Probably no group of teenagers soared so far, so fast, as Herman’s Hermits did in the mid-’60s, riding the wave of the British Invasion to America.
From “I’m Into Something Good,” which reached #13 in late 1964, through “I Can Take Or Leave Your Loving”(#22 in 1968), the group hit with 18 consecutive Top 40 singles including two gold #1s, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” Hitmakers home and abroad, the Manchester, England-based band rode the wave of the mid-’60s “British Invasion” to America, following acts like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Animals, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Dusty Springfield.
Their chart domination was so strong that in 1965 alone, they had seven new entries to the Billboard “Hot 100.”
Founding member and drummer Barry Whitwam says the initial wave of the British Invasion was a lot of fun and that they were “brilliant times.” He continues to front a touring version of Herman’s Hermits, and he talked to Goldmine about their early successes, working alongside future greats Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones and his relationship with original lead singer Peter Noone.
It seems that British acts were thoroughly dominant on the U.S. charts once The Beatles broke through in 1964. What do you recall about the initial stages of the British Invasion?
Barry Whitwam: Well, we first invaded America in early 1965. We did all the radio stations on the East Coast, and the West Coast we did probably about 10 radio stations and TV shows a day for about two weeks. And you’ve gotta remember: We were only about 19 years old, and Peter Noone was probably 17 and a half, so we were just kids really, in comparison to The Beatles and the Stones who were three, four years older.
So it was brilliant for us, and it was just such a good time, sort of like taking a break from school. It was all new to us, and we were very, very busy — non-stop — and we made our mark in America because “I’m Into Something Good” got released and went to #13.
So for teenagers, I can imagine those were pretty heady times for you as young men?
BW: Yeah, but going back before we went to America, we were very, very popular in England. When “I’m Into Something Good” came out in September of 1964, and even before that, the following of the band in the northeast of England … we had fans chasing us and screaming at us. But when we got to America, it was multiplied by a thousand times. Because instantly, everyone was seeing us and hearing us on the radio, and it was heady, it really was. But it was so much fun.
Did the massive success that came on so early change the personalities within the band?
BW: I don’t really think it did because we were very busy and sorta thrown together all the time — in the same car, in the same bus, or in the same hotels. We sort of bounced off of each other, but we sort of held each other together. Amongst all the madness, whenever the five of us were sitting in the same room or having a meal, it was just like we were at home. So it didn’t really go to our heads that much initially, but maybe a bit later it did (laughs).
Your second U.S. single, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat,” started a run of nine consecutive Top 10 singles. Did it become easy to take success for granted?
BW: After “I’m Into Something Good” went to #1 in England, the second record, which was another Carole King song called “Show Me Girl,” only got to #20. And the press really brought us