Wednesday, May 2, 2012

In Defense Of Herman...............

Herman's Hermits get a lot of crap.  True they made some records that are sort of heavy on the cheese , but they've also got a slew of great tracks, mostly on B-sides and LP's.  And they had a load of LP's here in the States,with no less than eight U.S. Hermits LP's on MGM compiled in the 60's (not counting "Best Of.." volumes) there were plenty of U.K. 45 and E.P.tracks to choose from to stack them out. Most of which first saw their initial release over the pond in 7" form.  What's always irked me, and I digress that I'm sure I've had this rant before here, is that there was always a stigma that they couldn't play since a few of their records were fleshed out by producer Mickie Most with session musicians to knock them out faster.  As you can see by a host of live clips on YouTube (and a few below) they were obviously competent musicians in their own right.  Here's ten reasons to vindicate Herman's Hermits:

Peter Noone, "Ready! Steady! Go!" 1964

1. "The Man With The Cigar" B-side Columbia DB 7791 (UK) and MGM K13437 (US) 1965
Beneath some solid backing vocals from the Hermit's and some groovy volume pedal guitar work Peter Noone croons, convincingly about the boss who's always on his back and busting his balls to the point that he's about to snap.

Peter Noone, Keith Moon and Hermit's bassist Karl Green unwind after a long month on the road, presumably having met the Moonshine Man. August 23, 1967 Flint, Michigan

2. "Moonshine Man" B-side Columbia DB 8235 (UK) and MGM K13761 (US) 1967
Zooming "Taxman" style bass line, funky "Mother's Little Helper" style raga-esque guitar swatches and the trippiest lyrics ever to grace a tune by our squeaky clean but booze loving Herman's Hermits as they sing of the joys of potent home brew and the man who makes or is it childhood whimsy about night time?  A "Here Comes The Nice" of backwoods hard liquor?!. Also found in the States on the flip of the soppy/sappy "Don't Go Out Into The Rain (You're Gonna Melt)" (MGM K13761).

3. "No Milk Today" A-side Columbia DB 8012 and B-side MGM K13681 (US) 1967
Fellow Mancunian Graham Gouldman had quite a few tracks recorded by the band.  This one was an A-side in the U.K. while here in the States it was unfortunately tucked away as the flip side to "There's A Kind Of Hush", but that didn't stop it from getting airplay and can still be heard on U.S. "Oldies" formats to this day (it charted as a B-side at #35). Brilliantly orchestrated by John Paul Jones it's one of the greatest mid 60's pop records right up there with The Action's "Something Has Hit Me" in my book!

4. "My Reservation's Been Confirmed" LP track "Both Sides Of..." MGM E/SE 4486 (US) 1967
Somewhat influenced by "The Train Kept A Rollin'" comes this track, full of lines about riding trains, being late, blistering guitar licks and possibly the most rocking out they ever did, though the vocals sound less than inspired it still works. Originally found in the U.K.  on the flip of "No Milk Today" (Columbia DB 8012).

5.  "For Love" B-side Columbia DB 7987 (UK) and MGM K13548  1966
Issued on both sides of the Atlantic as the flip to the twee "This Door Swings Both Ways", this one has more funky volume pedal guitar work, cracking drums and a great descending melody as Peter Noone sings about people out cruising the streets at night "for love", flashing their headlights prowling around backstreets etc.  Very seedy sounding actually, but amazing musically!

6. "Ace, King, Queen, Jack" LP track "Blaze" MGM E/SE 4438 (US) 1967
Throbby bass, a Bo Diddley via The Pretty Things beat and lots of Who-isms (toggle switch Morse code action on the guitar, high "ah ahhhhh's" on the backing vocals) while Noone sings the ode to a degenerate gambler who can never leave the table (and steals, ponces off women etc).  It's possibly THE weirdest H.H's number ever as the band winds down Noone does a soliloquy on dustmen being replaced by "mammoth machines that move noiselessly about the streets" in his best Manchester accent while whilst engaging some zany "Punch & Judy" type voices whereupon they all break into "My Old Man's A Dustman".

7. "Museum" A-side Columbia DB 8235 (UK) and MGM K13787 (US) 1967
Like David Bowie's 1966 Pye 45 "I Dig Everything", the Hermits take on Donovan's "Museum" is the ultimate Swinging London (via crack session men) trip, in a musical sense. From its faint Hammond swirling, congas, bossy uptown brass et al (all c/o the band's top notch arranger John Paul Jones) it's what I'd expect a sanitized musical version of "Swinging London" to sound like.  I know that possibly reads like a put down, it's not but let's face it, H.H.,'s were NEVER going to be the Fab Four, The Stones or those darlings of the 1967 London underworld  The Pink Floyd.  Still all in all it's one of their most amazing tracks.

8. "Marcel's" B-side Columbia DB 8327 (UK) and MGM K13885 (US) 1968
Found on both the U.K. and U.S. flip of "I Can Take Or Leave Your Loving" (their last U.S top 40 hit, clocking in at #22  for Xmas 1967) heres another "out there" H.H's number, albeit lyrically as the band sing about a way out cat named Marcel lives in Wapping who has a houseboat on the Thames where "it's an East End wonderland", no doubt from the freakshow that turns up at his groovy pad (have a listen). Written by band members Keith Hopwood and Peter Noone with their manager Harvey Lisberg and his client/songwriter Graham Gouldman.

"Ready! Steady! Go!" 1965

9. "The London Look" E.P. Track "The London Look" Yardley SLE 15 (UK) 1968
Another song from the pen of Graham Gouldman, this one was a track on a giveaway promo E.P. "The London Look" for Yardley's soap.  Beneath an amazingly tight array of baroque harpsichord, acoustic guitar and piano Peter Noone sings about picking up a girl on the street and showing her London.

10. "Just A Little Bit Better" A-side Columbia DB  7670 (UK) and MGM K13398 1965
A tad hokey for some with it's Buddy Holly-esque "oh-ho-ho" bits, I think this one is quite rocking, from the busy guitar bits going on throughout the number, chimes and a gritty little guitar solo I think it's easily their "beat period". And as the above live clip from "The Ed Sullivan Show" proves, they could not only play but dig the vocal harmonizing bits and the playing, no slouches in fact it sounds just like the record (though curiously minus that guitar solo!).


C said...

...And I would really like to add this one too:

(It's Alright Now)

( do you paste a hyperlink in here?!)

Wilthomer said...

You're going to laugh C but just this morning on the way in i was playing their "Blaze" Lp CD and "It's Alright Now" was a bonus track that I hadn't played in ages. Ace tune. Will have to read up on that one!

diskojoe said...

A very good selection of songs. I'll add "East/West", "(I Gotta) Dream On" & that cover of the Nirvana song (no, not Kurt Cobain's group), the title of which escapes me @ the moment.

JZ said...

Another good flip of their's is a 1969 track, "It's Alright Now", the flip of the lame "Here Comes The Star". It takes a sec to really get going but once it does, Peter delivers a surprisingly tough vocal and the band rocks as hard as the ever did (this one is right up there with "My Reservation's Been Confirmed").

Trip Aldredge said...

well said. I am glad someone finally stood up for the Hermits. They made some great records.

diskojoe said...

That Nirvana song was "Wings of Love" by the way.