It was rebellion. It was enlightenment. It was bell bottoms and long hair. And it was music unlike anything American teenagers had heard before. Looking back, historians call it a cultural phenomenon; at the time it was simply referred to as the "British invasion."
When the Beatles hit American airwaves with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in December of 1963, record stores and radio stations were inundated with phone calls -- and adults were left gasping in the dust, bemused and sometimes disapproving. It didn't matter. On April 4, 1964, the Beatles held the top five positions on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart -- and to date, no other act has simultaneously held even the top three.
& Herman’s Hermits
WHEN — 8 p.m. Dec. 8
WHERE — Alma Performing Arts Center
COST — $27-$42
INFO — 632-2129 or almapac.org
While the Beatles might have been the first to invade American soil, other British bands followed them in waves -- the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Who, the Hollies, the Animals and, from Manchester, a five-piece called Herman's Hermits. The frontman -- who was still a teenager at the time -- was born Peter Blair Denis Bernard Noone, and it wasn't long before he was on magazine covers as a heart-throb, and the band was scoring 14 gold singles and seven gold albums with songs like "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter," "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am," "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" and "There's a Kind of Hush."
"I think the first record that made an impression [on me] was 'All Shook Up' by Elvis Presley," says Noone, proving the invasion went both ways. "Right before that, it was 'Lucille' by Little Richard. I'm not sure to this day why they stopped me to listen, but I started buying records. I had an older sister and got all her records until I found Buddy Holly and the Crickets, who led me to the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and all American music.
"I was a fan of music in every form, so it was lovely to have a hobby that turned into my career," he says. "The world is lucky that I didn't become a doctor because I hate the sight of blood -- even in a butcher's shop window!"
Asked what it was like being part of a musical sea change, Noone turns serious.
"The British invasion was loaded up with very nice people," he says. "Something that is rarely mentioned is that the Beatles and the Stones and all the other British acts were/are very good people, and if you think about it and listen to the music, you will be forced to agree."
By 1971, though, Noone and his bandmates were going their separate ways -- "we all agreed to take time off from each other" -- and his way was almost certainly the most unusual.
"I decided I wanted a Broadway show and spent 10 years learning how to do the things one needs to be a Broadway person," he explains. "I took dancing, fencing, singing, ballet classes, realizing that being Herman wasn't going to get me on the stage.
"I eventually got two Broadway shows, proving that if you have no talent you have to work harder," he jokes. "Everything I learned since I was 13 is now in my live concert -- except the ballet. My toes do not point!"
Touring since the 1980s as "Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone," the frontman says he loves every minute of it, including a stop Dec. 8 at the Alma Performing Arts Center. And when he's not on the road, "I plan my next trip."
"I help [business manager] Jana [Eisenberg] book my travel, and I sign CDs and autographs and personally write thank you notes and ship fan club envelopes -- which I do by hand -- and I do a three-hour radio show on Sirius XM which takes 30 hours to build," he says. "Sometimes I go for a walk and listen to music. While I am on a walk, I think, 'I hope my agent calls me with an offer to go sing somewhere.'"
Eisenberg admits she too "had a massive crush" on Noone back in those British invasion days and adds that "he's still really good looking. And it's a fabulous show! Hope you go!"
NAN What's Up on 12/02/2018
Print Headline: British Invasion Ongoing