"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Just a Little Bit Better

I watched curiously as 4 or 5 men in black suits stood at the side of the stage. They all looked younger than I expected, except for maybe one who had a full head of silver gray hair. “I wonder if that’s him”, I thought to myself. I really didn't know what to expect. The suits, the men were wearing, though? That was entirely what I expected. It was simply the way this band had dressed back then.  I was probably 10 or 11 when Herman’s Hermits had burst onto our national scene in 1965 with their early, rock music.

I sat eating my burger, as we waited for the introduction. The announcer asked us to stand for the National Anthem. Goodness, that pleased me, but I was starting to wish I hadn’t decided to eat during the show. It was getting in the way of things at this point.

Mark Peterson, a weatherman at one of the local television stations, came out to introduce himself first and then to introduce the band. I wish I would have paid more attention to what he had said.  Doggone burger anyway!  It was distracting me with the balancing act it required.
Peter Noone - "Herman"
Then came the introduction for Herman Hermits; but it seemed a bit off. The band (the guys in the black suits) entered the stage, but there was a delay of sorts - like the music they had chosen for introductions didn’t coincide with their entrance. I was still wondering if the only member with the gray hair was Peter Noone – obviously the guy who IS Herman’s Hermits.

But then came another introduction, or announcement, or something, I don’t remember for sure what was said. But there to the side of the stage probably 100 feet away or so, a man was running along the side lines ready to bound onto the stage.  And I knew without a doubt – that this was the guy for whom we had all been waiting.

I watched him run as the applause and anticipation grew. Surprisingly, to me at least, his hair was not gray and he had a thick, full head of it, just as he always had. It blew behind him as he ran, climbing the stairs onto the stage.  Now that was the entrance that seemed appropriate…no, nothing off here. I smiled, and then laughed! Tears had welled in my eyes. Oh my goodness!!!  Where did that come from?  I was going to cry!  Oh, BROTHER!!  How was I going to explain this when I didn’t even really understand it, myself?  I looked over at my son, somewhat apologetically, but laughing as the tears welled in my eyes….  “I’m going to cry!” I unnecessarily told him.  He could already see that!

I tried to wipe the tears away without being noticed.  I certainly didn’t want anyone to think that I was acting like those silly teen-age girls of the ‘60’s that would scream and cry when their idols like Elvis Presley or the Beatles had walked onto the stage.  Good grief!!

But still there they were – tears!  I laughed it off and shook them away. Herman’s Hermits wasn’t even one of my favorite bands at the time.  Oh, I liked them, for sure.  Everyone my age did; but my favorite genre was still “country and western” as it was called back then. And I would more often be found listening to Glen Campbell or Johnny Rivers.

Peter Blair Denis Bernard Noone.  That was his given name. I smiled as I remembered that I had actually once known that simple fact. He was born in 1947! Now that surprised me, too! He is only 65 years old, soon to turn 66.  My goodness!! He is only 5 or 6 years older than me!  I would have thought he would be pushing 70 by now. Still, he certainly didn’t look even 65.  Wow, I read further, he was only 15 when he started his band Herman’s Hermits.  I did not know that, either!!  I only knew he had to be older than me at the time his band became so successful in the United States. He is still married to the same woman he married when he was just 21 years old. Now, there is a huge success side-line fact; unfortunately, something not so very common in his line of work!  He has one daughter, also a musician.  

I had decided to Google him this morning just to see what he has been doing with his life all these years. I mean, come on! It has been almost 50 years since he burst onto the music scene in America.

At the time, Herman’s Hermits was highly successful, selling more than 60 million records and at times even out selling the Beatles. Herman's Hermits was not a radical rock and roll band; they were soft and easy, perky and catchy. They were probably what we called at the time a “teeny-bopper” band. But in actuality, they seemed to appeal to all and they had several memorable number 1 hits. This band was actually a very big part of the 60’s era.

The concert was great, and "Herman's" performance last night, made it easy to understand why he had become so popular back then.  He simply has the stage presence required to “be somebody”. We had grandstand seats, but that winning smile could not be missed even from clear back where we sat. "Herman" has added a lot of humor to the show that I’m sure his concerts would not have had back then. The band members carried on in overly dramatic antics, almost mocking the behavior of the time. He joked about his success, (or maybe dwindling, recent success) saying: “This is a night like we always dreamed of as kids growing up in Manchester, England…playing at a fairgrounds in Spokane, Washington!” 

