Earlier this year, I had a short but pleasant chat with Peter Noone, frontman for Herman’s Hermits, for Popdose when he was in the midst of helping Warner Archive promote their reissue of the band’s feature films Hold On and Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. The conversation was so pleasant that, when I picked up the assignment to write a piece on the impending performance by Noone and once and probably future Monkee Davy Jones at the Ferguson Center for the Arts, I knew it’d be worth my while to try and get him on the phone again…so I did. Look for the end result of my phoners with both gentlemen in tomorrow’s edition of The Virginian-Pilot’s Pulse Magazine, but here’s the unexpurgated version of the chat I had with Mr. Noone.
News Reviews Interviews: You and I had a quick chat when you were doing the rounds for Warner Archive with the Herman’s Hermits movies.
Peter Noone: Oh, yeah! I knew I recognized your name from somewhere. [Laughs.]
NRI: You’re going to be here with Mr. Jones next weekend.
PN: Yeah, and I’m going to play with him tonight as well, which is good. I’m in Deadwood, South Dakota.
NRI: Very nice.
PN: You think so? Okay. I’m not quite there yet. [Laughs.]
NRI: I’ll think good thoughts.
PN: [Laughs.] Thank you.
NRI: I’d asked Davy if the two of you had ever worked together as actors in England before your respective musical careers began, but he said that you’d only just known each other through various music-related goings-on.
PN: You know, I do recall that we did once act together. It was on the show My Two Dads. I played his manager. [Laughs.]
NRI: I had forgotten that. That’s funny.
PN: It is funny, isn’t it? Yeah, I didn’t know him in Manchester when we first started. He was from Manchester, I was from Manchester, but I didn’t meet him there. We became friends when…he came to England with the Monkees, and I introduced the Beatles to him. I just happened to be with a couple of the Beatles at a TV show, and they were at another TV show, and I walked over with them. But I met him then, and then I never saw him again until the ‘80s, but now we do dates frequently, and it’s kind of a good little bill, I think.
NRI: I’d asked him if the two of you ever joined each other on stage at any point, and he said that it hadn’t happened, but it sounded like a good idea to him.
PN: Well, once upon a time, when I used to do “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter,” he would come on dressed as a mother, hit me with a purse, and leave the stage, which I thought was pretty funny.
NRI: I think it’s time to break that act out again.
PN: [Laughs.] Maybe we should do. You know, we made a record together once. Mickie Most’s son made a single with us together, and that was fun. We just get busy on our own stuff. We just sort of…we’re ships that pass in the night, you know?
NRI: When you do these tours, I know Davy delves relatively deeply into his back catalog. How do you play it? Do you do a mixture of the recognizable with the occasional obscurity thrown in?
PN: Well, I… [Hesitates.] You know, I’d love to do the obscure, but I’ve got too many sort of have-to-be-done songs. I get fans who say, “Why don’t you ever do such-and-such a song?” And I say, “Well, I’d have to drop one of the songs that sold millions.” I’d have to. But, you know, you can’t drop “Henry the 8th,” you can’t drop “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter,” you can’t drop “I’m Into Something Good,” you can’t drop “There’s A Kind of Hush,” you…well, it goes on and on and on. So I end up doing basically the twelve top-10 singles at every show, and then the rest of the stuff is whatever I feel like doing…but, you know, how much time is left at that point? But, see, we’ve been together a long time, so we know 300 songs. Sometimes we ask people to request people that they think we don’t know, just to show off that we do know it. The other day, somebody shouted out “Everybody,” by Tommy Roe. And you know what? We kind of knew it. I’m the only person who made a mistake. I didn’t take the 16-bar break. [Laughs.]
NRI: So you’ve kept more or less the same touring band for quite awhile, then, have you?
