May 2, 2013

Herman's Hermits: Noone Likes Girls

Sometime in the fall of 1968, when I was in the third grade, we had a talent show at Denkmann Elementary School, and a shaggy-haired sixth grader named Mark played the guitar and sang "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter."

I thought Mark was cute, but as the words flowed about girls and girls and girls, a  lot of the boys became bored and fidgety, until my friend Bill got the idea of sailing a paper airplane into his guitar.  It landed a little short, but the idea spread, until a dozen paper airplanes were soaring across the auditorium.  Some hit Mark's guitar, but he kept playing doggedly, insisting that the meaning of life lay in girls and girls and girls.

We weren't impressed by heterosexist lyrics, not even from Herman's Hermits, a British invasion group named obliquely after the Mr. Peabody and Sherman cartoon.  There was no Herman, just Peter Noone (on top), who was 15 when he became the lead singer (that's his real name). Their single "I'm into Something Good" (1964) hit the top of the British charts, propelling Herman and his Hermits to fame.  They appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1965 with the logo: "Rock and roll: Everybody's turned on."

Their biggest hit in the U.S. was "Mrs. Brown" (1965) " but there were others.
"I'm Henry the Eighth" (1965)
"Listen People" (1966)
"Leaning on the Lamp Post" (1966)
"Dandy " (1966)
"There's a Kind of Hush" (1967)

Not a one about friendship, or home and country, or social injustice (they hated hippies).  Every single one of them was about getting or losing a girl.

Even "Henry the Eight" is not about the Tudor king, but a boast about the fecundity of the widow next door, who has married seven blokes named Henry before.

"Listen, People" is not about fighting racism or protesting the Vietnam war, but about how to avoid getting burned by a bad heterosexual relationship.

Besides, they weren't dreamy, like Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones of the Monkees (top photo), and there weren't any shirtless pictures in teen magazines.

By the time Bill and I started listening to his older sister's teen idol records, their star had faded, replaced by the more hippie-oriented Beatles

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