Tag Archives: Mark Volman

Listen, People (Part 2)

On Thursday I waxed poetic about a recent concert featuring The Rascals, The Turtles and Herman’s Hermits and left off at intermission. Here’s the rest…

Peter Noone 2009

I wondered why Herman’s Hermits was set up as the sole act past intermission, an obvious headline ploy (as if the posters didn’t make it clear enough).  As the lights dimmed after intermission, a huge Union Jack dropped down across the upstage scrim in tandem with explosive fanfare and British anthems blaring. But when Peter Noone hit the stage with four younger, energetic musicians dressed as if it was 1964, my question was answered. The British were coming…again!

Peter Noone is 62 but looks like he’s in his mid-40s and sings like he’s in his 20s. In reality, by the time he was twenty, Herman’s Hermits were just about done. But on this night in a packed auditorium, the only sign of age was in the crowd; the band was on fire and gave the songs a boost they never had in their original form; for the most part they sounded as good or better.

Noone led the band through an entire catalogue of beloved songs, and as each one played two points dominated my thoughts. First, every one of these tunes was melodic, crisp and fun, and he and the band played them with such enthusiasm and life that they should just hit the club circuit and win over a whole new generation of fans; ones who avoid “oldies shows” like the plague. And second…my God, this was a prolific band!

What were you doing at sixteen?

When people talk about the great bands of the ’60s, Herman’s Hermits seldom enters the discussion. Why not? For starters, just look at this string of singles five Top Five hits…in five months! A dozen singles in the Top 15 in just over two years. Amazingly, in 1965, they outsold The Beatles in the United States!

And in addition to their own great material, Noone filled out the show with tributes both sincere and funny. Peers like Freddy and The Dreamers, Peter and Gordon and Chad and Jeremy got their due with excellent cover versions of some of their hits. But Noone’s funny between-song banter and occasionally randy storytelling also gave him an opportunity to imitate artists from Mick Jagger to The Sex Pistols (!) as the band launched into segments of “Start Me Up” and “Pretty Vacant”.  There was also a running gag about The Turtles being old men, although like Peter,  Mark Volman and Howard Kalyan are also 62 (their birthdays are a few months apart). It was just banter between and about old friends, playfully mocking them for being asleep in the limo before it gets to the hotel and wondering if it was their set list taped to the floor “because there’s only four hits on it“.

Like many UK groups from the pre-Beatles  era, there’s a strong music hall influence bleeding through their material, whether it’s vaudevillian jokes  about dim people requesting “She’s A Muscular Boy”, or the bounce in pop chestnuts like “Dandy” and “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat”. Until Noone pointed it out, I hadn’t realized that part of the charm about Herman’s Hermits was the unrelenting joy in their songs. Maybe “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” is a little sad, but only “The End of the World” is truly morose. The rest can’t help put a smile on your face.

The Tremblers 1980

He also wove in a couple of tracks from his underrated skinny-tie era album with The Tremblers and cheekily made up a song about his lifelong dream to be in this very theatre on this very night. By the time the vocal participation challenge went out to the audience during “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”, he had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand (not that there hadn’t been a few eating out of it since the moment he walked onto the stage). Knowing the show was closing with “There’s a Kind of Hush”, the audience was on their feet mid-song, providing Noone and band a lengthy standing ovation for what was truly a dynamic ninety minute show. The post-show autograph and merch line was enormous, and Noone graciously shook every hand and signed every item.

Some bands from long ago trot themselves out for these events to get a little adulation, connect with their glory days and make a little coin (sadly, perhaps for the first time in their career). Peter Noone and his new version of Herman’s Hermits might be a nostalgic act because of their catalogue, but their presentation, energy and musical chops were fresh and vibrant. No doubt they could kick the ass of a lot of current pop acts.

I’m not certain if Peter is writing songs these days, or even if he’s entertaining cutting new material in addition to bringing the old hits to his loyal fanbase of Noonatics. But he’s talented as hell, is a consummate entertainer, and he’s proven time and time again that he can deliver the goods. The Hermits era speaks for itself. The Tremblers album from 1980 still sounds wonderful. And as recently as 2001 he guested on pop wunderkind Richard X Heyman’s ep titled Heyman, Hoosier and Herman and nailed it with “Hoosier Girl”.

Someone get this guy and this band into a studio, get them the right material, and have at it. Something tells me we’d be into something good.

Peter Noone website.

Wiki pages for Peter and Herman’s Hermits.

Grab that Tremblers album!

56 tracks of Hermits

Heyman Hoosier Herman

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Listen, People (Part 1)

Sixties spectacular

Forward, Into The Past

I don’t live in the past, but I don’t disavow it, either. I’m crammed into small clubs to hear The Gaslight Anthem and The Reigning Sound as often as I am out watching veterans like John Hiatt and Graham Parker still crafting magic. And when a tour like Sixties Spectacular comes rolling through town featuring The Turtles, The Rascals and Herman’s Hermits, well I’m there, too.