PN: Oh, for a long time, yeah. You know, what happens is people come in and out, but, you know, if you lose your enthusiasm for being in Herman’s Hermits, you get a little holiday. The drummer has the seat, but if he doesn’t want to do a date, we get another drummer to play for him. Everybody’s been in for… [Long pause.] It’s hundreds of years, cumulatively. I mean, literally, 200 years cumulatively. Isn’t that incredible? Of course, 50 of them are mine. [Laughs.]
NRI: As far as the general routine of touring, Davy suggested that you both spend more time touring the States than the UK, though he acknowledged that it’s as much to do with the States offering more in the way of year-round venues.
PN: Yeah, I think it’s a choice. I think both of us are Yank-ophiles. He’s been married to American women. Most men end up living where their wives want to live. My wife is French, and for awhile we lived in France, but ever since then…well, we now live in two places. I don’t know if Davy still lives at all in England, but I live in London as well. I go to England a lot. I have to spend a certain amount of days in England, otherwise the tax people come after me. [Laughs.] So, you know, I go a lot. I have a very big family in England. My wife lives in America, my daughter lives in Nashville, but my mum lives in Liverpool, my brother lives in Liverpool, and my sister…well, you know, they’re all European. And the Noones are a close knit clan, so we spend a lot of time with each other. And I like to go to England. I have a little tiny apartment in London, and I love it. I’m kind of a tourist now. [Laughs.]
NRI: You mention that your daughter (Natalie Noone) lives in Nashville. Is she a musician as well?
PN: Yeah, she’s an up-and-coming. She’s one of those rock ‘n’ roll guitar-player girls. [Laughs.] A songwriter girl. She’s at the beginning of her career. She’s just starting out. She’s just put out her first EP and stuff like that.
NRI: Given that you’ve seen the boy’s side of rock ‘n’ roll, does it concern you that your daughter’s getting into the family business?
PN: Nah, because, you know, if you have an above-average IQ – which isn’t a common thing in rock ‘n’ roll – you stay out of trouble. [Laughs.] It’s, like, sometimes people say, “What of the drugs and everything?” And I say that, ethically, I can go to sleep at night knowing that I never, ever suggested to any teenager that taking drugs or drinking alcohol abusively was a good thing to do. So, y’know, my daughter’s picked up that. She knows that…I mean, it’s so sad, the world now. All these people’s heroes have let them down by abusing drugs and living. If they hadn’t lived, it would’ve been a good lesson, but instead the lesson is that you can act really stupid, do really stupid things like taking drugs, and live. And that wasn’t a good lesson. A good lesson would’ve been if they’d died. Seriously! I’m not amused by that. If you’ve got children, you’ve got to be very protective, and if they’re getting messages from people that being stupid can get you rich, that’s not good to me. That’s not good.
So the answer to the question is, she’s seeing people fail from doing stupid things, and…you know, there’s all these recovery programs in America, Dr. Drew and all these people, but they’ve not got one for stupid yet. There’s no 12-step program for stupid yet. “I’m stupid and I admit it.” They never do that. Have you noticed that? They’ve always got some other reason to be doing something stupid. I’m sad to watch the TV now, because you see all these people who…well, first of all, when I see them, I don’t know what they did that got them famous other than doing something stupid. And it didn’t used to be like that. It makes me feel old! I remember when it was Danny Kaye and Dick Van Dyke, and, yeah, maybe they had a few drinks and even got a DUI once in their lives, but they weren’t stupid. And they were really talented. I defy people to tell me what…to name anything that Lindsay Lohan has done lately other than get arrested. And people can’t.
NRI: You’re right. At this point, it’s been so long since her last significant acting role that people are starting to forget that she actually used to be a talented young actress.
PN: Don’t you think that’s a sad thing?
NRI: I do, absolutely. Especially given that I have a daughter of my own.
PN: Yeah, there you go. So you understand it. And now you hear about girls getting beaten up at school, and you go, “What can be going on?” All that stuff bothers me, because…you know, it sounds like I’m suggesting that it only happens in American, but exactly the same stuff is going on in England. America sometimes thinks they’re the only people who are against Wall Street and the big banks, but it’s the same in England. Everybody in the world is going through the same thing at the same time. It’s just that Americans, like English people, are so arrogant that they think they’re the only ones who’ve got a bad loan. [Laughs.] Like my parents didn’t get one as well, d’you know what I mean?
