OMG! Herman’s Hermits!

IMG_3654In our family this story has become legendary, and like most legends its truthfulness is worth questioning.

Mom swore it happened and her honesty was something you could set your watch by, and that’s good enough for me, especially because it’s about me and reminds people that I was once certifiably cute.

My oldest brother was a operating on the grass and dirt of a Southern California baseball diamond. By “operating” I mean he was playing, baseball to be precise. “Operating” just sounds more like a college word than “playing,” so I went there. Jim, the brother I mentioned earlier, played for the Twins in the Mustang League in West Covina, a Los Angeles suburb that was once home to Lee Majors and developments built on top of a cancer-inducing former landfill. We didn’t live on the former landfill, so we weren’t at risk for cancer except for all the smoking and breathing outside air.

I’m told Jim was pretty good, but I was only somewhere between 3 and 5 years old, so my interests were elsewhere. In one memorable moment my interest was going to the bathroom, so I ambled over to the portable outhouses they set up near the bleachers and went about my business. I’m guessing it was a seated affair, because I had time to sing “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” at full throat. Outside at least one man was waiting his turn as I sang. Apparently he wasn’t in an urgent state, because he was smiling.

Back then young Americans worshipped at the Beatles altar, but I was a Herman’s Hermits man, myself. My brother had a stack of albums (What you kids might call “vinyl.”) and often at the front of the pack was Noone’s face. Mom wasn’t much a fan of 60s music, Dad even less so, referring to it often as “rotten roll,” then laughing, usually with his mouth full. Jim would play his records in his room. I was sometimes not allowed in, by Mom or maybe Jim, so I would many times sit outside listening to what would become my own personal Wonder Years soundtrack.

The outhouse incident I’ve described is not one I remember. I obviously had the ability to speak, and sing, but this memory does not exist for me. Nonetheless I don’t doubt it. As I mentioned I was a big fan of Herman and his gang (I thought Peter Noone’s name was “Herman.” I’m sure people older than I thought the same thing.) and I was an even bigger fan of singing whenever the notion struck. To some degree I still do that, though it’s not cute anymore.

The memories I do have involving Herman’s Hermits include singing “Dandy” as a solo in my first-grade class. Seriously, it was sharing time, so thought it would be good to sing. I also remember my heart aching for Debbie Frazin every time I heard “There’s a Kind of Hush.” There were lots of sappy love songs in the 1960s. That song, though, had a depth even a 6-year-old could admire, a vision of an entire world so mesmerized by love that it falls silent. Poetic genius, perfectly elocuted by Noone.

That Noone and the rest of the Hermits are performing Saturday at the Admiral Theatre in Bremerton on the same weekend my oldest brother is here visiting us from Hawaii was a message from God. I saw McCartney last year and did a whole podcast afterward about how much my brothers needed to go see him. Neither Jim or I have seen the Hermits before, so this is just pefect. I predict I will probably cry like a little boy when Noone appears, not crushed like the young female Brown’s former boyfriend, but because I’ll be into something good for a couple of hours, something that has lasted almost five decades for me now.

EPILOGUE: No crying at the beginning, but when the Hermits broke into “There’s a Kind of Hush” at the end of the concert I got a little misty.

IMG_3678The music in the show was as good as I would have hoped. What surprised me was how funny Noone was. He bordered on Don Rickles humor at  times, saying some people from Belfair must have driven their in their house. I only wished he had said it about Port Orchard, the historical butt of my jokes.

My brother Jim, the bushy-mustached one in the photo here interacting with Noone, spent a few decades of his life on the radio in Honolulu. When I was taking Jim’s picture with Noone my brother asked when Noone and the rest of the Hermits would make it over to Hawaii. Noone said they don’t get over there much, but mentioned concert promoter and radio/TV personality Tom Moffatt. It turns out Moffatt is a friend of my brother’s. Noone mentioned that Moffatt introduced him to Elvis, then asked my brother to say “Hello” to Tom for him.

The Belfair reference was part of a string of local jokes. He poked fun at the airport in SeaTac, gas station attendants, and got the whole bit rolling by saying that when he was a kid he always dreamed that one day he would get to play at the “Admiral Theatre in Bremerton, Washington.” I was on vacation last week, part of it in Portland and I saw a poster advertising a Herman’s Hermits show at a casino down in Oregon. I would love to go, mostly to hear all the same jokes related to the different locale.

There was a time when we would laugh at guys like Noone and other musicians whose prime had passed, but they continued performing. I saw Paul McCartney last year and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended. (I’d say one of the best I’d ever “seen,” but man we were sitting far away.) I’ll continue to go to any Springsteen concert. But neither McCartney or Springsteen are good examples, because they never lost the ability to fill arenas. I’m talking more about groups like REO Speedwagon or Three Dog Night.

In reality, it was seeing Christopher Cross that made me finally gain a renewed respect for performers whose hits are decades old. Now I think it’s wonderful that these musicians can continue to make a living by touring and performing for old and new audiences. Now that I’ve seen my first favorite band, (Noone is the only original Hermit in the current band, but he’s the most important one to me.) I’m really glad that they do.

Their defense against the jokes is their own willingness to poke fun at themselves. It’s like we’re all in on the joke. Noone said something akin to being on the tour of musicians who haven’t died yet. He asked to see if there were teenagers in the audience. He asked them if their moms made them attend, then said it was their grandmothers. He finished by joking that one of the young girls had forced her mother to go to the concert. I bet that joke will seem just as funny in Oregon.

 

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