The show goes on for The Hermits
By David Parker
Herman’s Hermits and the ever-popular Barry Whitwam are non-stop performers, it seems.
“Well, 51 years playing the drums with Herman’s Hermits non-stop, right from the beginning, and there’s no sign of it stopping: I’ve just had to have the damage to my right shoulder repaired and am now good for the next 51 years.
“This year we have already done a five-week tour of Germany with The Equals, Racey, Barry Ryan, in January and February; Sensational Sixties Experience Tour in March; two weeks in Denmark and Norway in April; three weeks’ holiday in Mallorca in May, plus regular UK gigs in June and July.
“Our next gig is Belgium at the end of July, then our usual annual tour of Australia for five weeks begins in August, finishing early September, starting with a week in Perth then on to Adelaide, Brisbane, then touring the east coast before finishing in Sydney.
“After another holiday in Mallorca, we start this year’s Sensational Sixties Experience Tour on October 2, with Chris Farlowe, Steve Ellis, New Amen Corner, Union Gap UK, with compere Alan Mosca.
“Next year, we do the whole thing again, starting January 7 in Germany for another five weeks.”
After I’d assimilated all this information, I asked Barry about his plans and future ambitions.
Firstly, Karl said there could be a reunion. Possible?
“I very much doubt there would be a reunion. I’ve just heard a rumour that Peter Noone has stopped Karl from working in the USA, so I can’t see them getting together. The same goes for me as well, as Peter cost me a small fortune in lawyers’ fees in the States when all could have been resolved with a ‘phone call!”
It is said that Herman’s Hermits did not play on the original singles recordings with Peter Noone. Is that just rumour and speculation?
“Herman’s Hermits were at all the recording sessions. There were other session guys there sometimes, when brass instrument and violins were added, but with all the No.1 records we had, there was just the five guys in the band playing them.”
Bands become famous and then split for a variety of reasons, sometimes with sour tastes that last forever, such as The Searchers and Mike Pender. Is there still a huge rift between you and Peter Noone? If so, can it be resolved in any way?
“There is still a rift between me and Peter, and I think there’s one between Karl and Peter now, and – to be honest – it wouldn’t be fair on the great
musicians/friends I have now to tour without them.”
You seem to have been on the Sensational 60s tour forever now. Is it so enjoyable that you can keep driving the same routes to the same venues and probably meeting the same fans and playing to the same audiences. You start again soon after you return from a tour of Australia. What keeps you going?
“The Sensational 60s tours are so much fun to be on. Doing the same venues is what groups do. Being on the Sensational 60s means playing to full houses most nights. Audiences love the meet and greet at the end of the show and so do we. We are enjoying playing music and travelling the world, and have done for the last 51 years.”
Now you are off to Australia again. Are you well-received over there like you are over here?
“We go down a storm in Australia, not only with the ‘Ex-Pats’ but with everyone else as well. We go at least once and sometimes twice a year, time-allowing, and sometimes New Zealand is even added on, as well.”
What about the US? Is that Peter’s territory now?
“To be honest, the exchange rates are not to our advantage any more, as we are paid in dollars. It makes more sense to work in Australia instead. Much as we love the US and our fans, and the people in general, as Peter now goes out with a band of American-born ‘fake’ Hermits, there doesn’t seem much point in even trying when we can earn more money elsewhere.
“I feel sorry for our fans who still ask regularly when we will be back, but that’s the way things have turned out with the ego involved. As I own the UK, European and Australia Trademarks, those territories are now ours exclusively, so it sort of evens out.
It’s well accepted that Peter Noone is not on the show with you, but wasn’t it his unique voice that was the selling point of the hit singles?
No it was his uneven teeth – but seriously, the songs
Herman’s Hermits record were great tunes, and I think it was the overall image of the band that was the selling point, rather than just one person.
Peter was a good singer, but his voice is not as strong as Geoff Foot’s who has been with us since ’88. In any event, the audiences know that Peter left the band in 1971 to pursue his own career.
You had enough hit singles and material to fill a spot in a show, unlike some artists who have two or three hits and built a career on those and nothing else. Do you feel it is important to be able to read music, feel music, write music and lyrics to be a great star of the 60s? Some one/two/three-hit wonders, trading on the hits and near-hits, keep going but rely on other talented artists for material to fill their slots or to put on shows as if they were big stars in their own right. Some have never written any music or lyrics, so what do audiences look for nowadays at the 60s shows – the music or the artists, or the overall performance?
“Most 60s musicians were either self-taught on their instruments, albeit talented with just that certain something that appealed to their audience. They didn’t need to be able to read music or write their own songs in most instances to have a hit record.
“Nowadays, I would say audiences mostly look for the music for nostalgia reasons and the overall performance. To be honest, we have enough hits to do two shows a night, which we do in some places, but we will be forever grateful for the fantastic music and lyrics that we were offered in those days, by the tremendous talents of people such as Goffin & King, Graham Gouldman, and many more.”
The most memorable times in your 50-year career? Was it a great thrill to meet other big names of the era? Who are your favourites?
“My most memorable time was meeting Elvis in 1965 in Hawaii while he was filming Paradise Hawaiian Style. I spent two hours with him – he was a wonderful true gentleman.
Playing for the Royal Family at the London Palladium in 1970 was a thrill. In the States, we did the Danny Kaye, Dean Martin and Ed Sullivan shows and many more.”
What is a rock and roll lifestyle. We hear so much about it and trashing guitars, drugs and orgies. What part did it play in your life, if any? You appear to have a clean cut image, of course and probably have anyway.
“I wasn’t involved in drugs or orgies. When we first started Herman’s Hermits in 1964, we were still teenagers and enjoying life without taking drugs. I like a few pints of beer though. Back in the 1967, we trashed a Holiday Inn while the Who were touring with us in the USA which cost us $25,000 in damages, so we stopped doing anything like that from that day on.”
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently to enhance your career or your musical abilities?
“We have sold 75,000,000 records so far, so I don’t think there’s anything I would want to change.”
How do you feel about singing teenager songs at the age of 70? Will you think of retiring soon?
“I wouldn’t say they were teenager songs. They were great love songs and millions of people all over the world, who have grown up with them, still enjoy listening to them and being taken back to their youth.
“As long as I still enjoy playing all the band’s hits and see audiences enjoying themselves, I will not retire.”