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Herman Who?

September 23, 2012

I do not believe in coincidence.  I believe things happen for a reason, even if we don’t always – at the time – know what it is.  When a sequence of events with a clear underlying theme occurs, I become even more convinced that this is true.  When just such a happenstance occurred over a couple of days this past week, I decided fate was handing me a topic for this week’s blog post.  Here’s what transpired:

The Who 1967While having our traditional ‘before dinner drink’ on Friday evening, my husband and I were listening to one of our many ‘compilation’ CDs (music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s) when ‘My Generation’ by The Who began to play. Listening to the lyrics, we opined that no song (before or since) has defined a generation quite so well (Rolling Stone placed it #11 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, and it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its ‘historic, artistic, and significant value’).    I mentioned to my husband that I’d actually seen The Who live in concert at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto sometime during the 60s, although I couldn’t recall the exact details.  Then I went off to make dinner and didn’t give it any more thought.

Later that night, I came across a PBS (pledge week) special on TV: “Ed Sullivan’s Top Performers” – a retrospective of appearances by early ‘rock and roll’ groups on the Ed Sullivan Show during the 60s and early 70s.  There were performances by The Fifth Dimension, The Turtles, The Beach Boys, Tom Jones, Creedance Clearwater Revival, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Animals, and Herman’s Hermits (among others).  It was a nostalgia-filled two hours – watching the Ed Sullivan Show was a Sunday night ritual when I was growing up, and I particularly recall the excitement leading up to the ‘first live American television appearance’ of the Beatles in February 1964. 60s Console TVIt was a bit of a shock to realize that some of the performances aired almost 50 years ago (and that we’d watched them on our tiny black and white console TV), but I still sighed like a school girl when The Beatles and Herman’s Hermits performed their hits (on my new 47” high-def flat screen TV). I also had a quick flashback to a Herman’s Hermits concert (again at Maple Leaf Gardens) and the fact that I’d won a radio contest that was tied into it (the specifics are vague but I know I won a copy of their then-latest album AND Herman’s autograph). Later in the show there was a clip of The Who – performing ‘My Generation’ – and something in my brain started churning. But I wasn’t entirely sure what it was I was trying to remember, so I let it go and went to bed.

Herman's Hermits 1967Then, on Saturday morning, two things in the entertainment section of the newspaper caught my eye.  One was an article about The Who coming to  Copps Coliseum (in nearby Hamilton) in February; the other was an ad for upcoming performances at Niagara Fallsview Casino, including ‘Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone’. Suddenly my memory synapses made the connection I’d missed the night before: not only had I seen both The Who and Herman’s Hermits at Maple Leaf Gardens, but they’d performed AT THE SAME TIME. And, believe it or not, The Who had been the opening act for Herman’s Hermits (Herman’s Hermits was a nice, non-threatening, clean cut British ‘teen’ band at the time, while The Who had been more progressive, outrageous, and ‘anti-establishment’ – two more disparate groups had probably never shared the stage before).

Herman's Autograph 1967I dug out my old photo albums and found three pictures (taken with what would have been a small Instamatic camera) of the concert – one of The Who and two of Herman’s Hermits (although you can’t really see anything in any of them; it’s a good thing I labeled them in the album), the ticket stub, and Herman’s autograph (I suppose I should try to sell that – autographed photos of Peter Noone from that era are fetching $40.00 on eBay).  I racked my brain for details about the show but only managed to recall being ‘shocked’ by the behaviour of the opening act at the time (they SMASHED their guitars and drums onstage at the end of their performance!) and awed by the ‘psychedelic’ suit Peter Noone (‘Herman’ of Herman’s Hermits) had worn onstage.

Herman's Hermits Ticket 1967I know I went to the show with my sister; I would have been 13 (going on 14); she would have been 16. I’m pretty sure we took the Lakeshore bus into ‘the city’ and then walked the couple of blocks to Maple Leaf Gardens (the only big concert venue of its time, it has recently been converted into a giant grocery store/recreation complex – SIGH!)  Since it was a nighttime concert (8:00 p.m.), we must have had to rush to get on the last westbound bus home.  The cost ($5.50 plus maybe a 50 cent ‘service fee’ – you bought tickets for concerts at Lofquist’s Record Bar) would have represented 12 hours of babysitting (at 50 cents an hour) for me at the time (plus transportation). I’m pretty sure it was worth it.

What I suppose surprises me is that groups like The Who (and Herman’s Hermits – although it’s really just Peter Noone with a group of disparate backup singers and accompanyists) are still performing (I know, if The Rolling Stones can still kick a** performing well into their 70s – a couple of them are grandfathers, for heaven’s sake – why shouldn’t the rest of the rock ‘n’ roll greats from that era do it too, right?)  The Who 2012Only two of the original members of The Who are still alive (Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend; drummer Keith Moon died in 1978 at the age of 32 and bassist John Entwisle passed away at 57 in 2002) and while they’ve had accolade after accolade and award after award presented to them (not to mention myriad best selling songs, albums, and rock operas), you’d think they’d just want to sit back, relax and enjoy their old age (and the money they’ve earned).  Yet, here they are – at 68 and 67 respectively – heading off for another around the world tour!  How (why) do they do it?  And why do people keep going to see them?

Peter Noone 2012(As for Herman’s Hermits/Peter Noone – the group’s fame didn’t last terribly long and they really didn’t have all that many hit records [compared to groups like The Who] – so how come he [at 65] still manages to pulls in the crowds and get rave reviews? I find that particularly odd [although I have to admit that he’s aged a little better than the rest]).

