Peter Noone is a world-renowned entertainer, best known as the frontman of the multi-million selling ’60s band, Herman’s Hermits. In addition to working on television in shows including Laverne and Shirley, Too Close for Comfort, Married with Children, and As the World Turns, Noone has also appeared on stage on Broadway and in London’s West End.
For several years, Noone served as host of VH1’s My Generation. More recently, he can be found hosting his show Something Good with Peter Noone on Sirius-XM radio, in addition to touring with Herman’s Hermits, delighting audiences with his classic hit tunes and engaging personality.
Spotlight Central recently caught up with Peter Noone to find out more about his childhood musical experiences, his early years with Herman’s Hermits, and to learn what he’s been up to during the current suspension of live concerts.
Spotlight Central: We understand that as a child in Manchester, England you grew up in a musical family. Your dad played trombone and your uncle played trumpet in a brass band with Huey Gibb — the father of The Bee Gees — and both your grandfather and your aunt played piano. Did you have an interest in playing an instrument, as well?
Peter Noone: Oh, yeah, lots of interest! But what happened was I was just a kid — you become a singer when you’re a kid — so I learned to sing all the songs, and they were the musicians.
Actually, my grandfather played the church organ — a big pipe organ — but everybody in my house played the piano. In those days, everyone played for pleasure. Nobody thought of becoming a professional musician; there was just no other music around the house.
Spotlight Central: So you became a singer, and your grandmother, who was also a singer and a choir director, took you for your first live performance at the age of three where you performed a song called “Fill the Fluters Ball.”
Peter Noone: “Fill the Fluters Ball,” yeah. It was a big success! It was a show-stopping career moment for me.
Spotlight Central: Where did you actually perform it?
Peter Noone: It was in a place called Urmston Baths. In those days, we had a bath — a bathtub and a bathroom — but many people didn’t have one, so they had these public baths in England. And in Urmston Baths, there was a little room off the side for wedding receptions and things like that, and I did my first show there when I was three.
Spotlight Central: We’re told that, growing up, you enjoyed going to your local record shop to listen to records. What kind of music did you listen to?
Peter Noone: You know, everything. Back then, music in England was just called “popular music.” That included some rock and roll, some jazz, some big band, and some Julie Andrews — I mean, The Beatles and Julie Andrews always had the #1 and #2 records — so we listened to everything. We didn’t know anything about it, except it was popular. And it was pretty good, actually.
I noticed that Paul McCartney had a similar experience — his parents and grandparents played all different kinds of music — so we got a good shot of it, and a good introduction to music.
Spotlight Central: As a teen, you were invited to play in a group called The Heartbeats. What kind of group was that, and where did you play?
Peter Noone: Actually, there was a band before that called The Cyclones — it was just a garage band, or what we called an attic band.
What happened with The Heartbeats was I went to what is called a youth club. They had loads of them in England. Everybody back then, by the time they were 15, had to have a job. But there was a local youth club for people under 15, and I went there because I lived at my grandparents’ house and it was walkable from their house.
This was in the days when fashion was part of your personality, so we got all dressed up and went there. And the singer from The Heartbeats — Malcolm Lightfoot, his name was — he hadn’t shown up, or he’d left the band and he hadn’t told them that he’d left the band. And the bass player — even though we all lived in the same town, I didn’t know any of these guys — but the bass player knew that I knew a lot of pop music, and he asked me if I could help them out and be their singer for one night.
And, yeah, I knew all the songs — I knew every song they knew, ’cause everybody did. In those days, everybody knew everybody’s songs — there weren’t three million songs. So I got up and we did Bobby Rydell’s “I’ll Never Dance Again” and a few other songs, and by the end of the evening, they asked me if would I be their new lead singer. They gave me the name Pete Novak and we became Pete Novak and the Heartbeats.
Spotlight Central: And how old were you at the time?
Peter Noone: Probably 13.
Spotlight Central: And what about the genesis of Herman’s Hermits?
Peter Noone: That band — The Heartbeats — became Herman and the Hermits. We were playing in a pub. The Heartbeats did some Buddy Holly songs, and Buddy Holly had a song called “Heartbeat.” So we had a couple of his songs in the show, and when I would do his songs, I would put my glasses on — these horn-rimmed glasses. And in the pub where we were rehearsing, the pub owner came over and said, “What are you doing?” and I said, “Don’t you realize, it’s Buddy Holly?” And he goes, “You don’t look anything like Buddy Holly. You look like Herman from The Bullwinkle Show!” — now, of course, he meant Sherman from the Bullwinkle show — but he said “Herman from The Bullwinkle Show,” and off we went.
