic breakup song by Roy Orbison, for what seemed 100 consecutive times. “And when Roy Orbison sang the lyrics ‘it’s over,’ my father shouted, ‘Thank God for that!’ ”
On a nostalgic note, Noone fondly remembers the group’s first visit to Baton Rouge. The group performed that 1967 show at the Redemptorist High School football stadium for 5,000 fans.
“The local promoter in Baton Rouge (S.J. Montalbano), he took care of us,” Noone said. “We had a fantastic time. Every time I go there (to Baton Rouge) I have a good time. I’m looking forward to coming back there, but I look forward to every concert. I’m one of those people from that period, we think of ourselves as working-class guys. We never whine when the phone is ringing.”