I suppose what it comes down to is nostalgia (although apparently a lot of people who go to these shows are the kids of the kids [our generation] who first experienced them in the 60s and 70s). Perhaps we’re trying to relive (or experience for the first time) ‘the good old days’ of early rock and roll. Maybe we’re trying to recapture some of the ‘glory’ of our youth. Perhaps we’re just thinking ‘if they’re still performing, then maybe I’m not as old as I think I am’ (however, when I look at them, I realize that they’re REALLY OLD – so what does that make me?!?!?!)  I imagine it’s the same for the performers – maybe they just want another little taste of what it was like to be young and passionate and carefree.

NOTE: I did wonder, briefly, if I might consider going to see The Who again – but at $150 each for (the few remaining) ‘floor seats’ – plus miscellaneous service fees and at least $20 for parking – I decided it wasn’t worth it. And I’m well past my school girl crush on Peter Noone, so even though its only $50 for a ticket to see him at the Fallsview Casino, I didn’t even consider it.

60s RockI think my biggest fear about trying to ‘turn back the hands of time’ is that it could never be the same – and it might just diminish the memories.  We’re all a little older (and, hopefully, a tad smarter) and no matter how we might try, it’s just not possible to recapture the sense of wonder and awe of seeing a group like The Who (or even Herman’s Hermits) live in concert for the very first time.  You really did have to be there!

So, I’m just going to sit back, pour myself a glass of wine, and listen to the original recordings of songs by my favourite groups from my youth and pretend – just for a few minutes – that no one from ‘my generation’ is really on … the other side of 55.

Classic Rock

You really had to be there!

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10 Comments
  1. Tom Mallette permalink
    September 16, 2014 5:27 pm

    The show I was at had Herman’s Hermits before the Who came on, I guess it was because the Who (as they always did then) broke up their equipment and left the stage a mess, no encore for them. Aug 9,1967 Maple leaf Gardens in Toronto. Had floor seats row 9 along with several friends from Yorkville.
    When Herman was on, we all booo-ed him because at the time it was the bubble gums or teenyboppers band. I was a Hermits closet fan.
    Anyway, Herman shut the concert down and asked to turn on the lights, they did and Herman pointed us out saying we were spoiling it for the fans. We replied ‘Bring on the Who’. The next day it was in the news paper. I should have saved the clipping. Anyone have this review from the concert?

    • September 16, 2014 7:09 pm

      The Who did come on second, but they followed a group called Blues Magoos (who wore outfits that glowed in the dark); Herman’s Hermits was the final (‘principal/starring’) act. My sister and I were at that same concert (August 9, 1967 in row ‘R’ on the floor; tickets cost $5.00 – an outrageous amount at the time). People did ‘boo’ them and wanted The Who back on (they were certainly a lot more energetic and exciting than Herman’s Hermits at the time). I’m going to send you the Globe and Mail article (from the next day) related to the concert (my sister keeps EVERYTHING) by private email.

  2. September 24, 2012 8:43 am

    Love this post. I still love the music I grew up with, the ring tone on my cell phone gets the Led out ;). Husband and I went to many, many concerts when we were younger, but not anymore. I agree, separate from the prohibitive cost, I like keeping those memories just the way they are. I also clearly remember seeing The Who’s first final tour–in 1982.

    • September 24, 2012 4:34 pm

      Isn’t it funny how so many music artists go on ‘final’ tours over and over again? I guess they need the rush!

      Margo

  3. Cathy permalink
    September 23, 2012 6:43 pm

    I agree with you and Bridget. Best to watch the old TV clips and remember them in their heyday. It’s easier that way to recapture the old excitement that we felt as kids too, without the reminder of what age (and a lot of hard living) can do to your old idols. I, of course, don’t look a day past thirty. LOL.
    Nice blog, Margo.

    • September 23, 2012 6:47 pm

      I’m just glad I don’t look quite the same as I did when I was 13! YIKES!

      Margo

  4. Carmela permalink
    September 23, 2012 6:23 pm

    How coincidental that I literally just finished watching the same program “Ed Sullivan’s Top Performers” and then five minutes later reading about it in your ‘Herman Who’ post!!! I also grew up listening to the Herman’s Hermits, The Birds, etc., but now, even though I was hearing something familiar, I was listening to the lyrics, rhythm in a new way, with a deeper appreciation of the music and time that was. I felt as being in a kind of different place emotionally.

    • September 23, 2012 6:45 pm

      I think we approach the music of our youth completely differently now that we’re ‘older and wiser’. It definitely makes me nostalgic, but it also reminds me just how far I’ve come in the past 40+ years (I think – hope – I’m in a better place). As I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder if the performers ever thought they’d be where they are today (some still performing, some dead, some who-knows-where). I know I never expected to ever be closing on on 60, retired and wondering where the last 45 years went!

      Margo

  5. September 23, 2012 3:16 pm

    Nice nostalgic post. I’m with you on your decision not to go and see these performers now they’re in their sixties. I would much prefer to remember them in their glory – I’m always disappointed when I see bands on the TV decades later, still churning out the old hits. But we don’t really want to hear them do new songs either, do we? Having said that, The Who were pretty good at the Olympic opening ceremony.

    • September 23, 2012 3:36 pm

      Nothing dashes a fond memory faster than seeing a bunch of ‘old guys’ singing songs that defined a generation a generation ago! Watching the old Ed Sullivan clips was really fun, though – the haircuts, the clothes, the songs … WOW, those were the days!

      Margo

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