Spotlight Central: We never knew that! And is it true that when you were 16, you recorded your first Herman’s Hermits’ record, “I’m Into Something Good,” in only 20 minutes?
Peter Noone: Well, you know, from beginning to end — A side and B side — about 20 minutes.
Spotlight Central: Were you nervous making that first record?
Peter Noone: It wasn’t really about being nervous. It was part of the process of being in a beat group — where eventually you got signed, and eventually you made a record. We went up there and we had no expectations, because we didn’t know anything about the process — you either failed or you succeeded and, luckily, we succeeded. The nature of it was perfect, because we were just boys and it was a boys’ song — you know, I rewrote it from a girl singing it to a man singing it — and it instantly worked.
Spotlight Central: And it still does! In 1970, you and Herman’s Hermits were invited to perform for the Queen. How exciting was that for you?
Peter Noone: Very, very exciting! We were, kind of, loyalists so that was a big compliment. You know, The Beatles did it, and it was a charm — like “Wow!” It was a big, big thing — like a knighthood — a very big deal. So we were very excited and everybody loved the show, and The Hermits were brilliant on it. Of course, not one person gave us a compliment, but when we look at it now, we all call each other and say, “Wow, that was really good.”
Spotlight Central: And you did a wide variety of music on that show. For example, in addition to “There’s a Kind of Hush,” you did some Broadway tunes like “Mame” and “Where is Love” from Oliver and “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof — a real mix.
Peter Noone: Yeah, we put together a mix of songs we thought she would like.
Spotlight Central: And speaking of songs people like, Herman’s Hermits has a huge number of hits, which are still popular today. Do you have a favorite that you like to perform or to listen to?
Peter Noone: I like “I’m Into Something Good.” I like “There’s a Kind of Hush,” and I like “Wonderful World” — I like lots of them on different days, actually — and I like “Henry the VIII” sometimes, too; some days I find myself walking down the street singing that one!
Spotlight Central: After Herman’s Hermits, you recorded “Oh! You Pretty Things,” with David Bowie, a cool song he wrote and played piano on. What was it like working with Bowie?
Peter Noone: We actually did a few things — there was another single after that. He was an up-and-coming guy and I felt pretty happy to have been there at the beginning of his career promoting him because I thought he was really an excellent entertainer — different, and a very good guy. So it was very nice. We did lots of shows together. He came on Top of the Pops with us — when the record got on the charts, we did that. He was a good guy, so I’m happy he had a great career. I knew he would because he was extraordinarily talented.
Spotlight Central: These days, your band consists of Rich Spina on keyboards, Billy Sullivan and Vance Brescia on guitars, and Dave Ferrara on drums. We’ve seen at least a half dozen of your concerts and the audiences always go crazy! Where do you get your seemingly endless supply of energy, where you’re up there having so much fun with your audiences?
Peter Noone: That’s kind of old-timer music hall kind of stuff — it has to be energetic and it has to be uplifting. So I just work towards that.
I admit, I’m still trying to get it right. I mean, you’ve seen a few shows and sometimes it works and sometimes — well, it always works — but sometimes it works better than others, but you want it to be better and better every time you play it.
Spotlight Central: It’s always worked every time we’ve seen it! But right now, with the current suspension of concerts, what have you been doing? We know you have your Sirius-XM radio show and you’ve been doing some live streaming, but is there anything else you’ve been up to?
Peter Noone: Mostly, I’ve been getting ready and getting fit for when we go back to work. We didn’t cancel any shows, we just rescheduled them, so now they’re all in amongst stuff that we already had. When we get back out on the road, we’re gonna be running really, really hard. I told all my guys, “Just get fit!” When this is over — and we don’t know when this will be over — we’ll be working every day. There won’t be any days off any more; every day we’ll be out there on the road.
Spotlight Central: There are so many people and so many fans who are looking forward to enjoying live concerts again — you’ve got to feel the same way, too.
Peter Noone: Absolutely, I can’t wait — we’re not exactly sure when it’s gonna happen, but we know it will!
To learn more about Peter Noone, please go to peternoone.com.