He joked about the “British Invasion" that had taken place in the 1960’s.  It would include bands such as Herman’s Hermits; The Animals: Paul Revere and the Raiders; The Monkees; The Dave Clark Five; Chad and Jeremy; Peter and Gordon- as well as the Beatles, of course, and the Rolling Stones, (the last two being more of the hard core type) - are a few that I remember; all of them straight out of England.

"Herman" as he was mostly known back then, impersonated a few of the stars that would have been successful at the same time his band was. Tom Jones (also a Brit), Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, and Davy Jones of the Monkees are the ones I remember him mentioning. He impersonated each artist while singing one of their popular hits.  Also hearing, that people at this county fair like country, he did a Johnny Cash tune – Ring of Fire. But he certainly didn’t disappoint his fans with his own personal play list, though saying he now needed glasses to be able to read it. Some of the songs included:
  • There’s A Kind of Hush
  • Silhouettes
  • Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter
  • Leaning on the Lamp
  • Sea Cruise
  • Henry the 8th
  • I’m Into Something Good 
  • A Must to Avoid
  • Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat
  • Just a Little Bit Better
  • Wonderful World
  • Listen People
It was a lovely night to be at an outdoor concert, and the ones I have attended at this fairgrounds have never disappointed me.  As I sat back enjoying the show, remembering each song as he sang, I also enjoyed watching the crowd every bit as much.  They were almost all in their 60’s, I would say.  Swaying to the music, laughing at his jokes, reliving a bit of their childhood and probably some memories these tunes invoked.

I shook my head in disbelief as I watched a shooting star in the night sky at the precise moment “Herman” was singing about stars on a romantic night. YES! It did!  Coincidence?  Whatever!  Maybe it was a “God Wink”. One of those moments where our Lord says, “It’s all ok…I got this thing called life…enjoy, yourself…just for this moment.”

I heard a man behind me say, “I hope he does Mrs. Brown”.  And I smiled at the thought of people coming out to watch an entertainer that had obviously never left hearts, even after almost 50 years.

Henry the 8th was his second to the last song and the silliness of it could only be turned into more silliness.  Peter easily got the audience involved and participating while I watched as those that sat on the ground in front of the stage began to stand. Pretty soon they were all standing, clapping their hands and singing the words. A couple to the left of me decided to stand too and that was all it took to get me on my feet.  I looked over at my son and his friend as they remained sitting. My son had a look on his face that said “Oh, Mom; please, no!”  But I simply smiled and motioned for them to stand and sing along, too.  Being the good sport my son is, he willingly obliged, and that is all it took for the rest of the grandstands to get on their feet, as well.  Nothing off here - it was all very appropriate. As Herman’s Hermits finished their clowning around and transitioned into what is probably one of their most popular songs of all; There’s A Kind of Hush, I smiled, fighting more tears. The crowd remained standing, as Peter Blair Denis Bernard Noone finished crooning for the evening and thanked the audience. He informed his audience that he would be signing autographs in front of the stadium.  And that he did! Though, I didn’t stand in line, I watched intermittently for what was probably an hour and half after the show as he continued to sign and have his picture taken with fans.  Now, that’s rare!  And that’s a nice guy!

Herman’s Hermits quit performing in 1971 – I would have been a junior in high school. Last night he dedicated a song to all those who had remained fans continuing to follow him all this time – that would not be me. I didn’t know he was even still touring and performing; that is, until I saw he was going to be at the Spokane Fair. Still, that is not what brought me to the fair, yesterday. But when we arrived at the fair, and checked the information booklet to see what all was going on during the day we had chosen to go, I jumped at the chance to buy tickets when I saw it would be Herman’s Hermits performing that evening.  I am not sorry I did.

Those tears?  Gosh, I’m not exactly sure what that was all about; though I have always been known to express my appreciation of impressive talent with tears. In this case, though, I’m not so sure it was the talent that moved me to that kind of emotion. I tried to explain it to my son on the way home. It was actually kind of embarrassing.

“I get it, Mom,” he said.  “It was more about being part of an era, again…your childhood.”

“Yeah”, I softly answered, grateful for his understanding. “That’s exactly it. And all these years later; after all we have been through; after all that that crowd has lived to see....there was really nothing off in my emotion. It was only a moment to relive a nostalgic part of life that was actually in the smallest of ways, and only for a moment in time, soft and easy, and simple...maybe even by today's standards it would be considered corny and unsophisticated, but for me in that moment it was quite possibly something remembered that was Just a Little Bit Better.”



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