Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'm Into Something Good, Herman's Hermits (1964)

PBS is airing one of its perennial oldies programs to raise money, and I happened to tune into it this past week right at the point where the sunniest vestige of the British Invasion, Peter Noone, launched into I'm Into Something Good, the debut single of the band known as Herman's Hermits (often pronounced with dropped H's for maximum effect). I'm telling you that opening riff is loaded with some sort of happiness elixir, because my mood went from one thing to the other in seconds flat. It was positively medicinal.

The song was penned by none other than Carole King and her then-husband, Gerry Goffin, and like so many songs of the British Invasion groups at the outset, theirs was not the first recorded version. A member of the Cookies, Earl-Jean McCrae, released her version as a solo artist earlier the same year, although I have no memory of it whatsoever. Some of the Cookies later became Ray Charles' Raelettes. And I didn't realize this, but they were the original singers of Chains, also written by King and Goffin, and later covered by the Beatles on the Please Please Me LP.

Mickie Most, who was producing the Animals and the Nashville Teens, took a shine to a demo he was given of the boys from Manchester. He thought Noone looked like the late President John F. Kennedy (maybe so, but not with that snaggletooth he had at the time), which was a selling point any day of the week during that time period. Though just a teenager, Noone had been acting since childhood, playing a bloke named Stanley Fairclough in the long-running British TV series Coronation Street, among other roles, and had a definite stage presence, as front men go.

Most's strategy for success with the group involved concocting a repertoire of sweet, usually bouncy, non-threatening songs that made them seem squeaky clean despite the fact that they had the same threatening haircuts as the Beatles did. Herman's Hermits were actually more popular in the U.S. than they were in their native land, where in some instances no one bothered to release some of their American hits, which always had a decidedly English feel to them (Herman's Hermits went out of their way to affect English accents, including ones not their own, while other groups were more keen on sounding like they could be from anywhere). The group spent almost all of 1965 on this side of the pond, touring and fending off screaming teenyboppers at every turn in exactly the same manner as the Beatles did, and selling about as many records.

Despite being musicians in their own right, Most favored the use of session musicians for Hermits' records - musicians which included, at various points, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (the latter arranging many of their songs, according to Noone). While a dizzying string of hits was to follow into 1968 - some of which were quite nice, others of which were too cloying for my tastes - ultimately being a singles band doomed them as album-oriented radio evolved and flourished. (Their cover of Sam Cooke's Wonderful World was delightful, I thought.)

Noone, who also continues to act, has for years made the scene with a version of the Hermits wherever the 60s is being revived and reminisced over. He has come here to Akron, Ohio, on numerous occasions and I have not gone to see him. His appearance on this PBS show was so therapeutic, however, that I may have to check him out if he comes again. Reliving the past seems to agree with him - he's the healthiest looking rocker from that era out there, and still has a head of shining hair. And I think he may have had that snaggletooth snapped out as well!

I will play us out with Dandy, but not the version Herman's Hermits did - Ray Davies wrote it, which somehow I managed to not know, and the Kinks originally recorded it.


Anonymous said...

I just can't believe that I'd never heard this great original version of Dandy! Thanks so much for the link, Wendy.

Holly A Hughes said...

Oooh, Herman! I was so in love with Peter Noone back in 1965 -- he was the heartthrob who finally got me over my Paul McCartney fixation.

Here's a blog post I wrote about my Herman's Hermits mania:

Years later, a Kinks friend of mine (who I later discovered was once Peter Noone's main squeeze) sent me a photo of Peter after a concert holding up a sign that said, "Hello Holly." Still one of my most prized possessions.