NRI: It’s equal opportunity, I think.
PN: It is. Everyone had a shot at borrowing money that they couldn’t pay back.
NRI: I’m still working to pay back my own.
PN: Yeah? People ask me why I’m still working. I say, “I’ve still got 27 years left on my mortgage. [Laughs.] It’s probably a bit less than that now. It keeps going down. But it seemed like it didn’t for awhile.
NRI: That actually ties into what was going to be my last question for you. Obviously, you are still working. Have you considered an end date, as it were? Is there a time when you think you might call it quits, or are you still having too much fun?
PN: [Lowers voice.] I feel bad, but…I think it’s my addiction. [Laughs.] I’m addicted to being Herman, d’you know what I mean? It’s a great feeling to go and do him on stage. I mean, I can do things as Herman that I can’t do otherwise. I’ve said onstage that I’m a 17-year-old boy in a 63-year-old man’s body. I can jump up on the drum riser during the show, but I can’t do it during the soundcheck. At the soundcheck, it’s all… [Groans loudly, then laughs.] So, y’know, there’s that. My wife understands it as well, which is good. I’ve just gotten off the phone with my wife, we’ve been married for 44 years, and since she’s known me, I’ve always been excited when I tell her things like, “I’ve just gotten to Deadwood!” I’m really a cultural anthropologist. I find something good in every situation. I said, “I’m in this Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City, and I can look out the window and there’s not one house in the view! And there’s only one car in the parking lot!” [Laughs.] I found joy in something like that!
NRI: Believe me, my lifelong rule of thumb is that life is always fun when you’re easily amused. It’s kept me going over the years more often than I can tell you.
PN: Yes! People would suggest that that Herman guy is Panglossian…and there’s a good crossword word for you. [Laughs.] But I accept that. With the knowledge that that’s not a bad thing to be! Being naïve and optimistic is a great place to be!
NRI: I’m notoriously optimistic…and it’s served me well.
PN: Yeah, okay, good! There you go! So how old is your daughter?
NRI: She’s six.
PN: Wow. So you’ve got a long way to go. Mine’s at university. That’s a big surprise. That’ll get your mortgage. [Laughs.]
NRI: Well, my daughter was an in vitro baby, so we’ve already told her up front, “Work for that scholarship, kid, because we may still be paying you off when the time comes to pay for your school.”
PN: [Laughs.] That’s a great line! Well, we had one of those late ones, so…you know, where we live, when my daughter was riding around on her bike, they’d ask her, “So which ones are your grandparents?” [Laughs.] Because everyone who lives in our community is 60-plus. We had our child late!
NRI: Well, I’ll let you go wind down before your show this evening, but I appreciate you getting back with me. Obviously, I’d talked to Davy, but I really wanted to touch base with both of you for this piece.
PN: I’m looking forward to seeing him! He’s a funny, funny guy. He’s got this great little…he does a funny schtick, he does all kinds of impersonations of people. I really look forward to meeting up with him again. I don’t even know if he knows this, but once they gave me a list where I was supposed to put my ten favorite records of all time, and in my top 10 was “Daydream Believer.” I just think it’s a brilliant record. I don’t care who made the record, who played on it, whatever. You know it’s Davy Jones singing it. If you listen to that record, it’s totally brilliant. There’s all kinds of stuff going on. It’s a brilliant record, and it’s very charming.
NRI: A definitive pop song, to say the least.
PN: Absolutely. It has its moment in time. You hear it, and it’s, like, “Whoa, I remember that!” [Laughs.] Well, good to talk to you!
NRI: You as well. As far as I know, I should be at the show at the Ferguson. I’ll try to get back at least for a moment to meet you in person.
PN: Yes, come and say hello! I’d love to see what you look like! [Laughs.]