In 1965 they sold more records than The Beatles…
…but in three years they were done.
The British Invasion gave us all kinds of music, including a fun pop band from Manchester, Herman’s Hermits. Their first success in the United States was with a Gerry Goffin and Carole King song, “I’m Into Something Good”. It hit #13 on the Billboard singles chart as 1965 was arriving. Then came a string of 9 straight Top 10 hits from the beginning of 1965 to mid 1966. Many of you will be able to hear the melodies just by reading the titles:
- “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” (#2)
- “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” (#1)
- “Silhouettes” (#5) (cover of The Rays’ hit)
- “Wonderful World” (#4) (written by Sam Cooke)
- “I’m Henry The VIII, I Am” (#1) (a song from 1911)
- “Just A Little Bit Better” (#7)
- “A Must To Avoid” (#8) (written by P.F. Sloan)
- “Listen People” (#3)
- “Leaning On A Lamp Post” (#9)
By comparison, The Rolling Stones were on the hottest streak of their career during that same time frame, and they had 6 Top 10 hits.
Lead singer Peter Noone (aka Herman), had just turned 17 when they first made the charts in the U.S. The other members were Derek Leckenby (lead guitar), Karl Green (bass), Barry Whitwam (drums), and Keith Hopwood (rhythm guitar).
A successful string of singles doesn’t just happen. Herman’s Hermits was led by well-known ’60’s producer/arranger Mickie Most, who also worked with The Animals. Most of their hits were written by professional songwriters from outside the group. And, some of England’s best session players worked on their singles, including Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones who also played with The Yardbirds, and would later form Led Zeppelin.
Peter Noone was cute, charming, and an accomplished vocalist. He and the band played-up their British accents on songs like “Henry The VIII” and “Mrs. Brown”, because American audiences were loving all things British at that time.
Herman’s Hermits’ flame burned brightly, but quickly. They had only two more Top 10 hits…”Dandy” (#5) [written by Ray Davies of The Kinks] and “There’s A Kind Of Hush” (#4). “Hush” was their last major U.S. hit, in early 1967. In all, the group had 18 Top 40 hits, are credited with selling over 80-million records, and were even in three movies thanks to their label, MGM. Fun Fact: Their movie “Hold On!” was originally titled “A Must To Avoid”, but MGM decided that was simply handing critics too much ammunition for a bad review. Fun Fact 2: In 1967, The Who opened concerts for Herman’s Hermits. That had to be interesting.
By 1967, Rock & Roll was moving away from the Pop style of Herman’s Hermits. Song lyrics often contained deeper meanings, and musical genres such as Psychedelic Rock, Country Rock, Blues Rock, Hard Rock, and Singer-Songwriters were taking over.
Herman’s Hermits continued to have some hits in England, but Peter Noone left the group in 1971. You may have seen him pitching music collections of The British Invasion on TV, or seen him at a nostalgia show performing as Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone. There’s also another version of the band that just includes drummer Barry Whitwam, so Baby Boomers beware.
Herman’s Hermits’ career may have been short, but they packed a lot of great recordings into that time. They’re still fun to hear. So…”Listen People”.