Peter Noone considers his Herman’s Hermits a contemporary oldies band.
“We have a little bit higher intelligence than the rest of the crowd,” Noone said from his home in California. “We just keep trying to do the old stuff for new people — I’m not looking for a record career with John Mayer as my opening act.”
At this stage in his career, Noone doesn’t have to. The former teen idol and main force behind such huge ’60s hits as “I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” “I’m Into Something Good” and “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” averages about 100 shows a year with the new Hermits, playing to his leagues of “Noonatics,” as his fans are known. He’s managed to stay current — his Web site, www.peternoone.com, offers everything from live chat to downloads to an ongoing autobiography, and is the main point of contact for Noonatics the world over.
With: Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone; Davy Jones; The Grass Roots starring Rob Grill; American Cafe
Where: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
When:7:30 p.m. Saturday
How Much: $49.75, $42.75, $34.75
More Info: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
He’s comfortable with the oldies tag now, but it hasn’t always been that way.
“Once upon a time, I was embarrassed to be an oldies act for a while,” he said. “But we’re one of the best oldies acts out there. People keep asking us to come back. They all start out as musicians — some become entertainers, some stay musicians. I think we’re pretty entertaining; we don’t do any of that aggressive behavior. There’s some sexual innuendo, but it’s always lightweight. My mother’s in it, if you know what I mean.”
Herman’s Hermits — featuring guitarists Vance Brescia and newcomer Billy Sullivan, drummer Dave Ferrara, bassist Darren Frate and keyboardist Rich Spina — will once again headline the annual ’60s Spectacular show at Proctors, taking place Saturday night. Noone and the gang have been performing at this show, on and off, for about five years.
“We came there first about four or five years ago, when someone — I think it was The Turtles — couldn’t make it, and now we’ve been coming almost every year to good old Proctors,” he said. “It sort of makes me feel good; we feel contemporary. We hadn’t played there before, but we’ve built sort of a local following there, which is good.”
Noone will be in good company this year — his old friend Davy Jones of The Monkees is on the bill, along with The Grass Roots starring Rob Grill and local ’60s throwback act American Cafe. In recent years, Noone and Jones have toured together, although surprisingly enough the two never met during their ’60s heydays.
“We didn’t meet until years and years after The Monkees were over, although he’s from Manchester, [England], and I’m from Manchester,” Noone said. “I was in bands, and he was in plays, so I never met him then. I was in hundreds of bands and things, and he was like an actor.”
Of course, Noone has also been an actor over the course of his five-decade career, starring in three Herman’s Hermits movies in the ’60s, the ’80s Broadway production of “The Pirates of Penzance” and as host of VH1’s “My Generation” in the early ’90s. In fact, as a child he got his start in entertainment on the British soap opera “Coronation Street.”
At age 15, he joined a Manchester group named The Heartbeats, featuring guitarists Keith Hopwood and Derek “Lek” Leckenby, bassist Karl Green and drummer Barry Whitwam. The band quickly evolved into Herman and His Hermits, then just Herman’s Hermits, scoring its first hit with debut single “I’m Into Something Good” in 1964. Noone left the original band in 1970 for a solo career, although The Hermits continued on without him (Whitwam still operates a competing version of the group today).
Today, Noone is happy to perform live for his Noonatics. He’s not interested in releasing new albums, although occasionally he’ll re-record old Hermits songs as one-off downloads.
“The whole concept of me making a record and putting it in stores seems almost sort of pathetic,” he said. “Ninety percent of musicians make their best records before they’re 30, and after that you should just learn to play them as well as you did before you were 30. The idea of me making new stuff, putting an album out, it’s silly, really, I think. I’ll do things that are just for my following — that’s the future of the music business, anyway.”
He likes to keep connected to current technology, and it has served him well. Since his Web site launched in 2000, he has seen his fan base at shows continually grow. He seems genuinely surprised by this — after all, he hasn’t changed what he’s doing at all.
“It’s how it was when we first started up, playing little . . . clubs where 20 or 30 girls would show up, and then one day you’d have 200,” he said. “That’s how we did it and how we’re still doing it; we don’t know any other way. We play stupid, really, the same old [stuff]. It’s entertaining that there’s a following — today on the Web site we put up a new compilation, only up last night, up late. And people are ordering it.”
Moving online has felt natural to him, and has allowed him to keep in touch with fans like never before.
“In 1964, if I was on tour, and some girl sends you a letter — ‘Dear Herman, I’m a really big fan; would you sing “The End of the World” tonight?’ ” Noone said. “You get that letter a year later, and maybe there’s a picture with it; maybe she was really cute, but it was a year later. . . . Nowadays, you get that instantly; I get e-mails 15 minutes after the show’s over. That’s one of those things; I’ve found that really exciting for an entertainer to be able to keep up with that.”
Noone’s in his 60s now, but sees no reason to stop touring anytime soon. Although Noone may have evolved into an entertainer, he’s still a musician at heart.
“People will ask, ‘What do you guys do when you’re not onstage?’ ” he said. “We still play guitar and sing. So backstage, well, we play guitars and sing — we do like Beatles songs, Gerry and the Pacemakers songs, and every now and then we do ‘Godzilla.’ . . . Someone will mention how Paul McCartney, when he wrote the ‘P.S. I Love You’ bridge, that was when he knew he was a real songwriter. So we’ll play that bridge — ‘Yeah, that’s really cool.’ It’s like a sickness.”
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