Manchester Lads Ruled Pop Charts Worldwide

by | Oct 22, 2017 | 1960s, Manchester, Music

When legendary record producer Mickie Most got a call from his friend Harvey Lisberg to see a new band in Bolton, he had no idea he’d soon be into something good. Something very good.

The band were Herman’s Hermits. Most became their producer and their first single ‘I’m into Something Good’ shot to Number One in the UK charts.

It was the whirlwind start of a glittering career for five young men from Manchester who took the pop world by storm.

Most wanted the band to be fresh-faced and clean cut – and that’s exactly how they looked in their first photo line-up at Alpha Studios in Birmingham. The picture was shot just before recording the TV show Thank Your Lucky Stars in September 1964.

The band Herman's Hermits in 1964

Herman’s Hermits at the Alpha Studios in Birmingham before recording the television show “Thank Your Lucky Stars”. September 1964.

It features Peter Noone on lead vocals, Karl Green on bass, Keith Hopwood on rhythm guitar, Barry Whitwam on drums and Derek ‘Lek’ Leckenby on lead guitar.

Two former members, Alan Wrigley on bass and Steve Titterington on drums, had left a few months earlier.

Lead singer Noone, who was born in Davyhulme, had notched up some acting experience before joining the Hermits. He played Stanley Fairclough in Coronation Street and studied voice and drama at the Manchester School of Music.

Noone was very much the frontman of the band, often interviewed on TV and radio, and quickly became one of the style icons of the 60s.

He was a fashion leader – and it was no surprise that he was pictured in all kinds of settings and poses. These ranged from getting a haircut at the Manchester barbers Skotny’s after landing at Ringway Airport to modelling bowlers and city slicker gear with the rest of the group in London.

Peter Noone visiting Mike Skotny's barber shop

Peter Noone visiting Mike Skotny’s barber shop following a world tour. March 1966.

The Hermits signed a £1million film and record deal with MGM to represent them in the USA. Our photo shows the band celebrating with champagne in June 1966.

Herman's Hermits celebrating their deal with MGM

Herman’s Hermits celebrating after signing a huge deal with Metro Goldwyn Meyer. June 1966

After their UK Number One I’m into Something Good, the band went on to record two US Billboard Number Ones in 1965. They were Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter and I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am, originally sung by British music-hall artist Harry Campion in 1911.

The songs were deliberately quaint and quirky to appeal to the American audience; Noone exaggerated his Mancunian accent.

In 1965 the group were nominated for two Grammy Awards for Mrs Brown. But according to Noone the song was recorded as an afterthought and was never intended as a single.
Other US hits followed, including Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat which went to Number Two and the Ray Davies’ song Dandy, which went to Number Five.

Fellow Mancunian Graham Gouldman, later of 10cc fame, wrote No Milk Today for the group late in 1966. It gave them their first hit in more than a year.

The band’s well-known single There’s a Kind of Hush reached Number Four in 1967. Written by Les Reed and Geoff Stephens, it was a hit again in 1976 for the Carpenters.

The Hermits also notched up an American achievement matched only by one other band – the Beatles.

The singles Mrs Brown and Silhouettes were Numbers One and Two on the Chicago radio station WLS on May 14th 1965 – and swapped positions the next week.

The Beatles did the same with I Want to Hold Your Hand and She Loves You in February 1964.

Herman’s Hermits appeared in a string of MGM movies, including When the Boys Meet the Girls in 1965 and Hold On! in 1966, which starred the band as themselves in a tour across the USA. Our photo shows the band recording tracks for the film in the Kingsway Studios in December 1965.

Herman's Hermits pictured at Kingsway recording Studios in London

Herman’s Hermits pictured at Kingsway recording Studios in London. December 1965.

Mickey Most often used session artists in the studio to help his bands – and the Hermits were no exception. The artists included John Paul Jones, Bobby Graham and even Jimmy Page.

In their heyday, the group appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Jackie Gleason Show and the Dean Martin Show, although their fame in the US faltered after 1967. Their last album of the 1960s, Rock and Roll Party, was not even released in America.

Noone left the band in 1971, but Herman’s Hermits reunited in 1973 to headline the successful British Invasion tour of the USA. Leckenby and Whitwam also opened for the Monkees on the 1980s reunion tours.

The band still tours today with Whitwam the only original member of a memorable line-up.