The show was opened by a ’60s cover band who played a competent set of radio staples. While hearing a pedestrian version of “Honky Tonk Women” might be acceptable at a wedding or corporate function, I dreaded the fact that my a quarter of my $50 ticket was designated to 30-40 minutes of this. I also feared I might be seeing these same people acting as the band behind the remaining original members of these featured groups. I’ve been to oldies shows before where a group of unknown musicians simply changed shirts between sets to morph from The Grass Roots into The Buckinghams. But as it turned out, I had nothing to fear (although one of these bands could have used the help). And old bladders be damned, the show lasted almost three and a half hours.

Young Rascals

Why can't you and me learn to love one another?

First up was The New Rascals, a legally-retitled band featuring original Young Rascals members Dino Danelli on drums and Gene Cornish (a native of this town) on guitar. A long time acrimonious split with Felix Cavaliere and the absence of Eddie Brigati meant that the primary vocalists of the band were no longer in the fold, their slots filled by current members Bill Pascali on keyboards and lead vocals and bassist/vocalist Charlie Souza. (Although they are advertised as formerly being with Vanilla Fudge and Tom Petty, respectively, neither were ever with the named artists in their heyday. Souza played bass with a late version of Mudcrutch and left before Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers; Pascali sang and played keyboards on one of Carmine Appice’s many reanimations of Vanilla Fudge earlier in the decade.)

Unfortunately, despite a wealth of great material to offer, the New Rascals were disappointing. I’m hoping that the issue was merely being under-rehearsed rather than lacking in ability. I don’t expect Pascali to be as soulful as Cavaliere, one of the era’s greatest singers, but he was often flat and occasionally struggled when playing piano and organ simultaneously. On other occasions, the band seemed to be playing off-rhythm. Ordinarily I’d chalk this up to bad monitors and/or faulty equipment, but having just witnessed the cover band whip through a set unscathed, I can’t lay blame there.

Cornish, who recently has endured some health scares, was as animated as he could be and flashed solid rock chops as the sole guitarist, and Souza did bring great energy and good voice to the mix. Danelli can still play flash, spinning sticks and muting cymbals, and on several songs everything clicked to remind the audience what an incredible catalogue of music this band generated in their career. Highlights included a rousing “People Got To Be Free”, “A Girl Like You” and a stripped-down “Groovin”, featuring a soulful harmonica solo by Cornish. The crowd ate it up warts and all, of course, and gave the band a rousing ovation. I saw enough good moments to warrant seeing them again in the hope that this was just an off-night.

Flo and Eddie

Stll two of the greatest voices in pop music

When the musicians in The Turtles hit the stage one by one, the keyboard player spun in circles before taking his place behind the rack, and I thought I had seen that move before. Sure enough, it turned out to be Greg Hawkes from The Cars, who has been with The Turtles for three years; the remainder of the band (although also not original members) have been in their shells for twenty. But the show is all about Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, the original lead vocalists, who are still singing as well as they did in their prime.

Scheduled for approximately forty minutes like The Rascals, I wondered how many Turtles favorites I wouldn’t hear, since my admiration for them goes way beyond the hit singles. Thankfully I got a good sampling of both, from “Outside Chance” to “”Happy Together”, “You Baby” and “She’s My Girl”. The band was tight, Howard and Mark sounded fabulous, and their infamous stage banter was on display as they ripped into sacred cows as well as each other. I’ve seen them several times over the years, and can honestly say that they are as good now as they have ever been.

It’s amazing to think how long these two have been (happy) together, from sax-honking friends in The Crossfires to huge stardom in the ’60s to the Zappa years, followed by literally hundreds of session appearances and their hilarious syndicated radio show. Yet here they are, almost fifty years later, still viable and still creative. There were a lot of incredible artists vying for chart position and limited radio play in the ’60s, and the under-appreciated Turtles were an integral part of that amazing musical era.

The concert was promoted as an oldies show, and the majority of the attendees looked to be several years older than me and there for the hits. I don’t think many appreciated the segment of the set where the band ripped into several minutes of Frank Zappa material (a medley including a ferocious version of “Peaches en Regalia”) and a couple of tunes from the Flo and Eddie catalogue, but I was thrilled. But even with the mid-set segue, after so much familiar material was performed so well, the band got several well deserved lengthy ovations and a standing O at the end.

Cold Hard Cash

During the break, the lobby was flooded with fans lined up in queues past long banquet tables where their heroes sat with Sharpie pens. It was quite the assembly line – hand over a twenty, receive a CD, get your autograph, thanks and keep moving please. I’m not certain how much the bands got paid to perform, but the money that changed hands at intermission was staggering; an exercise repeated after the show. It dawned on me that with a three thousand seat theatre almost sold out, this annual caravan of yesterday was far more financially viable than most bands or tours that come through town.

And now…Intermission!

I’ll finish this tale of time travel on Saturday. Until then, enjoy some of the great music that The Rascals and The Turtles brought to the world. Listen to samples of The Ultimate Rascals and The Turtles: 20 Greatest Hits and check out some video below.

The Turtles:  “She’d Rather Be With Me

The Rascals: “Good Lovin

The Turtles:  “Elenore” – how great was Johnny Barbata on drums?

The Rascals: “People Got To Be Free

And Happy Birthday, ‘erman! Hard to believe he’s 62 today!

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